Follow-up to IBWA Reply

Published On February 5, 2013 | By Hannah Ellsbury | News

Recently, Ban the Bottle was contacted by the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) on January 25, 2013 with a response to our post “Our Reaction to IBWA’s New Bottled Water Video”.

Bottled Water Waste
The email we received is as follows:

“I am writing to draw to your attention to erroneous information contained in your article “Our Reaction to IBWA’s New Bottled Water Video” published on the “Ban the Bottle” blog on December 21, 2012.

The most serious error is your article linking single-serve PET bottles to BPA (Bisphenol A) because PET does not contain BPA. Even though PET does not contain BPA, regulatory agencies in several countries and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have ruled favorably on the safety of BPA. The consensus among these international regulatory agencies is that the current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population.

You can verify this well-known fact here:

Secondly, the idea that consumers will choose other sweetened beverages when bottled water is not available is not, as you suggest, a ridiculous statement. We have the facts to back this up. In a third-party controlled telephone survey of 13,350 consumers, 63 percent said they would choose a sweetened beverage if bottled water was not available. Only 16 percent said they would choose tap water.

Your article also casts doubt over whether the character “Norman” would gain 28 pounds in a year by drinking sugary drinks instead of bottled water. This is factually correct and can be verified by reading:

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it is the case, that if people drink sugary drinks instead of bottled water, they will be adding calories to their diets, and if they choose not to increase their physical activity, they will gain weight. 

Your article also suggests bottled water that is sourced from a municipal water supply is simply tap water in a bottle. This is simply not true. Bottled waters sourced from municipal water supplies are filtered and/or purified to remove a range of impurities. For more information regarding this, watch “From Tap to Bottled Water” video:

And while we’re on the topic of water treatment, it is fact that the FDA has set a zero tolerance rule for bottled water (that’s more stringent than the EPA rule for tap water). Read more here:

And lastly, the recycling rate quoted in your article is incorrect. According to the National Association of PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), when it comes to curbside recycling program, with a rate of 32.25 percent, bottled water drinkers are the best recyclers. And recycling rates for plastic bottled water containers are on the rise – doubling in the past five years. All PET containers are 100 percent recyclable and the use of recycled PET (rPET) in bottled water containers is also on the rise ( 

Additionally, it is factually incorrect to depict bottled water has being produced using “barrels of oil.” In fact, the PET plastic used in single-serve bottled water containers is made using naphtha, a petroleum byproduct, not barrels of virgin oil. Naphtha is actually a byproduct of the refining of oil into fuels. Presenting this important fact deliberately misleads consumers.

When you take a close look at the facts regarding environmental impact, you see that bottled water:

• Has as the lightest environmental footprint of all packaged drinks.
• Has the lowest water footprint of all packaged drinks.
• Has the highest curbside recycling rates of all beverages.
• Has significantly reduced plastic used in its packaging.

Bottled water is also the healthiest drink on the shelf. Any effort to discourage people from drinking water is not in the public’s interest. Again, I respectfully request that you update your website and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with you any of the above points, or any other bottled water-related issues.”

Based on this email from IBWA, we would like to reiterate some of the facts and statements we made in our first post.

  • Single-use plastic bottles do contain harmful BPA, numerous studies have confirmed so. Yet, most reusable bottles do not contain BPA: Based on the above email from IBWA, we would like to reiterate some of the facts and statements we made in our first post.
    NIEHS: Biosphenol-A
  • If people choose to drink sugary drinks instead of bottled water and they choose not to increase their physical activity, they will gain weight. That is the choice of the consumer when a healthier alternative would be to fill their reusable water bottle or drink from a drinking fountain. There is no proven correlation between bottled water bans and obesity, and any links to state otherwise make quite a few far-reaching assumptions. Yet studies have shown a link between the BPA contained in bottled water to obesity. See link for more information:
    PLOS ONE: Rapid Insulinotropic Action of Low Doses of Bisphenol-A
  • Let me rephrase a statement from our previous article which stated “Essentially, half of bottled water that consumers buy is simply tap water.” Rather, industry data shows that 50% of the bottled water consumers are purchasing in the U.S. is coming from municipal water supplies put through a filtration system and sold back to the consumer.
    Food and Water Watch: Bottling Our Cities’ Tap Water
  • Bottled water regulations overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) differ from the drinking water regulations enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They regulate similar maximum contaminant levels, yet bottled water does not require disinfection, testing for Cryptosporidium, or require operators to be trained and certified. In addition, bottled water is only tested for bacteria once a week while tap water is tested hundreds of times per month. For more differences between FDA and EPA regulations on water, see here:
    NDRC: Bottled Water
  • 8 out of 10 bottles end up in landfills and as litter. Whether the recycling rate has increased recently, the number of non-recycled bottles still soars. The cost to taxpayers for the disposal of this trash is another issue.
    CRI: Bottled Water

Many positive effects have sprung from these bans besides the reduction of plastic waste including (1) bringing together schools and organizations who work together for the benefit of the environment, others around them, and themselves, (2) educating consumers about the high costs of a resource that is free to them, (3) reducing the negative effects bottled water has on our health, (4) and promoting increased hydration.

The intent of bottled water bans is not to attack or harass the bottled water industry in anyway, but rather to reduce the plastic waste in our environment and inform people as to what they can do to help. It all comes back to the original goal: reducing plastic waste and its harmful effects it has on our environment. There is no rebutting that.

Here at Ban the Bottle, we advocate not only banning the sale of plastic bottled water, but we also provide solutions by supplying advocates with current trends, up-to-date information, and new ways to implement a ban at their organization.

If you are interested in starting a campaign, visit our “Start a Campaign” page for a range of ideas!

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2 Responses to Follow-up to IBWA Reply

  1. One claim of the IBWA, that PET is 100% recyclable, is not correct. It would be more appropriate to call it “downcycling”. For an item to be 100% recyclable we would have to be able to recycle it again and again ad infinitum. That is not the case with PET or with practically all other plastics, for that matter. They can be made into another type of plastic material once or at most twice. Then they reach the end of the line. That is the main problem with plastics. The public keeps getting tricked into believing that all they have to do is recycle and then things are fine. Not so.

    Another false point is the one about bottled water vs. soft drinks. The consumption of soft drinks has been on the rise, regardless of bottled water consumption. So it isn’t true that buying bottled water is good for your health. It is not replacing sweetened drinks but tap water. The documentary Tapped provides statistics on this matter.

    • Hannah Ellsbury says:

      All valid points Beatriz and we completely agree with you! The documentary Tapped really “taps” into the ongoing issues pertaining to global water issues and more specifically, the bottled water industry.

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