Plastic water bottles
Gardening & Sustainability

I Hate Plastic Water Bottles

Before I start this post I want to pause and take a moment to acknowledge that not everyone has an option when it comes to their water. Some people depending on where they live may not even have access to any sort of clean drinking water. I am aware that different people living under different circumstances in different parts of the country or world may have no choice on what water they drink. I realize many people around the world may have no choice, but to consume water from plastic bottles. I also realize that investing in any sort of filtration system is a luxury. I realize that it is not a necessity and it is not something that everyone can afford. This post is not directed at you or those people. This post is for people who do have a choice and do have options when it comes to their drinking water, but are either unaware or choose not to utilize those other options.

Now onto my planned post…

Even before I began striving to live a more eco-friendly sustainable lifestyle, plastic water bottles drove me crazy. They always seemed like a waste, both in money and resources. It always just made sense to me to use a reusable water bottle and drink water from home.

Now, I am in no way perfect with this. I can’t say I never use plastic water bottles and growing up they were always in the house. As a kid, my parents occasionally bought cases of plastic water bottles, but my dad did wash and reuse those bottles, probably more times than he should have and we did always collect and recycle them when their life had come to an end.

As an adult, I’ve always depended primarily on reusable water bottles. But, like I said, I’m not perfect, I do occasionally drink from plastic bottles. I buy cases to take on camping trips or large plastic bottles to have in the car on road trips in case of an emergency. And if I’m at a party or something I won’t deny myself water just because it’s in a single use bottle. Also, every now and then I will find myself thirsty and out running errands without my bottle and I’ll pick something up at a store or a gas station.

I’m not 100% anti-plastic bottles, I’m just anti depending on only plastic bottles.

Now I could go on and on about the amount of plastic waste produced by people drinking water bottles (over 60 million water bottles are thrown away every day in the US) or how much plastic is entering our oceans annually (8 million metric tons), which if you are reading this, you probably were expecting that, but I realize not everyone cares about that. Not everyone is concerned with how much plastic they waste or how much that plastic is hurting the planet, but most people do care about their money and how much they are wasting or how much they could save.

So, I decided to conduct my own “study” on those around me, to see on average how much money they are potentially spending on water a year, assuming they only drink from single use plastic water bottles and how much they could save if they switched to a filtration system instead. (I could have saved myself some time and a ton of math brain power and Googled this all, but I thought using my friends and family made it a bit more interesting, at least for me.)

The Assignment & The Task

I asked for volunteers and ended up with my niece, my sister-in-law, and my friend. The husband and I also participated to increase the sample size.

Everyone who agreed to do this with me was asked to track their daily water consumption (what they drank) in ounces for a week. I then used those numbers to estimate what they drank in a month and in a year.

Initial numbers collected, logged in ounces.

Once I had all the data I chose different common plastic water bottle options and water filtration options to then calculate the cost of water for each individual, assuming they only consumed water from that one source. I wanted to choose options from a store I felt was pretty much available to everyone, at least here in the US. I went with items and prices* from my local Walmart and I settled on –

*Prices may vary from store to store and over time. The prices listed were what the items were going for at my local Walmart at the time of writing this.

The Results

On average my volunteers were drinking about 498 oz a week or 30 (16.9 oz) bottles per week. Multiplied by 52 weeks, that comes out to about 25,875 oz or 1,531 (16.9 oz) bottles per year. That’s a lot of bottles. But, I said I wasn’t going to make this about the plastic waste. So, what did I learn in regard to cost?

When averaged all together my volunteers would potentially be spending about $154 per year if they only purchased 40 packs of 16.9 oz bottles. However, if my volunteers decided to invest in a filtration system, such as the PUR Basic Pitcher, their average annual cost went down around to around $91 for the first year. (The first year’s cost will be a little higher than the following years since the system is being purchased.) If they upgrade to a faucet filtration system, their annual cost would average out to about $85 for that first year.

Although in my “study” the average annual savings was anywhere from $64 per year to $69 per year for that initial year, which is something, I felt like it wasn’t enough to really persuade people, so I decided to figure out what the savings would be over the course of five years. Remember that the initial year is slightly higher in cost than the following years if you are switching to a filtration system.

If my volunteers only purchased 40 packs of 16.9 oz bottles of water they would be spending around $768 over the course of five years. However, if they invested in just a basic PUR Pitcher their five-year cost drops down to about $396. Even better, if they decided to install a faucet water filtration system their five-year cost would average out to about $324. That’s a savings of between $372 and $444, potentially over a 50% savings.

Now of course every person’s individual or family cost will vary depending on how much water they actually drink, if they buy water bottles, what brand they are buying (I choose one of the cheapest options available for this) or if they go with a filtration system, which exact system they choose as well as where they live and where they purchase. I used stores, options, and prices available to me at this time in my immediate area, just to provide a sample snapshot of what the average person may be drinking and potential spending and/or saving on water.

Also, important to note, when it came to calculating the filtration systems I only factored in the initial cost of the system as well as the recommended amount of filters for the first year, followed by the filters (I chose basic filters, more expensive stronger filters are usually available) only for the following years. I did not factor in the cost of a reusable water bottle, which can vary greatly in price depending on brand and style.

And lastly, even though I said I wasn’t going to make this about plastic consumption, to wrap this all up, for those of you who are interested, here is a video that talks about single use plastic water bottles.

Cover image by Willfried Wende from Pixabay

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