The Unintended Consequences of Hyperhydration

The folly of spending more per liter to buy water than gasoline has been mentioned in Hal's Picks previously (July 2003). That article, by Michael Schermer, emphasized the waste of money that this boondoggle constitutes. In the New York Times magazine this week is another argument against the practice, and that is its impact on the environment. About thirty billion individual servings of water will be bought in the US this year, and nearly all of those empties will be discarded. And while some states have laws requiring deposits for containers of carbonated beverages, none of them require deposits on water - or tea, juice, and energy drinks, for that matter. So called "bottle bills" never get off the ground in states that have powerful brewery and grocery store lobbies, but the issue is far more interesting and complicated than the good environmentalists versus the bad industrialists. The recycling that occurs now is the result of voluntarily actions of motivated individuals; if there were a deposit on non-fizzy drink containers, the part of the recycling stream that consists of the desirable clear PET containers would dry up, adversely impacting the economics of municipal curbside recycling. It would also affect the livelihood of the homeless people who scour our cities for cans and bottles.

Pick Attribution: 

Jon Mooallem

Publication Date: 
Sunday, May 27, 2007