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Caroline Blythe

Dr. Schmalbeck

Honors Energy and Sustainability

9 May 2017

Assessing the Arguments

Not all of the claims stated in the Story of Bottled Water video are analyzed in the

Gleick et al. analysis of the energy implications of bottled water, but the ones that are discussed

in both resources are largely backed up by science. The first big claim that the video introduces

is that much of the bottled water sold is simply tap water, which is only partially supported by

science. Gleick et al. states that 44% of bottled water is actually tap water, but then goes a step

further to ascertain a difference between the bottled tap water and regular tap water -- bottled tap

water has gone through a second filtration process. The video does not note this. The videos

second claim that can be analyzed is that bottled water is an extremely energy intensive product,

thus making it 2000x more expensive than regular tap water. Again, this is only partially true.

Though it is a fact that the manufacturing, packaging, distribution, and storage of bottled water is

incredibly energy intensive, it is not necessarily true that bottled water costs 2000x more money

to purchase than tap water. Gleick et al. states that bottled water has 2000x the energy cost, not

consumer cost, of tap water. This is a mishandling of statistics on the part of the video, which

was in fact correct in claiming that bottled water is more expensive per unit than tap.

When consulting Gleick et al.s life cycle energy analysis of bottled water, one place to

save significant amounts of energy stands out among other solutions: use less plastic. PET, or

polyethylene terephthalate, is a main ingredient in the plastic used to bottle water. A single ton of
PET uses 100,000 megajoules of energy. Each year, 300 billion megajoules of energy are

consumed in the production of PET. If PET use could be minimised in plastic bottles, its

production could be reduced by up to 30% (Gleick et al). When the total amount of PET

manufactured in a single year is accounted for, such a decrease would save 90 billion megajoules

of energy. These savings would increase even more if bottles were to be made from recycled

materials as opposed to virgin PET, as Gleick et al. notes.

Manufacturing is not the only point along the lifecycle of bottled water where copious

amounts of energy are consumed -- transportation of these bottles, which are heavy, is an energy

intensive process. The two major factors that determine energy use for this aspect, according to

Gleick et al., are distance to destination and form of transportation. Logically, it makes sense that

the farther away from its final destination a product is, the more energy will be used to move it,

so this particular claim is solid. It also is reasonable that certain forms of transportation will use

greater amounts of fossil fuels, notably air transport -- this is the most energy-intensive form of

transportation. Thus, in order to minimize transportation energy costs, bottled water should be

manufactured as close to its destination as possible or use less energy intensive forms of

transportation (i.e. trucking).