It's time to get serious, America. Do something that will really make a difference. With bottled water containers accounting for less than 0.03 percent of the U.S. waste stream (according to the Environmental Protection Agency), efforts to ban the sale of water will not have much effect on reducing the environmental impact of plastic containers. Moreover, it shows the importance of focusing on all consumer goods and not targeting just one product.
But we shouldn't even be talking about bottled water packaging as "waste" because nearly all bottled water packaging is 100 percent recyclable.
So what is the real problem here? Overall recycling rates in the United States are among the lowest in the world. But the good news is that bottled water drinkers are among the best beverage container recyclers, with 32.25 percent of plastic bottles recovered through curbside programs in 2010 (not the 20 percent quoted in the Post-Gazette's editorial "Bottled Up: Let's End the Waste of Packaged Water, " March 16). That's a 50 percent increase in the past five years.
We all agree that recycling rates for all consumer products need significant improvement, and the bottled water industry has developed a materials recovery program, which is actively seeking partnerships with municipalities in an effort to improve recycling rates of all consumer packaging, not just bottled water.
The current assault on the bottled water industry by anti-bottled water activists toys with people's emotions, making them believe that by removing bottled water as a choice for everyone, they will be doing something good for the environment. However, when you take a close look at the environmental impact, you see that bottled water:
• has 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 the amount of plastic used in its packaging.
Bottled water is also the healthiest drink on the shelf. Industry research shows most people who drink bottled water also drink tap water, and they choose accessible, calorie-free bottled water as an alternative to less healthy packaged drinks. In addition, there are new studies that show when bottled water is not available, people choose other less healthy drink options -- with similar packaging and recycling issues -- and not necessarily tap water.
Getting rid of bottled water will also increase the waistlines of an already overweight America (68.3 percent of Americans are either obese or overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Together with a rise in diabetes rates, efforts to discourage people from drinking bottled water are not in the public's interest.
Bottled water is just one of thousands of consumer products packaged in plastic. If people really want to make a difference in our society, they could work toward improving the recycling rates of all consumer packaging, not by singling out one of the safest, healthiest and environmentally friendly packaged beverages available on the shelf.
Chris Hogan is vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association ( www.bottledwater.org ).