Book review: Bottlemaina by Elizabeth Royte

This week’s book review is a book I casually found on the shelves of my library, in a section I was looking for something else.  Bottlemania by Elizbeth Royte looks at the politics of water – both bottled, and tap water.  It’s a great, easy to read non fiction book. It was published in 2008, so it’s a little out of date now, and I wish there was an edit with how some things have gone since then.

I want to share with you some great stats:

  • In 2006, in the US, each person on average used 686 single serve beverage bottles. In 1960-70s, that number was closer to 200-250 per annum, and largely beer and soft drink.
  • The 8 glasses of water a day is a fallacy – not that water isn’t good for you, but the body reaches homeostasis, and anything additional will just be ‘waste’.
  • The EPA predicted that by 2013, 36 US states would be suffering drinking water shortages (for tap water). I’d love to know how this 2008 prediction has turned out.
  • In the US, NYC, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon are the only cities where they are not required to filter their tap water. (Interestingly, all cities I want to visit).
  • The company that owns Clorox (a bleach brand) also own Brita filters – which, filter out chlorine. How’s that for market capitalisation!
  • Compostable corn based plastics are only compostable in commerical compost heaps – backyard compost heaps are unlikely to ever get hot enough. And it doesn’t mis well with regular recycling either. That’s of course, without considering the amount of herbicides and fertilizer it takes to grow the corn. What would your thoughts on this, Polythene Pam

Overall, the author can’t help but prefer tap water while admitting it’s fair from ideal either. The costs and effort that go into making water drinkable are extensive. The EPA regulates a number of contaminants, but there’s as many again that it does not test for, or regulate (like residues of drugs!). There’s far less restrictions on the quality of bottled water.  Not even filters like Brita can remove many of the concerning compounds found in water – both tap and bottled.

It was an eye opening ‘story’ of drinking water, and I’m glad I picked it up. I can’t tell you how it ends, as I do have two chapters to go.  What are you thoughts?  Are single use bottles worth it for the convenience combined with BPA leaching?  Or would you rather tap water – treated with all sorts of chemicals to counteract the aging lead pipes, and the leftover pharmaceuticals and perchlorates?  It’s really not as simple as I thought it might have been