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POSTED: May 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.
When I lived in a city, I liked to take walks, and on recycling day, I was prone to glance at what my neighbors had consumed during the week, as I walked past.
One home always got my attention. Week after week, its recycling container was packed tightly with empty plastic water bottles, of the 10- or 12-ounce variety. Sometimes there was more than one box of them, adding up to a few cases.
I too have been a consumer of water from plastic bottles. In fact, three out of four Americans drink bottled water, and one in six only drinks bottled water. Over the past decade, per capita consumption has more than doubled, from 10.5 gallons in 1993 to 22.6 in 2003, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp.
Of these bottles, less than a quarter of them are recycled. Nationwide, 40 million bottles a day go into the trash or become litter. And a plastic container doesn't decompose for 50-80 years. They never biodegrade.
If those statistics aren't enough to prompt Americans to employ reusable containers for water, consider this.
Up to 40 percent of bottled water sold in the U.S. comes from municipal sources, meaning tap water, according to Corporate Accountability International. It is sold back to citizens at thousands of times the price.
Bottle labels are often misleading, in that they depict a snow-capped mountain or natural spring, or call their water "purified." In 2005, bottled water corporations spent $158 million on advertising that promoted bottled water as better than tap water and undermined confidence in public water systems.
Public outcry is forcing the hand of water bottlers, and some have turned to more disclosure in their labeling.
Some bottle labels now read "Public Water Source."
For water that does come from natural sources, corporations are claiming springs and local waters as their own, when water is a resource that is part of the "commons," that which is owned communally. Bottling operations have lowered water tables, degraded lakes and wetlands, and posed a threat to local water supplies.
Once the water is bottled, it may become contaminated from the plastic container. Plastics are manufactured from petroleum, a precious resource. Some of them leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into our beverages and foods.
The solution is easy.
Use a glass jar, canteen, wineskin, or a stainless steel bottle for your water. Refill it from your own filtered water. Refill it every morning and bring it with you. Refill it throughout the day.
Never be seen drinking water from a plastic throwaway bottle.
If you need to serve drinking water to a group; guests, baseball team or executives at a board meeting; the elegant, smart option is a glass pitcher of good water and real glasses.
It's time to think outside the bottle.

Ray's stainless steel water bottle goes everywhere she goes. She lives in Baxley.
 

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