New York Gov. David A. Paterson has jumped on anti-bottled water bandwagon by issuing an executive order halting state-agency purchases of bottled water—claiming to save significant amounts of money and landfill space. Agencies may no longer provide bottled water to workers either via five-gallon jugs for coolers or single serving containers. It’s good if lawmakers want to save money, but these policies won’t do much for the environment.
New York follows the lead of several other states and cities that have suddenly deemed bottled water a new “sin” industry. Chicago imposed a tax, Toronto banned it in government buildings, and Salt Lake has denied it to firefighters—at fires! Learn more here.
New York lawmakers are promising more than they can deliver. At least some of the water found in government agencies is delivered in large five-gallon plastic bottles, few of which ever enter the landfill. These bottles are reused on average, 35 to 50 times or more. Once these bottles are retired, they are recycled. They actually represent a private-sector environmental/recycling success story. Banning them in government agencies won’t save landfill space.
The replacement products—which demand the use of filters—will send waste to the landfill. It should also be noted that the water filtering devices require regular maintenance and repairs. And failure to change filters can produce quality problems with tap water too.
Finally, it is silly to claim that banning government purchases of them would matter significantly in terms of solid waste. Plastic water bottles amount to a measly 0.3 percent of trash nationally. In fact, absent bottled water as an option, many workers will likely bring their own or drink other bottled drinks. In fact, much of the increase in bottled water consumption over the past decades has replaced drinking of sugared or caffeine-containing drinks rather than tap water.
You can speak out against such silly bans and taxes on bottled water here.