College campuses across the country have been fighting to ban bottled water from campuses, and the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is fighting back. The trade group put together this pretty inane video, which we recommend you watch for the giggles. (We particularly like the soundtrack’s switch to new age-y happy music the first time a bottled water vending machine makes an appearance.)
The IBWA has two main arguments, laid out with all the intellectual grace of a freshman composition class paper dashed off an hour before it’s due. First, college students should be putting their very valuable time and effort towards fighting real, important “political, social, economic, and environmental injustices.” The IBWA’s list of past triumphs includes: racial discrimination, freedom of speech, war, tuition hikes, awareness of Darfur, education funding cuts, sweatshop labor. Did they notice that list didn’t actually have any environmental issues on it? Oh, well. Moving on!
The second argument is that bottled water is awesome. No sugar! No caffeine! (They do realize they’re talking to college students, right?) The key argument here is that bottled water “accounts for only 0.03 percent of the U.S. waste stream, says EPA.” That’s meant to sound small, because 0.03 percent — tiny, right? But the fact that it’s measurable at all means it’s a rather large contribution for a single product. The EPA also says that containers and packaging like drink bottles contributes the largest chunk to plastic waste.
That’s not specific to water bottles, but even though the IBWA wants to lump bottled water in with “other packaged drinks,” it remains true that it is the only “packaged drink” also available via municipal services. We don’t have Coke faucets in our kitchens. (Yet.) The video argues, “Getting rid of bottled water won’t solve a waste problem. But improving the recycling rates of ALL consumer packaging will.” But recycling isn’t actually a solution to the waste problem: It just defers disposal for one product life cycle. The best way to avoid waste is not to make it to begin with. And with water available pretty much everywhere on college campuses, eliminating the waste from disposable water bottles is a decent place to start.