The United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health reported that the worldwide bottled water industry is booming but at a great cost to the environment.
According to the report, global sales increased by 73 percent between 2010 and 2020, and the business is projected to sell 350 billion liters for an estimated $270 billion in 2021. The organization forecasts that by 2030, revenues will nearly treble to $500 billion.
Simultaneously, the sector produced an increasing amount of garbage. In 2021, it manufactured and contained approximately 600 billion plastic bottles, which became 25 million tons of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The majority of it was not recycled, per the report.
According to Kaveh Madani, head of the institute, in a press release, the growth in bottled water sales conceals a broader problem of unequal access to safe drinking water.
“The increase in bottled water usage is a result of decades of inadequate progress and numerous failures in public water supply systems,” he stated.
Yet, this trend is partially due to a second misconception: that bottled water is always safe. The survey stated that “the mineral makeup of bottled water can vary substantially between brands, within the same brand in different regions, and even between bottles from the same batch.”
This is because bottled water producers are subject to fewer regulations than water providers.
Even when such studies are conducted, the results are rarely made public, according to Vladimir Smakhtin, former director of the institute and co-author of the report.