New York in a Bottle
September 17th, 2008

Bottling filtered New York City tap water and reselling it may sound crazy, but Tap’dNY is willing to bet on it. The company promotes the idea as one of local pride and a good choice for the environment. In their manifesto, (yes, they have a manifesto), they argue that they will create local jobs, reduce pollution by cutting down on transportation of the water, and will not deplete natural resources.

But is it really environmentally friendly?

NYPIRG‘s Laura Haight thinks not. “It’s a huge negative,” she says. Most water bottles end up thrown away, she notes, and the accompanying costs probably outweigh the benefits. “New York ships its waste all across the country.”

In fact, water and other non-carbonated beverages, are not included in the state’s bottle deposit law, and thus are recycled at even lower rates than usual. Nationally, only about 12 percent of non-carbonated beverage bottles are recycled. (This statistic is conveniently animated in the video at right). That is less than half of the recycling rates for plastic bottles generally.

And a lot of that ends up in the ocean.

The Northeast chapter of the American Littoral Society, which coordinates New York City’s involvement in international beach cleanup efforts, breaks down the type of trash they collect. “Beach captains sorted bottles, and non-carbonated outweighed carbonated 2 to 1,” says Barbara Toborg, the branch manager of the society. They will be hosting beach cleanups this weekend.

Both NYPIRG and the Littoral Society are supporters of a state law called the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, which would include these type of bottles in the deposit law, among other things.

But bottled water usage is still on the rise, and some see that as a reason to support a lesser of two evils. “We all drink bottled water. We dont want to, we know that its bad for the environment…but when its hot out and were running to the train we cant help ourselves,” writes Josh Spear on his trend spotting blog. “So, wouldnt it be better if you could at least buy a water with a smaller carbon footprint?”

All of this may be moot if we don’t take care of the city’s water source, pivots Councilmember James Gennaro, chair of the Environmental Protection Committee (fixed). “It’s great to promote local products and sustainable practices, but bottling New York City’s tapwater will be a failing business model if we allow natural gas drilling near our upstate reservoirs, which state legislators voted to expand this summer and is sure to contaminate our drinking water supply if it moves forward.”

“The only thing that’ll be ‘tapped’ then,” he adds, “will be everyone’s wallets, from the expense of filtering this stuff.”

By on September 17, 2008, 1:53 pm
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