Who Turned Water Into A Commodity?

Picture 1. https://besrefreshments.com/green-bay-northwest-wisconsin-consumers-prefer-bottled-water/

I cannot agree more with the comments that Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees gave in their book “Our Ecological Footprint.” These authors wrote that the environmental crisis is a human behavioral and social problem rather than an environmental and technical one. People strive to take possession of natural resources and to exploit the bounty of nature. The acceleration of resource consumption in order to support rapid economic growth in our society and rising material standards of the industrialized countries in the past decades have degraded the forest, soil, water and air on our planet. (Wackernagel & Rees, 1996)

Please let me tell you a story about “Dem Elch eine Gasmaske verkaufen[1].”  It starts like this: There was a prominent salesman who could even sell a tooth brush to a dentist, bread to a baker and a television to a blind person. One day his friend said to him: “If you can sell a gas mask to a moose, you really are a prominent salesman.” He took the challenge and left for the North where herds of moose inhabit. The salesman met a moose in the forest and told it: “Hello Sir, you certainly need a gas mask.” The moose responded reluctantly: “What for? The air is so clean here.” Later on, the salesman set up a factory in the middle of the forest. Shortly after that, the moose went to the salesman and told him: “Now, I need a gas mask, please sell me one.” “See, I told you! You are lucky, I have a thousand in stock,” said the salesman proudly. Then asked the moose: “By the way, what do you produce in this factory?” “Gas masks, of course!” replied the salesman.

Does this story sound similar to the bottled water deception? Fresh air and fresh water are both natural resources for everyone. Who is that culprit who plunders our right to gain free access to natural resources? The international campaign for a human right to water has grown enormously over the past decade. This campaign has its roots in the arguments of anti-privatization campaigners, who have fought numerous campaigns to resist, and then to overturn water privatization projects around the world (Bakker, 2007). Unfortunately, giant international corporations continue to expand their lucrative business of selling bottled water.

Picture 2. http://www.no-burn.org/the-story-of-bottled-water/

 Click to watch the video about The Story of Bottled Water.

Each year, the bottled water industry spends billions to create an illusion that bottled water is pure and clearer than tap water. It has been proved that such marketing is illusory. The Environment Working Group (EWG) conducted a water quality test for the 10 most popular bottled water brands in the US (e.g. Mountain View California, Oakland California, Silver Spring Maryland). The report revealed 38 chemical pollutants were found in those 10 brands of bottled water (Naidenko, Leiba, Sharp, & Houlihan, 2008).

When bottled water was first introduced, consumers thought it was a joke. Today, people are willing to pay 2000 times more for a bottled water than they pay for tap water (Natural society, 2018). Worldwide consumption of bottle water reached 288 billion liters in 2012 and was forecasted to reach 391 billion liters in 2017 (Statisitics, 2018).  In Switzerland, the yearly consumption of bottled water increased to 977 million liters and equivalent to 115 liter per person (Le News, 2018).

Picture 3. http://www.viewsoftheworld.net/?p=1292

Furthermore, another problem created by bottled water is that it destroys our planet. Plastic and bottled water has become a main culprit to undermine our quality of planet. Nature is suffering at the expense of the priority given to convenience. According to WWF every year about 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to manufacture bottles. Typical PET bottles are a major threat to the environment because they are made out of petroleum. Environmentalists have long denounced plastic as a long-lasting pollutant that does not fully biodegrade. Plastic can take up to 450 years to decompose (Le Guern, 2018), further releasing contaminates into the soil, water and air (PBS.org, 2005). Another problem with plastic water bottles is that many people do not actually recycle their bottles. In the US the recycle rate of plastic bottles was about 29.7% in 2016 (Recycle Today, 2017).

Who suffers from plastic pollution?

Picture 3. http://www.viewsoftheworld.net/?p=1292

Do you know that all sea creatures, from the largest species to microscopic organisms, are ingesting seawater which has been instilled with toxic chemicals from plastic decomposition (Le Guern, 2018)? It is estimated between 5m and 13m tons of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (Laville & Taylor, 2017).

What can we do to protect our planet?

Let’s stop creating any more plastic waste.  One possible way is no more buying bottled water instead drink from tap water. Think about it, people live in Switzerland are so blessed. We can easily find clear drinking water from fountains located in public areas in every cities and villages. Why should you pay? Try to bring a bottle with us from home e.g. stainless steel or BPA-free plastic reusable. If we have to buy a drink in a store please pay attention to the recycle label if the bottles are made from recycled PET and ENSO which is degradable in a landfill (Horowitz, Frago, & Mu, 2018). Finally, don’t forget to put your emptied bottle in the recycle bin.


Bakker, K. (2007). Alter-globalization,Anti-privatization and the Human Right to Water in the Global South. Retrieved on October 20, 2018, from https://sites.ualberta.ca/~ksentes/commons%20versus%20commodity.pdf

Horowitz, N., Frago, J., & Mu, D. (2018, June). Waste Management, Volume 76, pp. 734-743. Retrieved on October 20,2018 from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956053X18301090

Laville, S., & Taylor, M. (2017, June 28). The Guardian. Retrieved on 10 20, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/a-million-a-minute-worlds-plastic-bottle-binge-as-dangerous-as-climate-change

Le Guern, C. (2018, March). Costal Care. Retrieved on October 19, 2018, from http://plastic-pollution.org/

Le News. (2018, October 18). Le News. Retrieved on October 19, 2018, from https://lenews.ch/2018/09/19/swiss-consumption-of-bottled-water-rises-significantly/

Naidenko, Leiba N, Sharp, Houlihan. (2008, October 15). Bottled Water Quality Investigation: 10 Major Brands 38 Pollutants by Environmental Working Group. Retrieved on October 20, 2018, from https://www.ewg.org/book/export/html/27010

Natural society. (2018). The Bottled Water Industry Deception. Retrieved on October 19, 2018, from http://naturalsociety.com/the-bottled-water-deception/

PBS.org. (2005, April 28). Vogageof the Odyssey. Retrieved on October 19, 2018, from https://www.pbs.org/odyssey/odyssey/20050428_log_transcript.html

Recycle Today. (2017, November 7). Recycle Today. Retrieved on October 19, 2018 from http://www.recyclingtoday.com/article/2016-plastic-bottle-recycling-study-apr-acc/

Statisitics. (2018). The Statistics Portal. Retrieved on October 19, 2018 from https://www.statista.com/statistics/387255/global-bottled-water-consumption/

Wackernagel , M., & Rees, W. (1996). In Our Ecological Footprint – Reducing human impact on the earth (p. 1 to 5). Canada: New Society Publishers.


Picture 1. https://besrefreshments.com/green-bay-northwest-wisconsin-consumers-prefer-bottled-water/

Picture 2. http://www.no-burn.org/the-story-of-bottled-water/

Picture 3. http://www.viewsoftheworld.net/?p=1292

Picture 4.  http://plastic-pollution.org/


The story of bottled water https://www.google.ch/searchq=the+story+of+bottled+water&rlz=1C1EJFA_enCH719CH723&oq=The+story+of+bottled+water&aqs=chrome.0.0l6.10411j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Foot note
[1] Translate into English: “Sell a gas mask to the moose”



Oh no, not again! Another article on plastic. You’ve had enough of seeing information and advice on how to use / re-use/ avoid plastic. Well, that means that this problem is still existent and more than that, IT IS GETTING CRITICAL!

I mean, we are surrounded by plastic. Our plastic bottles water, our plastic keyboards, our televisions… I could go on, I think you get the point. But does that mean that we still need to ignore, or rather accept, the fact that plastic is destroying our planet?

According to Natalie Fee (Founder of City to Sea), one-third of people flush plastic down their toilet. Products such as tampon, condom, cotton pods and menstrual pads. All these products aren’t filtered through the drain and then end up in our rivers, seas, and oceans. Below: a picture of how waters are polluted with plastics.


Shocking, right? Plastic is a part of our everyday life and is basically part of every product that we can think of. I am not saying that we should destroy plastic completely (which would be an extremely incredible goal) but realizing and taking into action what we can do is a big start.

First things first, let’s have a look at facts about plastic, its utilization and its destruction of our dearest planet.

  • Plastic is composed of major toxic pollutants such as carbon and hydrogen.
  • Plastic does have benefits: it’s cheap, versatile and lightweight. It does also help prevent food wastage and maintenance of food quality.
  • Plastic production worldwide has gone from 2.3 million tons in 1953 to 448 million tons in 2015. (National Geographic, s.d.)
  • Plastic accounts for 39.9% in packaging, being the largest market. (Plastics Europe, 2017)
  • 9% of plastic is recycled, 12% is burnt and 79% is the waste that we see on beaches, in waters and sometimes even in our backyard or neighborhood. Plastic is one of the materials that takes the longest to decompose: from 10 to 1000 years.
  • According to National Geographic, approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste flow into the ocean each year.
  • Marine species, birds and even humans are endangered by this mass pollution. Our food chain is poisoned.

Here is a list that is only a little part of the solution to plastic pollution. However, it is a good start to understand and notice the real danger in this issue.

Now let’s move on to a brighter side and focus on what companies, people and governments are doing to improve the situation.

  • Introduction of costly plastic bags in retail store (such as Migros and Coop)
  • Implementation of straw bans in some restaurants around the world as well as in some corporations (Starbucks, United Airlines, Walt Disney).
  • The city of Forth Worth, Dallas, USA, is paying homeless people to be street cleaners.
  • The EU new targets of packaging recycling up to 75% by 2030.

I really want to emphasize on the reality and importance of this matter. We need to take action right now! Plastic pollution is one of many other concerns that us humans must be aware of. However, this starts with us in our home, bringing awareness around us and taking actions to tackle the issue. Maybe after reading this, you may think: well, what am I supposed to do? Here are some tips that I think may of good use.

  • Refuse disposable plastics
  • Talk about pollution to your friends and family and convince them to reduce their consumption of plastic
  • Pressure companies and/or politicians to take necessary actions to clean our oceans and improve recycling
  • Recycle correctly your waste
  • Engage in campaigns/organizations
  • Educate yourself on the topic

We only have one planet, let’s not take it for granted! Ellen MacArthur says by 2050, there will be more plastic than fishes in the sea. Alarming! Who wants to be on vacation in the Caribbean and swimming next to plastic bottles and bags? Not me and I believe that I am not the only one. Therefore, let’s start with changing our habits rapidly.



4ocean. (n.d.). How long does it take trash to biodegrade? Retrieved from 4 ocean: https://4ocean.com/blogs/blog/how-long-does-it-take-trash-to-biodegrade

European Commission. (n.d.). Review of Waste Policy and Legislation. Retrieved from EC.Europa: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/target_review.htm

Guarnieri, G. (2018, January 21). Homeless people are being paid to clean up the streets in this Texas city. Retrieved from Newsweek: https://www.newsweek.com/homeless-paid-clean-streets-texas-786311

National Geographic. (n.d.). 10 shocking facts about plastic. Retrieved from National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/plastic-facts/

Plastics Europe. (2017). Plastic – the facts 2017. Plastics Europe.

Wearden, G. (2016, January 19). The Guardian. Retrieved from More plastic than fish in the sea by 2050, says Ellen MacArthur: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/19/more-plastic-than-fish-in-the-sea-by-2050-warns-ellen-macarthur

Video – Why plastic pollution is personal / Natalie Fee – TedTalk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJiQt9ASSNg