Elizabeth Royte Says Boxed Water Just as Bad as Bottled

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A carton of Boxed Water is Better on a picnic table with a map.

John Beans / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Elizabeth Royte, who wrote the book on the evils of bottled water,(Bottlemania), calls out Boxed Water as perpetuating a culture of unthinking convenience.

Boxed Water Is Better, which I'll just go ahead and call BWIB, reveals that it's purified water from a Michigan tap. It comes in a black-and-white Tetra Pak (about 90 percent paper)..BWIB claims some eco-cred for shipping its containers flat, while those who bottle in plastic send empties around the world. In fact, Nestle Waters, the largest springwater purveyor in the U.S., forms its bottles where it fills them, and Coco-Cola, which makes Dasani, recently announced it will start doing the same.

I could spend a lot of time looking at life cycle analyses of these products. But the point I want to make is that these packages perpetuate the idea that it's okay to buy water in single-use disposable packaging. In my humble opinion, we don't need to reduce our guilt for buying convenience products, we need to buy fewer of them in the first place.

More from Elizabeth Royte in Is water in boxes better than water in plastic?

Boxed Water is Better says that their boxes are accepted for recycling in most places, and will soon be accepted everywhere. However, the fact is they're single-use Tetra Pak containers of water that relies on the consumer to responsibly recycle (which they only do at a rate of about 5%) - and that is not an ideal product by an stretch of the imagination.

TreeHugger Lloyd Alter points out:

In our post on another Tetra Pak water, Aqua2Go. To the Nearest Landfill. :
Tetrapak aseptic packaging was designed for liquids like milk or juices that go bad quickly; they are made of layers of polyethylene and aluminum foil and virgin pulp (the so-called renewable resource.) They are recyclable by pulping and separating, using lots of hot water and producing low grade downcycled material; it is rarely done in North America.

Or as Ruben Anderson said more colourfully in the Tyee:

The places that say they recycle Tetra Paks are liars. What does "re" mean? It means again. Can a Tetra Pak be made into another Tetra Pak? No. Tetra Paks are seven incomprehensibly thin layers of paper, plastic and aluminum. The poor suckers who try to recycle them use giant blenders to mush the paper pulp off the plastic and metal, then they need to separate the plastic from the metal.

The Boxed Water box looks so benign, like a milk carton. But it is a very different thing.

So we come to the same conclusions: We hope that people adopt carrying around a reuseable water container and soon find buying water in single-use bottles as strange an idea as we once did.