Looking into the Mirror

Water filter companies are disseminating a sleuth of advertisements attacking bottled water. A new ad by Brita's "Responsible Water" campaign shows a woman running on a treadmill with a disposable water bottle within reach. The screen then shows the message: "30 minutes on the treadmill, forever in a landfill."

Similarly, Procter& Gamble's $45 million-plus campaign enlists Scrubs start Zach Braff in its television advertisements for the PUR water filter. "I'm water. I shouldn't be trapped in a bottle. I've got things to do. Trees to grow thirsts to quench," says Braff, the voice of water. "I don't need a cap and label. I look better naked."

PUR isn't the only water filter company to run ads that mock the wastefulness of bottled water. FilterForGood.com is a site that aims to reduce waste from bottled water. The site is also partnered by Brita and bottle-maker Nalgene. The website asks people to pledge to stop using bottled water. When I checked it out this morning, the site said that approximately 105,705,095 bottles have been saved thanks to those who took the pledge.

Despite the positive environmental message produced by these campaigns, I can't help but wonder how much of these campaigns stems from genuine concern for the environment and how much stems from simple market-based competition? And it seems like I'm not the only one. Environmentalists are campaigning against the ads that tell people in order to give up bottled water, they have to switch to another plastic product. Moreover, water filters cannot be recycled in the United States. TakeBackTheFilter.org works to persuade companies to start recycling the plastic filters and has collected more than 15,000 signatures and over 374 Brita filters for recycling to date.

In Europe, countries like France and Germany require producer takeback programs such that consumers can return Brita water filters to the manufacturer for recycling or drop them off in stores. Clorox, the company that owns Brita, states that the U.S. municipal waste system is to blame because they are not equipped to recycle Brita filters. Clorox spokesman Drew McGowan said that a test program may begin within the next year that will let people return the filters to retail stores.

While residents in New York City enjoy some of the best drinking water in the nation, other residents do not have access to good, clean tap water. In those cases, and in cases where a filter system cannot be installed into the building's plumbing, a portable water filter is a much better alternative to plastic bottles. In the end, plastic water filters last longer and produce less waste per unit than their bottle counterparts.

To check out the original article in The New York Times, click here.