The History of Water Bottles

By Jason Tyson

The trend of carrying and consuming water from bottles has become increasingly popular in recent years. Water is now packaged in plastic bottles, coolers and jugs for both convienence and portability. How this development has occurred over time may be interesting to those who consume bottled water and who want to know more about the plastic used to contain it.

Significance

Since the beginning of human history, people have searched for ways to transport fresh water from its source to their habitat. The Romans built the aqueducts at the turn of the first millennium to deliver water to the cities, and vases or animal skins were used to transport water in smaller quantites. Other containers were made from clay or woven materials. The mobility of soldiers during wartime, the increase in outdoor activities such as hiking and increase in travelling over long distances by automobile influenced the necessity for people to carry portable water.

Bottled Water Companies

Some popular brands of water now sold in bottles have been around for a some time, while others have more recent origins. Mineral water from San Pellegrino in Italy has been drawn and produced since 1395. Evian's roots began in 1826. A local French doctor began the Perrier company in 1898, and the water used in the bottles is pulled from a Roman spa called Les Bouillens. Deer Park was established in 1873 for the New York market. Both are now owned by the Nestle corporation.

At first, these companies sold their water in glass bottles. Although a certain form of plastic was invented by Leonardo DaVinci during the Renaissance, plastic did not become widely used commercially for water until the mid-20th century. This was due to the high cost of manufacturing the material. Once high-density polyethylene was introduced, plastic become the preferred choice starting in the late 1960s. Soon thereafter, more nontraditional companies began selling water in bottles. Aquafina, which is owned by the Pepsi-Co Corporation, began distribution in 1994. The Coca-Cola Company launched an answer to the popularity of Aquafina with its own brand, Dasani, in 1999.

Considerations

The popularity of bottled water led to interest and questions regarding its source. Nearly 25 percent of bottled water sold in the United States originated from a ground water source, according to a study conducted from 2004 to 2008 by the National Resources Defense Council. The study concluded, "there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle, it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap." Other manufacturers attempted to ease their customers' minds about the backlash of bottled ground water by branding their product as "extra purified," "vitamin-enriched" or "all natural." Concerns also arose about whether chemicals held inside of the plastic affected the contents. A backlash against a chemical known as BPA or Bisphenol-A that is found in some water bottles began in 2008, led by consumer watch groups, who worried that the chemical could be linked to health problems such as cancer. Now, some bottled water and plastic companies are promoting their containers as BPA-free.

Fun Fact

Close to 50 billion bottles of water are consumed in the United States each year, with close to 200 billion in the world, according to a May 2008 article in The New York Times.

Recent Developments

High-end brands of water emerged in the late 1990s, with brands such as Voss, Ty Nant and Evamor marketing artesian or high-purified water to luxury customers. Since the late 12th century, most bottles used to contain water were made with a neck, but now water is put into all sorts of containers. Bottle shapes and sizes evolved along with this trend, and different types of materials were used. Water is now sold and carried in jugs, cans, multi-gallon-sized plastic and even aluminum bottles.

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