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Bottles help offer a healthy choice

Two Views • Bottled-water debate tackles health, wealth, war
by: Creativ Studio Heinemann,  As bottled water increases in popularity, fans point out how it offers a safe, healthy option for drinkers on the go, while critics raise concerns of resource use, bacteria and threats to the developing world.

In an era of increasing obesity, heart disease and diabetes, people recognize the importance of water consumption. Bottled water is a safe, healthy, convenient beverage that consumers choose to stay refreshed and hydrated.

Any actions that discourage the use of this healthy beverage choice are not in the public interest. People recognize the importance of water consumption for hydration and refreshment and that should be encouraged.

Many consumers probably drink both bottled water and tap water depending on the circumstances; it does not always amount to a tap water versus bottled water choice.

Bottled water is growing in popularity because people appreciate its consistent quality, taste and convenience and choose bottled water as an alternative to other beverages because it does not contain calories, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors or colors, alcohol and other ingredients.

The bottled-water industry is a leader in the food and beverage industry in reducing its environmental footprint while at the same time delivering the healthful value of bottled water. Despite their popularity, PET water bottles, which are becoming increasingly lighter in weight, accounted for less than one-third of 1 percent of all waste produced in the United States in 2005.

Any efforts to reduce the resources necessary to produce and distribute packaged goods - and increase recycling rates - must focus on all packaging. Consumers can recycle; restaurants, businesses and governments can recycle; and those are the actions that must be encouraged. The wrong path is to disparage a healthful beverage choice.

Make no mistake, the Oregon bottled-water industry supports recycling. But, instead of focusing only on bottled water due to its increasing popularity, we should all be taking action toward a solution that is comprehensive, uncomplicated, effective and equitable.

A more comprehensive solution would be to expand curbside recycling programs and ease the chore of redemption, thereby capturing more of the waste stream and creating solutions that are less burdensome and costly for consumers, retailers, manufacturers and distributors.

The entire recycling program in Oregon needs to be reviewed, rather than focus on the tiny segment of the waste stream that beverage packaging comprises, much less bottled water containers.

The fact is, bottled water is comprehensively regulated as a packaged food product by the Food and Drug Administration, which mandates stringent standards to help ensure bottled water's consistent safety, quality and good taste.

By law, FDA bottled water standards must be at least as stringent and protective of public health as Environmental Protection Agency standards for municipal drinking water systems.

Bottled water is a healthy beverage produced by an industry that supports and relies on safe, quality groundwater resources as well as municipal water systems. We are interested in strengthening, not undermining, municipal water sources.

However, bottled-water consumption has nothing to do with tap water infrastructure funding or drinking water system improvements.

It is about beverage choice, available to consumers who choose, or rely upon, bottled water for refreshment and hydration. To misinform readers about anything to the contrary is a disservice and just plain wrong.

Rick Hayter is general manager of Culligan Bottled Water of Portland. He lives in Tualatin.