Utne Blogs > Environment

Industry Fights Chicago's Bottled Water Tax

by Staff


Tags: bottled water, Chicago, tax, water, green, plastic, landfill, Sustainablog, environment,

Five cents a bottle doesn’t seem like much, but the bottled water tax that hit Chicago at the beginning of the new year has left the bottled water industry feeling all wet, reports Sustainablog’s Jason Phillip.

Bottled water is an environmentalist’s worst nightmare, ballooning landfills with plastic—less than 20 percent of plastic bottles are ever recycled—and encouraging waste, all for a product that we can easily get by picking up a glass and walking to the nearest sink. Bottled water could even be the first barrage in the unsettling privatization of public water supplies, Leif Utne has suggested in Utne Reader.

But we’re not in clear water yet. The Chicago tax, the first such levy in the nation, is being challenged in court by industry trade groups that argue it’s unfair because it doesn’t apply to other noncarbonated beverages such as sports drinks, coffee, or chocolate milk. Of course, Chicago does not provide inexpensive chocolate milk from the taps, otherwise I would move there, so taxing bottled water seems reasonable. But in the end it’s up for the courts to decide.

The poor bottled water manufacturers have a point, though: One bottled beverage has the same grim environmental footprint as any other. So why should water be singled out for shaming? Maybe because bottled water has become a symbol of Americans’ wanton wastefulness. We are paying for something we can get for free and destroying the earth in the process. Taken liken that, a five-cent tax doesn’t seem too hefty.

Brendan Mackie