The documentary film “Tapped” is a glaring indictment of the bottled water industry. Directed by Stephanie Soechtig this expansive look into the commercial acquisition, production and distribution of the Earth’s most precious natural resource, fresh drinking water, is a horrifying tale of abuse and corruption. The story spans the socio-political landscape from small municipalities to multi-national corporations across the globe. But at its heart the film speaks to the personal responsibility each of us must assume in the perpetuation of a product that we freely purchase as its consumption and improper disposal is slowly killing us.
“Bottled water is the greatest advertising and marketing trick of all time,” said media critic Barbara Lipert in the film. In 2007 the bottled water industry was an $11.2 billion business with 29 billion bottles of water sold worldwide. With 40 percent of water packaged in plastic bottles drawn from municipal tap water supplies, people across the planet purchased a drink that might otherwise be free for a huge mark up. The film also illustrates the practice of corporations extracting local water resources despite drought conditions and putting a strain on area fish and wildlife. In many communities water is taken away free of charge and then sold back to us.
For the convenience of making potable water portable, “Tapped” shows we pay a very high price indeed that goes beyond the mere bottled beverage boondoggle. Petrochemicals used in the manufacture of plastic create health hazards to those who live near processing plants. And the chemicals themselves have a tendency to leech out and contaminate the very water the bottles contain.
“Some people have gone to bottled water literally because they’re concerned about the water,” said epidemiologist Stephen King. “The problem is that buying bottled water is not necessarily safe, that you end up getting exposed to other chemical compounds.”
In an industry that is almost completely unregulated, manufacturers of bottled water often supply their own testing data to demonstrate their compliance to Environmental Protection Agency standards that fall well short of assuring safety. But independent tests shown in the film reveal that bottled water is rife with toxins. “If you would look at all the data I brought and you were to read everything, you’d be horrified,” King said. “We found vinyl chloride, styrene, benzene. I mean it’s horrifying.”
And these same chemicals end up in landfills and make their way into the world’s oceans when plastic water bottles are not recycled or otherwise properly disposed of. Beaches along every coastline are littered with plastic garbage. And even far out to sea traces of disintegrated plastic can be found.
“It’s a plastic soup with more plastic than plankton,” said Captain Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. “If you eliminate the scourge of bottled water you will be eliminating one of the biggest problems facing our environment.”
But unlike industrial pollution problems of the last century that were corrected by limiting smokestack emissions and the dumping of toxic waste the proliferation of plastic water bottles is a scourge of our own making. The makers of the film “Tapped” encourage viewers to take responsibility and forgo the purchase of bottled water to remove the financial incentive of its production. By making this commodity less profitable activists hope to see a significant reduction in plastic pollution. “Tapped” aims to show that the power of change is in our own hands.