Tapped is a documentary film directed by Stephanie Soechtig and Jason Lindsey that examines both the ecological and financial impact of the bottled water industry. This 2009 documentary film explores the bottled water industry’s effect on climate change, oil reliance, health, and pollution. The filmmakers decided to direct their focus primarily on PepsiCo and Nestle Water – industry giants. This was accomplished by visiting a Nestle factory located within a town in order to conduct research on the products used by the company when managing the bottles. As a result, it was established that there are several potentially harmful chemicals – such as carcinogens – present amidst the bottles after running a series of tests. In addition, the documentary outlined the recycling process of bottled water. Next, the film excellently demonstrates the way in which the industry commodifies a basic human right – water. By exploring water bottle production and its adverse effect on local communities, this film informs the viewer of the many implications that the bottled water industry has on the surrounding environment.
The privatization of water sources is extremely detrimental to many communities. Treating water as a commodity – where the price is dependent on supply and demand – allows large corporations to manifest control over drinking water. Private corporations have succeeded in regulating and maintaining ownership of this basic life necessity in order to aggregate an abundance of capital. Throughout the documentary, the filmmakers used the large water baron, Nestle to demonstrate the social injustice and environmental concerns of corporations commodifying water supplies. Nestle operates in the US under multiple names such as Poland Spring, PepsiCo, Aquafina, and Dasani. This company is one of the largest profiteers of bottled water with $3.6 billion in water sales in 2008. This is operated by extracting water from water sources and then selling it back to the population for a large profit. Notably, tap water (municipal drinking water) is highly regulated under the environmental protection agency (EPA) whereas bottled water has few regulations. In relation to this, the film highlights the marketing strategies that major water bottle companies use in order to entice consumers into buying their product. Many advertisements use words such as safe, pure, clean, healthy, and convenient to entice consumers into thinking that bottled water is a better alternative to tap water. However, it’s important to note that in many cases, companies are reselling bottled tap water – 40% of bottled water is filtered tap water. Dasani and Aquafina are both examples of bottled water brands that are not from a natural spring – they are both made of purified water from public reservoirs. Therefore, the major difference between tap water and bottled water is the price. It’s evident that private corporations have been successful at making drinking water a commodity in order to maximize their profit. The film seeks to unmask the way in which Nestle operates and defines control through their practice. However, communities around the country are fighting in order to maintain ownership over the water supply that Nestle is extracting from. Many suggest that the water belongs to the people and that the town gets nothing in return and because of this, activists are disputing the rights of corporations to sell their town’s water. Consequently, this permeates the basis for serious political instability and the petitioning for policy change because small-town citizens are finding it increasingly difficult to fend off of Nestle’s overwhelming legal resources.
The film highlights both the environmental and social costs of the bottled water industry on the public. Changes in climate around the globe have caused a decrease in water supplies in certain areas. The film does an excellent job at providing a segment that outlines the difficulties that many of these communities face due to the climate change. For example, Raleigh, North Carolina encountered a horrible drought in 2007. However, the Pepsi plant continued their operations in bottled water distribution amidst the height of the drought. The Pepsi Company bottled water and sold it back to the community even amidst the dwindling supply. In fact, the company used an estimated 400,000 gallons of municipal water each day. This became a severe social injustice issue because the water supplies throughout this community should be reserved for the local community members. As stated in the film, this allowed private corporations to control the water supply at the expense of the population in order to gain more capital. Due to this, there are many communities throughout the United States gathering to protect their local water supplies from being distributed by private corporations.
Bottled water leaves consumers susceptible to consuming contaminants and chemicals that are extremely unhealthy. The bottled water industry is self-regulated and so, this can have long-term effects on consumer health because the future risks are uncertain. Not only must the consumer be critical of the water purity but they must also think about the bottle itself. Plastic contains chemicals such as, bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates – which have the ability to contaminate the water in the bottle. The process of creating this product is also extremely detrimental because the oil refineries that produce plastic bottles contain carcinogens. The film validates this by showcasing the health effects that individuals are facing who live near to the power plants that curate plastic water bottles. The people living in these areas are vulnerable to higher rates of cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses. Relatively, plastic water bottles also manage to contaminate a lot of groundwater because most of the chemical plants have leaks underground. This contributes to a series of environmental and social injustice issues. In addition, the accumulation of plastic debris is a growing environmental issue in need of rectifying. Many of the bottled water that is disposed of makes its way to the sea where it’s carried by currents. This ends up deposited on some distant shore where the plastic remnants from the bottled water are then found within the sand. Indeed, this is a contributing factor to pollution as it’s a major issue facing our environment to date. Furthermore, the plastic bottle trash is very poisonous for many fish and invertebrates. The plastic debris is accumulating within the oceans, leaving fish susceptible to consuming this product. There is a gradual decline for both humans and marine organisms because this crisis is altering the natural ecological cycle – by threatening the marine food web.
The documentary film entitled Tapped excellently showcases the secrets behind the big businesses of bottled water. This is accomplished by outlining the many ways in which the bottled water industry impacts both the environment and consumer health. The film begins by exploring the ways in which private corporations commodify drinking water as a means to aggregate wealth. Unfortunately, this is done at the expense of local community members and thus, posing a social injustice issue that sparks political instability. Next, this explores the health threats of the bottled water industry on consumer health as it contains many harmful chemicals. Relatively, this also has a detrimental effect on marine organisms as well due to the oceanic pollution that it causes. Not only does this film highlight the social injustice issues associated with the water bottle industry – but it also unmasks its effect on consumer health and the environment. Directors Stephanie Soechtig and Jason Lindsey executed this film excellently because it broadened my overall understanding of the bottled water industry and the adverse effect it has on the environment. As stated amidst the documentary, “plastic water bottle manufacturing uses 714 million gallons of oil every year” which “is enough to fuel 100,000 cars” (Soechtig, Lindsey). It’s evident that this environmental crisis continues to exacerbate throughout society and it’s our duty to help overturn this issue by implementing a series of sustainable initiatives. This can be accomplished through both governmental action and community involvement.