Is boxed water biodegradable?

This article will deal with the biodegradability status of boxed water. Other covered aspects would include:

  • Can boxed water biodegrade?
  • Why is the biodegradability of boxed water important?
  • Is boxed water better than bottled water?
  • Can boxed water be composted/
  • FAQs

Is boxed water biodegradable?

Boxed water is biodegradable because it is made from mostly paper. Paper is a natural material that is derived from trees and plants. 

Biodegradation is the breakdown by the action of microbes. These microbes include bacteria, decomposers, and even fungi. 

Biodegradability can be explained by getting an insight into two different terms that include bio and degradation. Bio means life and degradation means breakdown. 

However, it is not only about microbes. There are also other factors that are responsible for the biodegradation process. These include aeration, sunlight, temperature, and pressure. 

Boxed water is often compared to bottled water. There are pros and cons to each. Boxed water is better off in terms of environmental and health aspects but bottled water is better than boxed water in terms of the utilitarian aspect. 

Also, it is possible to compost the boxed after boxed water is utilised. Composting may lead to advantages such as better resource management, better waste management, and improved soil fertility and growth. 

Can boxed water biodegrade?

There are some necessary prerequisites that have to be met to ensure that a product is biodegradable. One necessary prerequisite is that the product must be made from natural materials rather than non-natural materials. 

Therefore, let us explore what boxed water is made of. Needless to say, our target is not the water but the container in which water is kept. 

There are generally two approaches that are there when it comes to water. Either the water is stored in plastic bottles. This is a common way. Everyone uses bottled water. 

The bottles in which water is kept are mostly made from a type of plastic called PET. PET is a plastic that is sourced from petroleum products and therefore is regarded as non-biodegradable. 

Although PET is regarded as safe for the human body, it is not safe for the environment because it leads to environmental problems of non-biodegradable waste accumulation and global warming et cetera. 

In response to this, we have boxed water. It is a fairly recent approach. The main idea is to contain water in boxes as compared to bottles. 

These boxes are made mostly from paper. It is claimed that more than 70% of the box content is paper. It is known that paper is obtained from plant sources. Hence, it is a natural source. 

Since boxed water is made from paper and paper is made from plants, it can be said that boxed water indeed is biodegradable. Let us understand biodegradability in a bit more detail. 

Biodegradability is the breakdown of waste into simpler materials by the action of microbes. These microbes include bacteria, algae, and fungi. Other drivers of biodegradability include temperature, pressure, aeration, sunlight et cetera. 

Biodegradability can be regarded as or analogised to the Earth’s dustbin because it negates the existence of non-biodegradable waste. If there is no biodegradability, there will be an infinite amount of waste generated which will pollute the whole planet. 

Is boxed water better than bottled water?

When it comes to consumerism and industrialisation, there are two factors that are pursued. One is the economical advantage and the other factor is the environmental advantage. 

The question of whether boxed water is better than bottled water can be explained through these two frames. And, in the end, a conclusion can be drawn.

The environmental perspective

It has been discussed that bottled water is made from a type of plastic called PET. While PET is regarded as safe for the human body, the same can not be said about the environment. 

PET is made from products derived from fossil fuels. That is why, there are certain issues that come along. 

One is that PET bottles are non-biodegradable. It is estimated that PET may degrade in about 450 years. This is a lot and we have already seen that the longer a product remains, the more problems it will implicate. 

Further, since PET is made from products of fossil fuels. When PET is made, this means that fossil fuels are burnt. Not only are fossil fuels a limited, non-renewable resource, but the burning of fossil fuels also releases harmful gases and fumes into the environment. 

These include NOx, SOx, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide et cetera. These gases cause environmental issues such as global warming and other associated anomalies. 

However, boxed water, on the other hand, is mostly made from paper. While paper also implies that trees are cut, the environmental impacts of paper are not great as compared to plastics. 

This is mainly because the paper is a biodegradable material and may degrade in 2-6 weeks by the action of microbes.

Also, there is a possibility that the paper is made from sustainable sources and manages forests. This means that tree cutting will not have any long-term impacts on the environment and life. 

Therefore, in terms of the environmental perspective, it is a clear win for boxed water as compared to bottled water. The verdict may change if bottled water is started to be made from bioplastic or DNA plastic. 

The utilitarian perspective 

As regards the utilitarian perspective, bottled water takes the win. This is mainly because bottled water is comparatively cheaper and easier to produce. 

One of the main reasons why producers rely on the derivatives from fossil fuels is that the use of petroleum-based products leads to a better economy while also facilitating the production process. 

Boxed water, on the other hand, is comparatively more challenging to produce. This is mainly because boxed water is made from natural materials (which are mostly paper). 

Owing to these factors, boxed water is also more expensive than bottled water. One more reason why boxed water is dominated by bottled water is the fact that boxed water is less available compared to bottled water. 

While bottled water is easily available everywhere, boxed water will only be found in particular places and megastores. 

The health perspective

As regards the health perceptive, boxed water is better off than bottled water. This is mainly because boxed water is made from natural and organic material (paper). Whereas, in the case of bottled water, there is a usage of synthetic material. 

Furthermore, the producers of boxed water ensure that there is no chromium, arsenic, chlorine, or fluoride. Boxed water also does not contain MBTE which expands to methyl tertiary butyl ether. 

As for the case of bottled water, there was research that assessed the health quality of bottled water. The results were quite intimidating. 

As per the research, microplastics were found in more than 93% of bottled water. Microplastics are produced when plastic is degraded by external conditions such as heat or sunlight. 

It is the very reason why people are advised to not put bottled water in hot areas such as parked cars (without shade). Because the heat from the sun may result in the contamination of bottled water with microplastics. 

Another factor that is of concern is that some bottles used in bottled water may not be good for human health. This is mainly because certain consumers use cheap quality plastic to gain an economic edge.

Such bottles may contain BPA (Bisphenol-A). BPA is a hormone disruptor that is known to cause many health complications such as neurological issues, developmental issues, cancer, mutation et cetera. 

Can boxed water be composted? (5 prerequisites of composting boxed water)

One very important question that needs to be addressed is what should be done to the boxes once water is drunk from them. 

In that regard, it is often asked if paper boxes can be composted. Owing to the fact that boxed water is made from plant-based materials, it is possible to compost the boxes after they are used. 

Composting can be defined as the process of making compost from biodegradable waste. The result of composting is compost which may be defined as dead organic matter. Compost may be used as a natural fertiliser that may be a source to improve and augment the organic content of the soil. 

However, the process of composting is not that simple. There are certain conditions that have to be met before any material can be composted. As a matter of fact, these very conditions create a difference between biodegradability and composting. Otherwise, both processes are quite similar in nature. 

The necessary prerequisites of composting include: 

  • The product must be biodegradable
  • The product must be non-toxic
  • The product must be rich in organic content
  • The product must not emit harmful fumes
  • The product must not damage the natural order (flora and fauna)

When boxed water is composted, there may be the following advantages:

  • Increase in organic content of the soil
  • Improvement in soil fertility 
  • Increase in the water retention ability of the soil 
  • Promotion of plant and crops growth 
  • Conservation of water
  • Economical benefits 
  • Flourishing biodiversity

Conclusion

It is concluded that boxed water is biodegradable because it is made from mostly paper. Paper is a natural material that is derived from trees and plants. 

Boxed water is often compared to bottled water. There are pros and cons to each. Boxed water is better off in terms of environmental and health aspects but bottled water is better than boxed water in terms of the utilitarian aspect. 

Also, it is possible to compost the boxed after boxed water is utilised. Composting may lead to advantages such as better resource management, better waste management, and improved soil fertility and growth. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is boxed water biodegradable?

When was boxed water introduced?

Boxed water was invented in 2009. It was 13 years ago. 

 References

  • Laettner, S. (2019). Good riddance, Boxed Water. UWIRE Text, 1-1.
  • Raj, S. D. (2005). Bottled water: how safe is it? Water Environment Research, 77(7), 3013-3018.
  • Wilk, R. (2006). Bottled water: the pure commodity in the age of branding. journal of Consumer Culture, 6(3), 303-325.
  • Andrady, A. L. (2017). The plastic in microplastics: A review. Marine pollution bulletin, 119(1), 12-22.
  • Amidro, Toby. Boxed vs. Bottled water. Retrieved from: https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/healthy-tips/2016/02/boxed-versus-bottled-water

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