Got back from some vacation in the Mayan Riviera (near Cancun, Mexico). Had a lovely time. The structure in the background of the bottle is the amazing step pyramid at Chichen Itza.
In Mexico I encountered a familiar problem with bottled water that I face in India all the time – when you try to open a new bottle, you invariably spill some water. [Update: My experience in India is with Bisleri bottles primarily. A reader points out in the comments that there are other brands that don’t have this problem.]
There are two reasons for why this happens. One, the plastic wall of the bottle is thin. To unscrew the top, you need to grip the bottle hard, which squishes the bottle. When the top unscrews, the bottle is still a squished and the water gushes over. The second reason is that water in the bottle is filled right up to the top which gives no leeway at all when the bottle is squished.
In India and other emerging countries, keeping the costs is not so much about making a higher margin. It is about keeping the prices down so that you can capture a larger market. The food grade plastic used in the bottles is probably the largest variable cost for the bottler. It is no wonder he tries to minimize the amount of plastic per bottle.
That explains the thin plastic walls. And my guess is that it also explains why the water is filled all the way up to the top. The volume of water must be what it says on the bottle – 500 ml. or 1l. By filling the water all the way to the top the bottler can make the bottle just a wee bit smaller and save on the plastic.
The irony is that on account of these cost cutting measures, assuming that everyone spills a little water when opening the bottle for the first time, the consumer net, net, gets less water per rupee and the nuisance of cleaning up the spillage. On the other hand, it spares the earth – the plastics are petroleum products and aren’t biodegradable. Things are never black and white.