With a fair bit of Britain underwater at the moment and quite a lot of people dependent on bottled water, it seems a little unfair to bring up the issue of plastic bottles. But it’s also a hot day today, for once in a wash-out of a summer, so I’m going to talk about it anyway.
Disposable plastic water bottles account for 500,000 tonnes of rubbish every year in the UK, and Americans throw away 2.5 million of them every hour. Plastic bottles are non-biodegradable, so each Evian or Volvic bottle we throw away will kick around forever. At least an aluminium can will break down in half a century. Nobody knows how long it takes for a plastic bottle to degrade, but estimates seem to vary between a thousand years and forever. It’s a simple action, a bottle of water bought at a corner shop, drunk and discarded on the way home. Multiply this simple action across millions of people and you have a huge problem.
There are a very obvious reasons why bottled water is a bad idea. Most importantly, tap water is safe to drink everywhere in the UK. The World Health Organisation says there are no health advantages to bottled water, and most people can’t tell the difference in a blind test. (Some brands come from the tap anyway, including Aquafina and Dasani.)
Plus, consider the carbon footprint of a bottle of spring water that’s been hauled from some distant alpine location. There’s really no need to be driving water around the continent. If you must buy bottled water, at least buy local.
If that’s not enough, my tap water costs me about o.o4p a litre (0.08 cents) meaning bottled water costs about 10,000 times more than tap water for no known benefits.
There are plenty of alternatives. Drink tap water, and carry your own. Re-use a sturdy bottle, or buy one that will last a good while. If you need a drink when you’re out and about, support companies using bio-bottles – bottles that look like plastic, but are made from corn or potatoes, and are entirely bio-degradable. I’d recommend Belu, as they’re also non-profit and put all their monies towards water projects in the third world. One do the same, building these rather nifty playpumps with the profits.
If you want to do something more about it, write to your local politicians and get them to give up on bottled water. The New York and San Francisco authorities already have. I really think we need more water fountains too. You used to get them in parks and stations in the UK, and they’ve been removed. Let’s have them back, and more of them, especially where they’re really needed, like on the Underground. If anyone knows of a campaign working in this area, let me know!