Last year there was a fairly high profile report on plastic waste, and it generated a lot of discussion. It showed that of the 78 million tonnes of plastic produced globally each year, only 2% gets recycled back into new plastics. 40% ends up in landfill, and just short of a third goes into the natural environment, polluting land and water. Perhaps in response, there’s currently a little flurry of projects and ideas around plastic. Water bottles are getting a lot of attention, and here are three ideas kicking around at the moment for how to deal with them:
Bring in a bottle deposit. Bottle deposit schemes used to be commonplace for glass bottles, and still are in some places. In Norway, they operate one for plastic bottles. 1 Krone is added to the cost of drinks in plastic bottles, so people bring them back. An impressive 96% of them are recycled, and some people would like to see a similar scheme in Britain. Prince Charles is lobbying for it, the Scottish government are studying Norway’s model, and Surfers Against Sewage are leading the popular campaign for it. You can get involved here.
Install more drinking fountains. Before everyone bought bottled water, we had a drink on the go from public drinking fountains. These were often paid for by local authorities, who might argue that they don’t have the money for such things today. And besides, lots of people might consider them a health risk. Perhaps a modern twist on the idea would be a coin-operated water bottle filling station: like these. There’s a project to make London the first city in the world with no bottled water, and they’ve installed drinking fountains at Selfridges, London Zoo and a variety of other high profile places.
Make them edible. Leftfield as ideas go, I’ve had an eye on this one for a little while in case it came to anything, and it looks like it might. Last week a company doubled its crowdfunding target to go into production with its ‘Ooho’ edible packaging for drinks. It’s a transparent seaweed based film (similar to the one you get with bubble tea if you’ve ever had the good fortune to have tried that) that allows you to ‘eat’ water in a blob. You still need to package the blobs in something, so they’ve also developed an outer skin that can be peeled like an orange. The biggest problem is that it’s a fresh product that won’t have the shelf life of bottled water, so it’s hard to see it displacing that many bottles. But I do look forward to encountering Ooho packaging sometime soon.
Of course, the obvious solution to plastic bottles is for everyone to just carry their own and fill it with tap water at home. But we can all do that already and don’t, so there’s still plenty of room for new ideas.