Around the world today more than one billion people have limited or no access to safe drinking water. In Australia, we have this luxury on tap. Yet for reasons unknown each year we head to the counter in our droves where we willingly pay up to 10,000 times more for the same or similar water that runs almost free from our taps.
1. Is bottled water safer and cleaner.
These days you can't cross the street without seeing a bottle clad hipster, lycra-clad gym junkie; and yummy mummies with a 600ml plastic designer bottle in their hand. Is it all based on the common misconception that bottled water is safer or cleaner than tap water? Is it an image thing for brainwashed people and a 'must have'?
Producing, shipping, refrigerating and storing a litre of bottled water will emit hundreds of times more greenhouse gases than a litre from the humble tap, so does that equate to bottled water being safer and cleaner? Go figure.
2. Is bottled water of a higher standard.
Many of us drink bottled water on the assumption of greater purity and this just may be misguided because just who is this person or party who determines 'purity'? Does 'purity' mean that much of the so-called 'impurities' are taken out of the water? Much of the natural stuff taken out? You hear what the marketers want you to hear. That simple. As Australians we spend more than half a billion dollars a year on bottled water.
Top-end advertising companies make the bottle look and feel like it was created in the Garden of Eden when in fact tap water can be said to be more stringently monitored and tightly regulated than its bottled cousin. To be brutally honest and putting purity and water clarity aside, the single use plastic throw-away containers are obviously the major issue.
Also many of the bottled water containers are made of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) which some believe can leach into the water. You will need to follow that through yourself to get more on that.
3. What is the labeling trying to say to me.
Ever wondered why the manufacturers use cute language and at times comical short stories on the packaging? Could it be to divert your eyes away from the fact that most bottled water is merely the same or similar to the tap water that is pumped almost free to your home, just processed and repackaged.
Surely the water you just purchased for three to four to five dollars a bottle wasn't pumped straight into the bottling plant from the mains water? Perhaps it was, perhaps not. Check out its source before you buy and if you are not sure then desist. And we believe that manufacturers can call their product “spring water” even if it has been chemically treated. Makes you think just what is this 'pristine source'.
4. Does drinking bottled water harm the environment.
Australia’s annual use of bottled water generates more than 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Approximately 15,000 tonnes of PET3 was used in the packaging of bottled water last year. Transporting water from its natural source to the supermarket and petrol station shelves is not only expensive but also a huge waste of energy.
Additionally, hundreds of thousands of tons of non-recycled plastic water bottles sit in landfills worldwide. It is believed that less than five percent of plastic produced every year is actually recycled. Plastics are now the fastest growing sector of the waste stream and presently take up more than 25 percent of the volume of material sent to landfills every year.
The manufacture of every tonne of PET produces around 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). In Australia, bottling water has thus created more than 45 thousand tonnes of CO2, excluding the significant amounts of CO2 produced in the transportation and refrigeration.
5. So what is the wrap up.
There are always going to be variations in tap water quality in different municipalities, just as there are differences in water quality amongst different brands of bottled water. So one can't be precise re the the health and safety benefits of one over the other. However we need to think seriously about the energy used to fill the bottles, move them by truck, train, ship, or air, refrigerate them and recover, recycle or discard the empty bottles
Australia recycles only 36% of PET plastic drink bottles and these are the issues that need to be considered at the checkout!
There's an easy simple alternative to bottled water: buy a stainless steel thermos, and use it. You'll also be saving yourself a small fortune!