4 x 4s, plastic bags, bottled water. Tonnes of oil, loads of waste, bottled water evil, drink from the tap.
This sounds great. Save money, salvage conscience. But there is a real danger that common sense could be turned upside down.
Water is as healthy as can be. It has almost no downsides, unlike any other product.
Stop bottled water in its tracks and people will become
- less well hydrated and less healthy, because 50% of bottled water is drunk on the move and they will drink less liquid
- fatter when obesity is already a major social concern, because most of bottled water’s recent growth has been as a replacement of calorie containing drinks.
Ah, but switching from bottle to tap will save the environment. Well, no actually. Bottled water uses less water and packaging than any other ready to drink beverage. Only a tiny proportion comes from outside Europe.
Two action points would be good though.
- Government should encourage local authorities to recycle more plastic. Levels could be doubled if all areas followed best practice.
- Public water supply companies could do more to reduce leakage. At present leakage is over 1,000 times the level of bottled water consumption.
What about the 1 billion plus people around the world without proper access to water ? Well, bottled water companies are doing proportionately more than any other grocery sector.
But isn’t all water the same ? Shouldn’t we just go back to the tap ? I’m a fan of tap water. I drink it a lot. But in the office we have water coolers for chilled water and jug filters for hot drinks. Sometimes I prefer a water from a protected known source where the water has had no chemical treatment. In other instances, it’s a matter of convenience or taste. Should I be made to feel guilty for these entirely reasonable and informed healthy choices ? I believe bottled water is much more on the side of the angels than a sinner.
So how should one respond to a Minister who says bottled water is morally unacceptable ? First, he should retract it because he is wrong. Second, he should concentrate more on real answers to public health, climate change and world poverty. Bottled water’s carbon footprint is just 0.1% of the UK total. What about the other 99.9% ? If that’s not tackled, then bottled water will be needed for more flood relief emergencies, not less.