Bottled Water – We tackle the FAQ: Contaminants and Fluoride

Following our post about some of the misconceptions surrounding bottled water, we noticed the same question kept popping up in the comments. Here at Clean Up, we’re all about practical solutions to everyday environmental issues so wanted to take the time to address your questions and concerns! Below is a quick breakdown of one of our  most frequently asked questions: Contaminants and Fluoride.


Is tap water safe – what about fluoride?

If you aren’t worried about fluoride but feel uncomfortable drinking straight tap water because of taste or concerns about contaminants, a great solution is to just grab an activated charcoal filter. We’ll cover both fluoride filters and regular water filters below.

Fluoride – This is a question that comes up a lot so rather than debating whether fluoride is good or bad, we respect everyone’s right to make their own health decisions. If you’re interested in finding out more, this is a great overview about fluoride in our water supply from the NSW government:

Quick note – Australian water standards are in many cases more heavily regulated than bottled water manufacturing. The SMH article below is a great breakdown for the way in which what’s marketed simply as bottled water actually covers a large spectrum of different sources and filtering processes. A lot of bottled water is almost identical to tap water in terms of containing fluoride, etc – really, a lot of the time you’re paying for the bottle.

Here’s what we recommend: If you have any concerns and usually buy bottled water, there’s good news – you can still enjoy tap!

Solution: Tap or Bottle Filter 

Activated Charcoal Filter

Water filters are an easy, cheap and effective way to bring peace of mind when consuming tap water. Although we can assure you that Australian tap water is world standard safe drinking water, we understand some people might feel more comfortable with a filter.

You can grab a tap based filter from places like Bunnings or online from Companies like Brita. Here’s how charcoal filters work:

We found some charcoal and alternative tap filters available here:

Water bottles with filters are available from most major Australian retailers like Woolworths or Coles, or available online!

If you’re worried about either inorganic or organic compounds that occur in tap water – a charcoal filter will remove most of the ones that seem to cause immediate concern.


” The three types of filters that can remove fluoride are reverse osmosis, deionizers (which use ion-exchange resins), and activated alumina. Each of these filters should be able to remove about 90% of the fluoride. By contrast, “activated carbon” filters (e.g., Brita & Pur) do not remove fluoride.” – Fluoride Action Network

If you want to remove fluoride, you can obtain one of these three types of filters. Remember – just because water is bottled doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain fluoride. Here’s an article from the Australian Food Standards:

Unless your water is produced through reverse osmosis or labelled, there’s still a good chance it contains fluoride. If you are worried about it, your best bet for the environment and to alleviate your concerns is to get a specific filter and steer clear of bottled water. We feel compelled to say, many years of empirical review attests to the safety of fluoride in drinking water – but this is about solutions and as we said, we respect your right to make your own choices.

One of Clean Up’s Business Supporters is Healthy Water Technologies Australia and they offer a range of water filtration products

You can also grab bottle filters that remove fluoride as you drink – we found some for sale here:

Many of these products are on the $$$ side but considering drinking 2L of bottled water everyday costs on average about $3000 a year, you’ll save money in the long run with an investment in a filter.

Disclaimer: Product mention is not an endorsement – we feel obligated to let you know we haven’t conducted empirical testing on the products and are merely offering options as per the manufacturer’s claims.

Summary: We want to offer practical solutions to your environmental problems, not make decisions about your health.  Really, Australian drinking water is very rigorously tested by regulatory authorities and is often sampled/analysed more frequently than bottled water. If you want to avoid potential contaminants for your own peace of mind while still making great decisions for the environment; a filter is the best solution.You don’t have to choose between the environment and these concerns: we’re here to tell you, you can do both!

You can always get up to date information about your local water by Googling your city and “water quality report” An example of the Sydney website is here:

Have you got a question that you would like Clean Up to address that would make it easier for you to make environmentally friendly decisions? We want to know! Feel free to leave a question in the comments and we’ll try to find the best, easiest and most practical solution!






The Great Northern Clean Up


Live up North? The Great Northern Clean Up was started as a way of creating a Clean Up event that would allow people in warmer states to avoid the heat of summer and still get involved in their community. It runs every year between approximately August-September but you can schedule a Clean Up whenever suits you! Registrations are now open for 2016 at the Clean Up Australia Day Website.

Since the campaign started in 2009 a total of 26,398 volunteers have removed around 1,583.7 tonnes of rubbish from 717 sites north of the Tropic of Capricorn. In 2015, 2,530 volunteers removed an estimated 196 tonnes of rubbish from 81 registered sites across northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory and far northern Queensland. Now it’s your turn!

The Great Northern Clean Up (GNCU) is a valuable way to get involved in the community and make a real difference for the Australian environment. Year after year, we hear fantastic success stories about great Australian’s who have been able to make a difference in their local area thanks to their clean up efforts. Common sites include local parks, beaches, riverways, playgrounds, outdoor shopping malls and just about anywhere where you can find litter in your community! Best of all, it’s free to get involved and fun for all ages!

We also run the Great Northern Clean Up for schools and businesses which makes for a great team building activity and is lots of fun for kids. It’s a fantastic way to teach future generations about the importance of sustainable living and taking care of our environment.

Do you have a Clean Up Australia success story? Let us know in the comments and always feel free to get in touch by email at! To keep up with all the exciting events at Clean Up Australia, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter too! We’ve even launched a Pinterest where you can grab our best tips and tricks for eco friendly living and find out how to make a difference everyday!


The Clean Up Australia Team


Message in a discarded bottle

Written by Ian Kiernan for Open Forum, 04/07/12

As politicians debate the formation of a national container deposit scheme, container manufacturers are as determined to stop it as environmental groups are to support it. Ian Kiernan says it is time we had in place new behaviours that benefit the environment.

State and Federal ministers are to meet mid August to consider the establishment of a national container refund system.

CDS has been in place in South Australia for more than thirty five years. In states and territories without CDS recovery rates for containers are around 35%. In South Australia rates are at least 80%.

The Northern Territory government showed true leadership introducing their scheme in January this year. To date Territorians have returned nearly eight million containers and the scheme continues to expand into remote areas.

Refund programs see a huge reduction in rubbish discarded in landfill or the environment, increased recycling, the effective management of finite resources, and a substantial reduction in electricity consumption. An example of this is that the embodied energy to produce one aluminium can from ore will make seven cans from recycled material.

I firmly believe that in this changing world we have to replace yesterday’s methods and systems with new behaviours that benefit the environment. We also need to support developing and emerging technologies that will benefit the environment and financially reward the corporations that provide them.

There is strong community support for container refunds. Nationally, 88% of survey respondents agree that a ten cent deposit and refund scheme would encourage more people to recycle bottles and cans.

There is a need to encourage producer responsibility. CDS would help establish this while engaging public participation.

The beverage industry has jumped onto the ‘tax’ bandwagon’ by releasing a scare campaign designed to position container deposits as a demon tax.

There’s no doubt about it – this industry knows how to spin a yarn.  They are proud to make millions of dollars from consumers who are enticed to buy over-packaged products we generally don’t need, most often in single use containers, the transportation of which is at our cost. The height of their hypocrisy is to then leave us with the dilemma of how to dispose of the packaging when it’s empty.

To add insult to injury, the industry is investing millions into a so called ‘public education campaign’ to further hoodwink we consumers into thinking a 10c deposit on a beverage is going to cost us 20c. This claim is based on figures AFGC members are charging under the NT program. A program they have publicly attempted to derail since it was announced. And one from which they are profiting.

Beverage containers as a percentage of rubbish removed by volunteers on Clean Up Australia Day continue to rise. In 2011 they represented 49%, an increase of 16% over 2010.

I’m concerned that the industry continues to push public place recycling as a solution to the growing beverage container rubbish problem across Australia. Claims that current public place recycling schemes are working just don’t add up.

Contamination rates in unsupervised public place recycling are reported to be as high as 10-20%. When 5% contamination means rubbish goes to landfill – how does the industry propose to supervise national public place recycling? How do they think this is going to deplete the amount of containers that end up in landfill or remove the ever increasing level of bottles, cans and lids that volunteers are removing from our parks, bushland, beaches, waterways and streets? Recent reports about rubbish washed into Sydney Harbour demonstrate how well current public place recycling is working. Events such as this are happening all over the country.

Claims by the industry that a container deposit scheme will cost jobs are unsupportable. Independent research undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers clearly shows that container deposit schemes create jobs – what’s more they’re local jobs that contribute to the green economy. Claims by the beverage industry that labour costs increase under a deposit scheme need to be independently substantiated.

We’ve seen industry sponsored misinformation campaigns before – in Western Australia and more recently in the NT. The industry seems to think the community is stupid. I urge all of my fellow Australians to join with me to show them we’re on to their tactics.

If you’d like your voice to be heard, go to our website and follow the prompts.

Progressing the debate

I am deeply disturbed by the low standard of intelligent political debate about pricing pollution. To see politicians arguing over petty definitions of inclusions and exclusions while using scare mongering to halt rational discussion is just plain embarrassing – for them and for us as a nation.

Why are we still arguing about whether we humans are escalating climate change?
Given the evidence, how can you argue that centuries of smoke stacks fed by our depleting reserves of fossil fuel aren’t harming our environment?

Or that polluted rivers and streams clogged by chemical laden sludge aren’t killing us?

There is only one solution and that is stop being so defensive and get on with the job of slowing this change by ditching yesterday’s thinking, methods and systems.
Because intelligent communities are way ahead of us.

To suggest that Australia should be exempt from global action because we only emit 2% of the world’s emissions is naive. Two percent is the same as Italy, yet we have only half of their population. And that’s before you consider the coal we mine, sell and ship to distant ports across China, India, Asia and beyond. Or all of the single use products we make, the bi-products of which are accumulating faster than we can effectively dispose of them. Or the impact of the chemicals we now need to produce our food – simply because we have depleted soil fertility through poor agricultural practices.

It’s a shame that the power of industries embroiled in such short-term thinking have so much influence over the will to manage and limit our contribution to a global solution.

On the face of it energy production from the vast reserves of coal looks like a cheap source, but what is its real cost?

The coal industry is a massive contributor to CO2 emissions yet it seems to be immune to any efforts to hold it to account.

This industry appears to have disproportionate influence over political decision making when weighted against their impact on the environment and local communities.

Why are we happily selling the environmental future of next generations? Why do we accept it is OK for the coal industry to destroy our hydraulic systems, our farm and grazing lands for a 20 – 50 year window of jobs and profits? It seems to me that what is lacking in the current debate is incentive to change.

All other aspects of production are priced. And yet we don’t seem to be able to translate a pricing practice into one of the key by-products: pollution.

Surely putting a price on pollution is no different to pricing any other element of the production process?

The real challenge, yet to be even discussed, is about what happens to revenue raised. It is vital the funds that flow from pollution pricing do not go to treasury but are invested in development of non-polluting technologies that can compete and eventually replace high-polluting energy sources such as coal.

It is equally important that innovation is accessible for the whole community – not just the fortunate elite able to afford them. This may mean initially subsiding access so we can all convert to less polluting energy.

For too long our environment has been underestimated as the key asset for sustaining human life. In what is effectively a monetary debate driven by short-term greed we forget that this asset has a value. And that value is incalculable until we find another planet that can sustain human life.

Which is why the tone of the current debate is so disturbing. Of all life on this planet, only we humans have the arrogance to think we can fight nature.

My prediction is despite the inane bickering, the bullying, the greed and the destruction, Mother Nature, the greatest scientist of all, will win.

This means that unless we get over this impasse and get on with the business of pricing what is now a free by-product of the production process – we lose.

Ian Kiernan AO

World Oceans Day

June 8 marks World Oceans Day – a day that’s of special significance to me as both a sailor and an environmentalist.

When I sailed solo around the world in 1986/87, I looked forward to visiting the fabled Sargasso Sea at the heart of the Bermuda Triangle. Instead of a ‘golden rain forest of the sea’, literally covered by seaweed, I found a fading legend carpeted by rubbish.

The horrific amount of garbage in the world’s oceans spurred me to form Clean Up Australia. From its very beginning, Aussies have demonstrated their overwhelming concern about the health of our waterways and rugged landscapes by taking action to conserve our natural environment.

But how much progress has really been made for our oceans?

Less than five per cent of the 16.5 million square kilometres of seas that ‘girt’ our shores are protected, despite many of our marine species being found nowhere else.

Pollution, over fishing and entanglement in nets are just some of the many threats to our extraordinary oceans and marine life. Since Clean Up Australia began in 1989, the number of Australian fisheries that are overfished has increased from five to 15. Australian fisheries are among the most highly regulated in the world and yet the decline in our fish stocks continues.

Action to protect both our marine environment and boost fish stocks has all too often been stifled by election-cycle hysterics. Claims that marine protection costs jobs are not supported by social, economic or scientific evidence.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international treaties, Australia has a responsibility to manage our waters, not just for economic gain, but for conservation as well.

We need to take notice about what is now happening in the Sargasso Sea. The Bermuda Government is showing leadership and has formed an alliance with science and conservation groups to ensure the sea without shores has a future.

Protection of our oceans is the new frontier for conservation.

Our own south west marine region contains a greater level of unique marine life than the Great Barrier Reef – but less than 1% of these waters are protected. This massive area, between Kangaroo Island and Geraldton, hosts some of Australia’s biggest and most mysterious seafloor creatures and oceanographic life-giving currents. It is no surprise that it is a special place for marine life, including the world’s great whales.

Community consultation has opened for protection of the south west marine region. The outcome will influence federal decision making about whether our treasured coastal lifestyle and the long-term protection of this unique marine environment is secured.

Research from Australia and around the world provides compelling evidence of both the benefits and the urgency for action.

There are numerous economic and social benefits protection and informed management offers Australia’s marine based industries of the future – medical breakthroughs from the pharmacopeia that our oceans hold, new eco-tourism ventures that underpin the economic security of our coastal communities, and a truly sustainable fishing industry.

It is not a case of there being a choice between protecting the marine environment and jobs or local industries. They are interlinked and a network of marine sanctuaries would ensure our oceans remain healthy and keep fish on our plates.

Ian Kiernan AO

Rushing is a risk at Barangaroo

Imagine this scenario. You’re planning to go out sailing with a group of friends, but the day before you leave you hear a warning that there might be a severe storm warning, the worst in 20 years. Would you risk it?

Obviously, you wouldn’t. This is because even though you’re not certain something might go wrong, it isn’t worth risking the lives of you and your crew. Scientists call this idea the ‘Precautionary Principal’ – that if there is lot at risk, you have to put safety first.

This idea is particularly important when it comes to protecting the waters like Sydney Harbour. Right now, the state government is trying to rush a $6 billion dollar development on Sydney harbour. In doing so, they are taking a risk with our Harbour.

It’s a risk because there is major contamination at the site. Up until 1915, Barangaroo was the site of Sydney’s major ‘gas works’ – where coal was turned into a flammable gas that was used for heating and lighting. Gas from the site was pumped all over Sydney, from Marrickville in the west to Randwick in the east.

Gas works also produce a whole cocktail of toxic by-products. The common practice of the times was to bury waste product on site. Some of these toxic by-products left buried in the Barangaroo include coal tar (which contains carcinogens), cyanide and petrol.

From there, the story gets worse. As the gas works expanded, land was reclaimed by ‘filling in’ the harbour. In those days, that meant building a stone wall and just filling in behind it with anything they needed to dispose of. I had the cartoon seen here drawn to show you what I mean.

When you’re dealing with a complex and contaminated site it’s easy for things to go wrong. We know that because we’ve seen the state government rush other projects, like back before the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

At the time, the government was facing the clean up of a site that had been contaminated by a range of toxic materials being dumped there over more than fifty years of chemical manufacturing at Homebush Bay. Compromises created by commercial greed have seen commercial fishing banned in Sydney Harbour after toxic dioxins continue to leak out of sediments around the site.

Once $6 billion dollars worth of development and construction is completed at Barangaroo, it will be too late to fix any mistakes. What is needed here is a responsible review of the proposal and well informed action. With the whole Harbour at risk, let’s make sure that prudence is not sacrificed for ignorance and greed.

Ian Kiernan AO

The Price of Living in Paradise

Australia has some of the most spectacular natural scenery on the planet.

Across the top end we have the awe inspiring gorges of the Kimberley, world heritage sites like the Great Barrier Reef,  and vibrant cosmopolitan gateway cities like Darwin.

Inevitably special places get special attention in the form of tourism – and in an increasingly prosperous and populous world the pressure on these unique areas will only increase.

Tourism can bring development, jobs, prosperity and healthy cultural diversity, but it’s not the only thing left behind as tourist seasons draw to a close.

Across Northern Australia the end of the tourist season leaves communities burdened by pockets of rubbish, a by-product of an industry that trades on the natural beauty it’s partially responsible for defiling.

So how do we combat this?  Where does responsibility lie in keeping our environment pristine for future visitors, locals and future generations?

Inevitably it has to be the collective responsibility of tourists, the businesses that profit from them, local government and local communities.

Behavioural change can come from many sources, but education, incentive and example is a powerful combination – something that’s been clearly demonstrated by the success of Clean Up Australia Day over the last twenty years.

When Clean Up started in 1989 the phrase ‘sustainable tourism barely existed but we now have more and more tourism operators waking up to their responsibilities – it’s a trend we wholeheartedly encourage.

However, we should be working towards the day when ‘sustainable tourism’ is a redundant expression – where it’s taken for granted that the tourism industry follows a sustainable code of practice.

What role can government play?  Following the Northern Territory and South Australia’s lead in putting a commercial value and incentive on recycling with a beverage container scheme would be a good start.

Banning plastic bags would be another positive move, not to mention investing in the latest and smartest recycling and waste management resources.

What role do local communities have to play?  With the establishment of the Great Northern Clean Up a chance is created for communities to seek out those pockets of rubbish and give the local environment a spring clean.

It’s basic psychology that people are far less likely to drop litter if the environment is already well maintained.  If Northern Australian communities take care of their environment – the chances are that tourists will also show it more respect.

I don’t pretend to know all the issues or the answers to sustainability challenges in the tourism industry; what I do know is things are starting to change and there’s a wealth of energy, will and talent out there to take things to the next level.

Do you think we’re doing enough to protect our environment from the impact of tourism?  If not, what do you think are the main sustainability challenges that face the tourism industry?  And how do you think we can go about solving them?

Ian Kiernan AO

Anyone can register a Clean Up site or volunteer for the Great Northern Clean Up by visiting or by calling 1800 CUA DAY (1800 282 329).  The cut off point for registration is August 29 2010.