Our addiction to bottled water is costing us dearly – both economically and environmentally. Millions worldwide don’t have the luxury of quality tap water, but many of us do, so why do we continue to put ourselves out of pocket and our environment at risk?
Environmentally, the cost of bottled water is exorbitant. First, there are the manufacturing costs – Australia uses more than 300,000 barrels of oil a year to make PET bottles for bottled water and the manufacture of every tonne of PET produces around three tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Then there’s the fact that Australians alone purchase about 118,000 tonnes of plastic drink bottles a year but only recycle 35 per cent of them. The 76,700 tonnes left behind either goes to landfill or ends up in our environment as rubbish. Almost half of all the rubbish collected on last year’s Clean Up Australia Day was beverage related.
There are also the obvious costs of transporting the bottles all across the globe, not to mention the possible adverse affect on groundwater levels if more water is being taken out than is naturally replenished.
From a financial point of view the costs are also sky high. While we often blame the weekly petrol bill for tipping our budget into the red, bottled water is another less publicly vilified cost eating a substantial hole into our back pockets. Annually in Australia, our habit costs us more than half a billion dollars. When you take into account that we can get exactly the same product virtually free from our taps (approx $1.20 per tonne), it highlights just how exorbitant a fiscal cost it is. In most instances a litre of bottled water is more expensive than a litre of petrol.
So what are the solutions? From an individual perspective we can simply stop buying bottled water. Get your reusable bottle and fill it up before you leave home, it’s that simple. There are plenty of tap based filter systems on the market, the one we prefer at Clean Up is HiFlow – it’s simple to install, and not only does it remove bad taste and odour, the system is certified to remove or reduce contaminants and water borne bacteria.
At a higher level, the introduction of a container deposit scheme at a national level is critical. In South Australia where they already have ten-cent deposit scheme in place, the recycling rates are much higher (74 per cent) and volunteers find significantly less plastic beverage containers in the environment there on Clean Up Australia Day each year than they do in other states.
Our addiction to bottled water is putting our environment at risk and putting a solid dent in many families budget. If we’re serious about protecting our environment for generations to come, bottled water has to become a thing of the past.
Ian Kiernan AO
Clean Up Australia Chairman