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Message in a (re-usable) bottle

By Lauriston Muirhead

If you could have your favourite drink in a byo glass for less than one cent or the identical drink in its own glass for $3.50, which would you choose? So why do we buy bottled water?

Australia has some of the best tap water for drinking in the world.  State Health departments work with all official water suppliers to ensure that tap water in almost all parts of Australia tastes good and is safe to drink.  It is constantly tested for safety, odour and taste.  The water is inexpensive – usually between one and three dollars per tonne.  A tonne is 1,000 litres – so that is less than 1/2 cent per litre!  It is transported in pipes quietly and efficiently and is available 24 hours a day 365 days a year at multiple outlets in your own home.

The same product is taken, usually from ground water, by private companies who sell it at around a 30,000% mark-up; that is over 300 times the price of tap water.  Testing, labelling, transport and bottling would be a few cents per litre.

Only about a third of plastic drink bottles in Australia are recycled.  The rest take between 400 and a thousand years to break down.  In the sea they slowly break into smaller pieces and become ingested by fish, seabirds and other marine animals.

On land they become inescapable pit-traps for small critters and one-way traps for larger animals such as snakes, lizards and small mammals.  The lids and lid-capture rings pose further risks on land or sea.  We all know the images of wildlife trapped in plastic or with stomachs so full of it they die of starvation.

Bottled water is generally transported by heavily polluting trucks instead of the efficient electric pumps and pipe networks for tap water.  Worse still, some is brought from overseas by ships burning low-grade, highly polluting bunker fuel oil.  Try not to be tempted by insidious marketing and those fancy labels often in romantic European languages.  Instead, find a good quality, easy to clean keep-cup or bottle.  Buy once – buy well.

Next time you are tempted to buy bottled water, just go for “L’eau du robinet” – tap water in French – and say “Je suis l’environnement!”