Blog: Olly WehringThis argument's just not watertight

Olly Wehring | 13 July 2007

There is a certain irony I suppose to the news that a product so linked with purity, nature and healthy living is the latest scapegoat to be targeted by the environmental lobbyists.

But I suspect only the brand managers of CSD products are raising a smile at the news that the cities of New York and San Francisco are waging a campaign against bottled water.

San Francisco has banned the purchase of bottled water by city and county governments. Mayor Gavin Newsom’s order took effect this month and by December will include water coolers.

New York, meanwhile has launched an advertising campaign to highlight the environmental impact of bottled water as opposed to tap water, encouraging the city's population to switch to the later.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Londoners are being urged to boycott bottled water over fears that a major rise in consumption is damaging the environment. The Green Party launched a campaign asking Londoners to request tap water in restaurants and pubs.

The sentiments are all very noble in principle, I suppose, but they are also completely flawed.

According to figures from the Bottled Water Information Office, bottled water is most commonly packaged in either plastic (PET) or glass, which is totally safe and conforms to strict regulations on health and safety. By far the majority of bottled water (93%) comes in plastic bottles which is totally recyclable. Bottles also carry messages urging the purchaser to recycle after use. The rest (around 7%) comes in glass bottles, which can also be placed for recycling.

A campaign that demonises the bottled water industry could also have serious repercussions on diet habits right at a time when consumers should be being encouraged to switch to healthier options such as bottled water.

Choosing tap water when at home is one thing, but by slurring the reputation of bottled water in this way, authorities are just as likely to drive consumers back to other less healthy soft drinks as they are towards their nearest tap.


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