David M. Russell

Battle the bottle

In Commentary on July 12, 2009 at 3:23 am

Sounds like an ad for Alcoholics Anonymous, doesn’t it? But it’s not, although the level of addiction is pretty similar for many of the people caught-up in one of the world’s biggest fads: drinking bottled water.

Just so we’re on the same page, drinking water from a bottle is not the problem: buying it in bottles is. The size of the global market for bottled water is huge. Take Australia, for instance. With only 22 million people, we still buy around 600 million litres of bottled water a year. Yep, on average, every man, woman and child in this nation consumes 30 bottles of the clear stuff a year.

Now, this has a few consequences. Given many of the bottled water containers are smaller than 1 litre, we have something like 500-700 million plastic bottle EACH YEAR being manufactured. And that’s just in Australia, folks! You have to wonder why they are making such a fuss about the use of plastic bags in supermarkets. The carbon footprint for the manufacture of half a billion plastic bottles each year is staggering. Even if every single container was recycled, the energy used in that recycling process is scary. The litter resulting from the vast numbers of bottle not properly disposed of should make us all hang our heads in shame.

Don’t forget the strain on our wastewater facilities, either! How many swimming pools could be filled with urine if all that water went into ‘the system’. And dare to think about how much gets pumped straight back into Mother Earth by those who relieve themselves outside of the system. It’s a wonder we’re not all walking around in quicksand!

The madness of this fad is reinforced by the powers behind the bottle water market. In Australia, the people who bring us Coca-Cola have nearly 30 per cent of the market. Big market, too: half a billion dollars a year.

Bolstered by their battalions of spin doctors, the overlords of the soft drink industry tell us they are great human beings because they provide work for quite a lot of people. Whoopty-do! Sorry, folks, still think you suck.

It’s wonderful that people are today so willing to drink so much water. Yet, perhaps we need to think not so much of our own personal welfare and consider the planet where we all live. This is a situation that is now out of control and it needs to be reined-in before the environmental costs are beyond redemption.

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