Boycott the Bottle


I came across a blog called TapThat that is documenting a campaign to eradicate the deadly water bottle from the University of New South Wales campus. It makes my soul do tiny little jigs inside when I discover groups like this that are trying to stop the problem of ubiquitous plastic at its source.

Some of you may remember, in 2009, when Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands of NSW became the first recognised town in the world to ban the sale (or giveaway) of bottled water, instead installing public water fountains.

Last year, the University of Canberra became the first uni in Australia to ban bottled water across its entire campus. (Check out the website http://www.gotap.com.au/for more examples of bottle-banning initiatives, both here and around the world).

And I’m proud to say that my own workplace, Charles Sturt Uni, is on the path too – they’re currently rolling out a Free Water at CSU campaign across five of the campuses, with a launch planned for O-Week 2013.

When will we see more towns/villages/campuses/cities following suit?

We already know about the huge health risks we face drinking out of plastic on a regular basis. And aside from the absolute obvious, that we are all gullibly forking out millions of dollars a year for something that comes out of the tap basically free, how wonderful would the world be without plastic water bottles?

We don’t need reminding how farcical the bottled water industry is, but here are a few illustrative ‘facts’ anyway (I gleaned these from gotap.com.ausafebottles.co.nz, back2tap.com, kleankanteen.com, and nationalgeographic.com):

  • America uses 17 million barrels of crude oil a year to make all the plastic water bottles sold (annually) in the country.
  • It takes three bottles of water to make and deliver one disposable bottle of retail water (how ridiculous is that?!).
  • One plastic water bottle produces 120 grams of greenhouse gases – considering more than 100 million are sucked on worldwide every day, that’s 1.2 million kgs of greenhouse gas produced every day! Australia alone generates 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases from our annual bottled water use.
  • Between 70 and 90 % of plastic water bottles are not recycled (and many of them end up floating in the ocean and killing marine life).
  • It takes more than 700 years for a plastic water bottle to ‘decompose’ (and it never will completely).
  • Tap water is (most of the time) safer than bottled water.
    • Water stored in plastic bottles for more than a couple of weeks contains pthalates and other hormone-disruptors that have leached out of the plastic;
    • In Australia, municipal water managers are required to test drinking water (tap water) every few hours, bottled water companies don’t even get a weekly inspection.
    • In America, there is no law or regulation that requires water-bottling companies to test for cryptosporidium, giardia or other parasites/viruses.

In a recent post I mused upon the dichotomy of ‘blame’ when it comes to plastic products – is it our fault for buying or the manufacturer’s fault for making? Regardless of the answer, let’s take some baby steps where we can and just stop buying something we don’t need.

While we’re boycotting plastic water bottles, and towns around the globe are galvanising against the devilish lobbying/blackmail of the bottled water industry, why not ask milkos to make the glass milk bottle mainstream too? I have yet to find glass-bottled milk available at a commercial scale, but plenty of organic, small-scale dairies around the country sell their milk locally in glass. It tastes better poured out of glass too!

Add soft drink to the list too. I hate the stuff, but if we have to sell it, why not install more of those post-mix machines you get in fast food restaurants and sell biodegradable cups instead?

Also add juice…laundry detergent…dishwashing liquid…cooking oil (it shouldn’t be stored in plastic anyway, for health reasons)…toilet cleaner. All of these things can be stocked in glass or metal containers or sold in powder form in cardboard.

Come to think of it, can anyone think of a single necessary product that needs to be sold in/with plastic packaging?

© Manu Saunders 2012

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