Saturday, February 11, 2006

Kill bottled water

Message in a bottle: The Age

If ever you need an indicium of the ascendancy of consumerism, just pause to think about the ridiculous ubiquity of the plastic bottle of mineral water. Not Perrier: that I get, but still "mineral water" the principal aim of which seems to be ultimate tastelessness and complete absence of minerals.

Now living in Melbourne as I do, with some of the best drinking water in the world, the concept of paying more for water than for petrol makes the modern world look a tiny bit like Joseph K. perceived it in Kafka's The Trial (though the weirdness of that trial is more easily explicable than all the folks prepared to pay $2.50 for a bottle of water these days, since scholarship has demonstrated that the fellow who put the chapters of the novel together which Kafka's death left unfinished had to make up their order, since they were all stored separately and no instructions were left as to their order).

This article confirms my fears, though I was supposed to learn that the bottles which get thrown away take only 1,000 years to decompose.

I just drink beer in the third world. But why not have reuseable glass bottles? If we can have an economy where beer comes in glass, why not water? Gee I like those bottles, all crazed on their outside from years of joggling against the sides of crates transported over bad roads. I can't quite remember where I travelled amongst them, but it was probably India. I used to carry around a Sigg water bottle and use iodine pills. The taste wasn't too good, but it was potable.

Update: More in February 2006 article in The Age:
A recent report by the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute said global consumption of bottled water rose 57 per cent from 1999 to 2004 to 154 billion litres. Much of the growth came from countries such as Australia, where most tap water is just as high a quality as anything that can be bought.

Packaging worldwide required 2.7 million tonnes of plastic each year, the report's author, Emily Arnold, said.

The manufacture of bottles used up 1.5 million barrels of crude oil in the US because the plastic is made from the fossil fuel, Ms Arnold said.

"In contrast to tap water, which is distributed through an energy-efficient infrastructure, transporting bottled water long distances involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels," she said.

In Australia, the energy cost of buying water instead of drawing it from a tap was comparable to driving a car, said Mr Grant, who is the assistant director of design at RMIT University.

While driving a car for one kilometre used four megajoules of energy, drinking a 600-millilitre bottle of water used 1.5 megajoules, when the transport costs were included.

By contrast, drinking water out of a tap used only 0.2 megajoules, Mr Grant said. And when they are no longer wanted, water bottles were taking up space in landfill sites."
Thanks to a Connecticutian masquerading as Complexify for the photo.


Anonymous RAK said...

I quite agtree with your concerns about throw-away plastic bottles but can't understand some of your points:

"Now living in Melbourne as I do, with some of the best drinking water in the world, the concept of paying more for petrol than for water makes the modern world look a tiny bit like Joseph K. perceived it in Kafka's The Trial"
I was in Melbourne a week or so back and petrol seemed to cost much more than water, unless you mean Perrier and the like. Did I buy the wrong petrol? Or did you mean the other way round? Small bottles of water probably cost more per litre than petrol in Indonesia. But like many people I use the large refillable water bottles (as used in office water machines) at home in Indonesia. Rp8500 (under US$1) per 19 liter refill, far cheaper than petrol. I also refill the little plastic bottles from this, as do many other people.

"This article confirms my fears, though I was supposed to learn that the bottles which get thrown away take only 1,000 to decompose"
Sorry, don't understand what you were supposed (surprised?) to learn. 1,000 days, weeks, bottles, what?

"I just drink beer in the third world." Well, that could explain the previous paragraph :)
Do you seriously drink beer first think in the morning? Yuk. I probably drink too much beer, but also I drink plenty of water, juices, tea, coffee. Probably 4 litres or more per day total. That much beer would be far too much for me every day. Suggest you avoid really hot countries, and of course anywhere with little of no beer.

5:06 pm  
Blogger trappedinasuit said...

Rak, thanks for pointing out these errors. I have made the appropriate amendments. You will be glad to know there was an element of exaggeration in the proposition that I just drink beer, and that I do not brush my teeth with the stuff.

10:34 pm  
Anonymous RAK said...

I was worried about the tooth brushing issue. I find that lager and mint really do not go together.
Reusable glass bottles of Aqua are sold in Indonesia but only though the hotel/restaurant trade, not retail. A shame especially as I think the water tastes better too.

I have been wondering lately if bottle refill stations in shops would be a workable answer - take your own bottle - plastic, metall, cut glass, whatever - and get a 0.5, 1.0. etc litre refill of good iced water for much less than the price of a new bottle and less eco damage too. Surely enough of us would prefer to buy that way?

There is biodegradable plastic which breaks down under UV (e.g. sunlight), though I don't know what happens if it is under 50 tons of other crap in a tip. Also I don't know if it is widely used for water bottles. At least in poorer countries such as Indonesia there are many poor people who scavenge waste plastic such as these bottles and sell it for recycling, but abject poverty does not seem the ideal solution to pollution issues.

8:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

people are drinking water instead of carbonated drinks, big deal. people pay $3 for the luxury of drinking something cold that isn't full of sugar and falvouring

9:18 pm  

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