Guest post and infographic by Jennifer Lacey.
It wasn’t that long ago that drinking bottled water was largely unheard of in areas where there was already a good supply of tap water. Indeed, it was only around 40 years ago that bottled water was seen more as a fashionable accessory of affluence then an everyday beverage. Comparatively, bottled water is now the second most bought soft drink in the world, with Britain alone consuming over 2bn litres in 2010. This works out as around 33 litres per person – set to rise to around 40 litres in 2020, with overall sales increasing by 5.4% every year.
Such strong growth in bottled water comes mainly down to aggressive marketing techniques and PR campaigns which aim to raise the “authority” of bottled water companies within the drinking markets. The sheer convenience of the bottled water is also a factor to consider – why carry a bottled filled from home when you can pick up a relatively cheap, new bottle? Bottled water is also the “typical” healthy option out of other bottled beverages on offer, leaving little choice to consumers who haven’t got access to on tap water.
The Worldwatch Institute cited the irony in bottled water growth by pointing out that a similar amount of money received from worldwide bottled water sales ($100bn) would be required to ensure the entire world’s population has access to sanitary tap water.
So what can be done to lessen the use of bottled water?
You don’t have to look far to find Government backed schemes within the UK. Ex-London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, launched “London on Tap”, a campaign that asked for consumers to choose tap water in restaurants instead of bottled water to help to reduce its environmental effects. This campaign was picked up by the London Evening Standard and influenced the implementation of blind taste tests. These test results generally proved that many people couldn’t tell the difference between bottled and tap water. The overall results of campaigns like these meant that bottled water companies faced a continuous loss from 2006 to 2008, from 2,240m litres being drunk a year to only 2,100m litres within the UK.
The current economic climate means that many people are reducing their purchases of bottled water. However, once the economy begins to recover will we see growth again?
Previous government backed campaigns have shown that the aggressive marketing techniques of bottled water companies can be battled with an increase in awareness among the general public. A larger number of schemes need to be implemented to help increase this awareness and provide better results.
In the meantime bottled water drinkers can simply turn to their tap supply – even reusing the bottle they’ve bought before is beneficial to the environment. Those with money to spare can invest in water purifiers, devices that remove chlorine from tap water and clean it to mimic the “fresh” taste of bottled water.
And if you’re really craving a handy bottle of water, look out for “boxes” of water instead – eco-friendly cartons of water that taste the same and are immensely more eco-friendly. Using fully recyclable materials, they also are better shaped to allow for efficient transport.