Here in the UK, it’s no secret that we love our bottled water. In fact, in 2016 alone, we drank 2.9 million litres of the stuff, up 14% from the previous year. This trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down, Zenith are predicting that by 2021, the total market for UK water drinks will exceed 5.5 billion litres. However, this trend has a worrying downside. In 2016, fewer than half of the plastic bottles sold were collected for recycling, and of the bottles collected, only 7% were turned into new bottles, with most ending up in landfill or in the ocean.
The bottled water industry is increasingly looking to combat this environmental issue. Indeed, the Global Bottled Water Congress is looking to focus on opportunities for collective sustainability action. Coca Cola have already begun to develop a ‘plant bottle’, which is made up of 30% plant material – but the bottled water industry must catch up with this innovation.
This is why Danone and Nestle Waters have teamed up with Origin Materials, a chemical company that works to produce renewable materials, to create the Natur’ALL Bottle Alliance. Together, they aim to commercialise 100% biobased and recyclable PET bottles, with the first bottles expected to hit the shelves in 2020. These will use biomass materials such as card and pulp.
As well as this being a positive step for the environment, this will also appease some public health commentators, who, for some time, have been expressing fears that the use and reuse of plastic bottles may be harmful. This is due to plastic developing hairline cracks when washed or reused, enabling some of the chemicals used in the creation of plastic to leak into the drinking water and be consumed.
However, some environmentalists say that this does not go far enough. We are lucky enough to have high standard, accessible tap water here in the UK, which costs between 300-2000 times less than bottled water. When we bottle water, we take it from it’s natural source, and transport it across the country. This leaves a huge carbon footprint.