Recently we saw a new product CanO Water (https://www.canowater.com/) which provides, in their words:
“a fully recyclable alternative to single use plastic bottles”.
Their USP, is that the can, containing just water, is fully recyclable and does not contribute to the growing problem of plastic pollution. The can is made from Aluminium so has value in the recycling market.
While this is a laudable aim and single use plastic water bottles are indeed a major source of pollution, we think the eco-friendly claims are weak. To really help the environment, it’s better for people to stop buying canned or bottled water altogether and just stick to tap water.
After all, there is very little difference in quality between tap water and bottled water.
“If you repeatedly test over 100 brands of bottled water, about a third will have a problem, but if you tested tap water that often, you will find something similar,”
Erik Olson, director of advocacy for the nonprofit National Resources Defense Council, which in 2003 issued a comprehensive report on the safety of bottled water (https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/is-bottled-water-better#1).
A research paper, ‘Health Risks and Benefits of Bottled Water’ published in Elsevier’s Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice journal by two medical doctors concluded the following:
The economic and environmental impact of the many different bottled water products on the market is considerable, and the role and impact of bottled water for routine use is unclear, outside the setting of emergencies or natural disasters, when routine water sources may be unsafe. Evidence for routine health risks or benefits from using bottled water is limited.
If you need water on the go, there are numerous refillable water bottles available that don’t make any particularly strong claims for ethical or eco-friendly credentials but are better than single use plastic bottles or even the Aluminium can of water.
There might be perception that bottled water tastes better, but if you have just paid a £1 for an equivalent product that costs fractions of a pence, then the perception of quality / expensive wine might take over.
Bottled water is useful in emergencies (minor or major) where the local water supply is compromised or unavailable but that’s about it as far as we’re concerned.
Reusable plastic bottles used by sports people and others
I go running and play sport. I have a number of plastic bottles that I refill and reuse each time I need them. That means for example I use my running water bottle three or four times a week, cleaning it out and letting it dry out until I use it again. I think I’ve had that bottle for about 4 years now and the only sign of wear and tear is the logo of the manufacturer fading a little. I know, how do I hold my held up in the running community?
While very smart people can spend weeks doing Life Cycle Analysis comparing the impacts of different products, I think it’s pretty clear that the resuable option beats the single use plastic bottle and even the Aluminium can of water option.
Plastic when reused is a light, durable product that can be cleaned easily. Once it reaches the end of its life it should be recycled if possible or incinerated and the energy recovered.
The British Plastics Ferderation have this to say about the issue:
“Only as a last resort, when these options have been fully explored, should inert plastics waste material be sent for landfill.”
And they are committed to the Waste hierarchy:
Bottled water has been a remarkable success story, but also created huge problems of plastic pollution in oceans, water courses and landfill.
Our resuable plastic water bottle doubles up as a solar powered night light too – Lightcup solar powered water bottle and LED lamp