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With the world consuming more than 1 million plastic water bottles per minute, Ellina Webb looks into the possibilities of phasing them out completely. 

Last week it was reported that Borough Market was going to be the first UK market to ban the use of plastic bottles in favour of free water fountains – encouraging the use of recycled, refillable bottles.

This step aims to tackle plastic pollution by phasing out the sale of bottled water over the next six months – helping Borough Market with its on-going commitment to being Britain’s greenest place to shop. It also becomes yet another draw for visitors who may appreciate free drinking water, especially in a city where the average small bottle of water from a market costs £0.95.         

This was also announced in the same week that President Trump came under attack by environmentalists due to his decision to allow plastic water bottle sales in national parks. Sales in parks such as the Grand Canyon, where 20% of waste and 30% of recyclable waste is plastic bottles, were previously banned in a bid to reduce pollution.

The ban was part of the policy by President Obama (although this was controversial as it still allowed the sale of bottled soft drinks) and made up part of an overall strategy called the Green Parks Plan to make national parks more sustainable. Of course, with or without a plastic water bottle ban, the national parks have still stated that visitors will be encouraged to use free bottle filling stations that were previously installed as part of the ban.


Why is bottled water bad?

Aside from the annoyance of having to pay for something that is essentially free to us from a tap (and is a basic human right), bottled water is bad for a number of reasons.

Why is bottled water bad?

  • It wastes water

    Did you know it takes three to five litres of water to produce every one litre plastic bottle?

  • It leads to a global water crisis

    For example in India the Coco-Cola plant has been accused of draining the community’s water resources

  • It contributes to climate change

    Bottled water requires massive amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture and transport, producing large amounts of greenhouse gases

  • The waste is too much for landfills

    The amount of plastic water bottles not being recycled is so high, it’s causing a waste management crisis in many countries

What else can be done to tackle the problem?

In 2015 San Francisco became the second American city to ban the sale of plastic water bottles (the first was Concord, Massachusetts). The ban meant that small plastic water bottles in public spaces would be phased out over a four year period. This made up part of the city’s strategy to be zero-waste which means by 2020 they want no waste going to landfills.

Back to London, due to out of control plastic water bottle usage and the worst recycling rates in the UK, Mayor Sidiq Khan is being urged to install more drinking taps in order to crack down on pollution and waste in the river Thames. Other ideas to crack down on plastic bottles include deposits on bottled water purchases which are refunded when the bottles are recycled – something countries like Germany have already implemented. 

Other countries that have implemented a deposit/refund on plastic water bottles include Sweden, Netherlands, Demark, Norway and Finland.

Aside from a ban on bottles to reduce pollution, Kenya hit the news last week regarding their ban on plastic bags. Essentially, anyone found selling, manufacturing or carrying plastic bags could face fines or even imprisonment. But with this already being seen as a controversial method to reducing plastic bags, could this also work for plastic bottles?

What can companies and organisations do to reduce their impact?

With Governments starting to make the move towards this ban, things can also be done on a micro level to help reduce plastic pollutions. Companies, schools, shops and communities can support banning the bottle too…

The University of Hong Kong has banned single-use bottled water on campus and sales of those under one litre have been stopped. They also provided staff and students with a toolkit to provide support and guidance on purchasing goods and being sustainable.

At Selfridges in London, a ban on single-use plastic water bottles began in 2015 as part of a campaign to reduce pollution of oceans – as part of a larger partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Customers of the world-famous department store are instead encouraged to use a traditional drinking fountain in its food-hall, where previously around 400,000 single-use plastic water bottles were sold a year (this figure includes other Selfridges food halls and restaurants).

Here at Mitsubishi Electric, although we haven’t banned the bottle yet, we are encouraging the use of refillable bottles by purchasing recyclable BPA-free bottles for all staff members. We also have free water refill stations throughout the building. 


What can you do to reduce your impact?

It’s pretty simple what you can do to reduce your impact on plastic pollution, don’t buy plastic water bottles. Reusable bottles are sold in most supermarkets and even department stores and fashion retail stores are selling trendy versions at affordable prices. If you do have to purchase a plastic water bottle however – just ensure you put it in a recycle bin afterwards, or better still buy glass or buy boxed water which seems to be a growing movement towards an alternative single-use bottle packaging. 

Ellina Webb is a Marketing Specialist at Mitsubishi Electric

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