The average Brit uses 150 plastic water bottles a year. Some opt for bottled water due to concerns over water quality, microplastics and convenience.
But which is better for us and for the planet – bottled or tap water? We take a look at some of the main concerns below.
Concerns over safety and quality of tap water is one reason behind buying bottled water. However, we are very fortunate in the UK to have some of the best quality tap water in the world.
Water in the UK is put through a strict filtration before it reaches our tap and disinfected with chemicals including chlorine. Chlorine kills off bacteria that could cause illnesses such as cholera and dysentery. These chemicals are not harmful to us as they are added in very small concentrations (0.5mg/l or less). On the contrary, bottled water is not tested as rigorously as tap water, so is in fact not cleaner than tap water.
Despite concerns over microplastics in the water supply, recent research shows that 99.99% of plastics is removed from tap water through treatment processes. In contrast, the WHO found that 90% of bottled water contains microplastics. Of course, one way of preventing the entry of microplastics in water is by reducing single use plastics – such as bottled water.
In Britain we are still very reliant on bottled water, getting through 8bn single use bottles a year. According to Recycle Now, 44% of water bottles are not being recycled in UK households. This is having a devastating impact on the environment – by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Moreover, the process of making, transporting and recycling or incinerating water bottles means that drinking bottled water is 900 times more carbon intensive than drinking tap water.
A Keep Britain Tidy Poll revealed that only 7% of the public would use a public water fountain and many are embarrassed to ask for tap water at a café or restaurant. Many buy plastic water bottles out of convenience. With a huge range of affordable, reusable bottles, there is no need to rely on plastic bottles. Moreover, apps such as Refill are making it easier to find water fountains in your area and are encouraging local councils and water companies to install water fountains across major towns and cities.
Bottled water costs 500x the cost of tap water!
In conclusion, we are very lucky to have access to cheap, clean water. Companies such as Refill are making it more and more convenient to access tap water on the go. The fact is that we do not need bottled water in the UK. Small changes to our daily routine such as carrying a reusable bottle and refilling at water fountains will save us a lot of money and make a huge difference in protecting the natural environment at the same time.