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ENVIRONMENTALISTS have pleaded with authorities to help cut waste caused by Australia’s increasing thirst for bottled water.
Demand for the product is growing by 10per cent annually, adding to the 118,000 tonnes of plastic drink containers manufactured each year.
Latest research by Clean Up Australia shows that just 35per cent of all plastic bottles are recycled. The rest end up in landfill sites.
Figures compiled by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) show the manufacture and transportation of bottled water is leaving a massive “carbon footprint”.
For every tonne of one-litre bottles of Evian water shipped to Australia each year, for example, at least 84kilograms of harmful emissions are created.
About 150 million litres of bottled water is consumed in Australia each year.
Clean Up Australia founder and activist Ian Kiernan said the bottled water industry was a “con”. He has called on governments to discourage people buying water in bottles.
He said a national deposit or refund scheme, similar to the one operating in South Australia, would encourage recycling.
Mr Kiernan said “world health quality water” is available from the tap for the equivalent of $1.20 a tonne, while standard bottled water costs $3000 a tonne.
Mr Kiernan said the bottled water industry is plundering aquifers.
Shadow minister for climate change, environment and heritage Peter Garrett joined the call for action, saying people needed to be responsible when choosing their water source and be aware of the consequences of the choice to drink bottled water.
Environmental campaigns running overseas encourage people to ditch the bottles and switch to tap water.
In New York, city officials have paid for advertising championing tap water, while in San Francisco officials are no longer able to use public money to buy water in plastic bottles if tap water is available.
Top restaurants in California and New York have agreed not to sell bottled water, serving customers tap water instead.
ACF research coordinator Elle Morrell said that despite recycling efforts, 65 per cent of plastic drink bottles still ended up in landfills. The recycling process itself can also have an impact on the environment.
“Even if bottled water is recycled, it uses a huge amount of water and energy in the process,” she said.
Cafes and restaurants should get on board and stop selling bottled water, offering customers a cooler full of tap water instead, Ms Morrell said. A note next to the cooler could reinforce the message that plastic should be shunned.
She said a government-run anti-waste campaign was needed. The ACF suggested a premium be put on the price of bottled water as a disincentive.
Delivering the huge variety of bottled water brands is also taking a serious toll on the environment, producing significant carbon emissions as it is imported from countries such as France, Italy and Fiji.