The global favourite, the plastic bottle. The keeper of our sacred water, milk and that all important tonic to partner your gin on a sunny afternoon. The one that is placed in every shop, ready for your exclusive one-time use. The bottle which has truly understood the meaning of globalisation as it continues to accelerate. The birth of its offspring spreading to all the corners of the globe. Tough, mouldable and conceivably immortal, it shapes our globe and will outlive me, you, our children, grandchildren, their children and probably their children’s children too. Its global production grows to the tune of 485 billion annually.
Water is no luxury commodity; it is essential to life. In countries such as the UK and Europe, clean, safe water is something we needn’t worry about. At the turn of a tap, we have clean water and an abundant supply of it too. Yet drinking tap water has a stigma attached to it, but why?
Following a consumerist lifestyle has become the norm. Each and every decision we make on our purchases is influenced by branding or marketing, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Brands spend between 5-12% of their total revenue on marketing each year to lure the consumer in and spend the cash. For global brands like Coca-Cola that’s over 4 billion dollars a year!
We all aspire to be better. Have better health, be more successful, and lead a happier lifestyle. Bottled water manufacturers and advertisers know this. Campaigns use this psychological vulnerability to sway people to purchase particular products, convincing them it’s healthier and safer than the alternative tap water. ‘Live Young,’ gives the impression drinking this particular brand’s bottled water will lead to a more active life and longevity.
What we eat, what we drink is more public than ever. Our social media presence has become an important part of daily life for many. People are conscious of how they are perceived, often feeling underwhelmed. They compare themselves to media influencers and their, ‘oh so perfect life.’ Using a particular brand can be a bragging right of having “arrived.”
Fiji Water for example, uses phrases such as ‘Bottled at the source, untouched by man, until you unscrew the cap.’ It makes the consumer feel exclusive, important, rich? They have established the brand in glamorous hotels and restaurants and sponsored events such as the Golden Globe, fashion weeks and film festivals.
The rich and famous are often the face of brand like these. Their large following of admirers idolise them, longing to share the same lifestyle, and follow the same trends and products to feel they are on par with them. When it comes to bottled water, however, there is a hefty price to pay for this admiration. And it is the planet and seas that pay for it.
The question all of us need to ask ourselves is, is there anything wrong with tap water?
Of course not!
The UK is at the very forefront in terms of quality. Strict tests are undertaken to protect the public health. Checks include, ensuring contaminants such as micro-organisms, chemicals and metals do not affect the water we end up drinking. Bottled water is classed as a food and beverage and therefore, does not have to comply with such strict standards.
Asking for tap water at your favourite restaurant instead of bottled, should be the norm and if the bill total at the end is less as a result, than its even better!
Is bottled water safe?
There are many strong arguments not to purchase or drink bottled water. The typical bottle is made from a plastic known as polyethylene terephthalate or PET. This plastic leeches’ chemicals into the water and as time and temperature increase, the plastic breaks down further contaminating the water concealed in its toxic host.
Hitting the spotlight with its deceptive composition, BPA is just one of the chemicals found in contaminated water bottles. It mimics the function and structure of the estrogen hormone, linked to affecting several aspects of fertility and breast cancer.
BPA free bottles are advertised as a safe alternative but often this compound is replaced with bisphenol-S which has very similar properties – another marketing gimmick perhaps?
Studies into the long-term effects have shown, people who drink a lot of bottled water and have high concentrations of BPA in their urine, are linked to higher rates of disease, including cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.
Once the water traveling from the remote island of Fiji or the Alps in France has made its way into your hands, perhaps it’s fair to say it is not the same raw liquid it started life out as?
How do plastic bottles effect the environment?
It’s known that plastic is harmful to our environment, animals and ourselves. Hundreds of articles have been written highlighting their damaging effects, television productions document the death and demise of species, scientific papers released with proving our suspicions but still we continue to produce bottles in the billions globally.
Thankfully, the techniques used to market the infamous water bottle, can and are being used to harness change. Environmentalists are taking action, raising awareness and building brands with sustainability at the heart of their business. Already plastic bottles are being replaced by aluminium cans, while reusable bottles are becoming increasingly popular and eliminating the need for plastic entirely. Water fountains are popping up in cities, supporting the zero-waste attitude which is necessary to succeed harmoniously with nature.
So here’s some food for thought. The next time you reach for a £1.49 plastic bottle of Evian…