Industry attacks bottled water critics

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bottled water

Increasing criticism over the environmental impacts of consuming
water from bottles instead of a tap supply is needlessly misleading
consumer opinion, according to an international association
representing the industry.

The criticism reflects heightened environmental concern over how food and beverage products are produced, packaged and distributed. As global sales of the product continue to rise dramatically on the back of consumer demand for non-carbonated soft drinks, there are fears that continued criticisms could trigger a backlash against the bottled water boon. Stephen Kay, communications director for the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) told BeverageDaily.com that a recent slew of criticism from environmental groups and activists distorted the real impact of growing bottled water consumption. Consumers are not uniformly replacing tap water with bottled water; rather they are choosing bottled water over the other beverages available at the store and home, he said. The comments come as an Australian coalition has joined a growing number of international groups committing themselves to pressuring restaurants and other outlets to drop selling bottled water and offer the tap variety instead. However, Kay said that the criticisms were unwarranted claiming that, just like other packaged food and beverage manufacturers, the bottled water industry was committed to reducing its environmental footprint wherever possible. Plastic beverage bottles used by the industry are fully recyclable, he said, while many companies were continually cutting the materials used in their packaging. Instead of concentrating on a consumers beverage choice therefore, Kay suggested that legislators and environmental pressure groups would do better on ensuring that recycling targets for packaging were being met. The IBWA strongly encourages container recycling and urges officials to provide consumers with easy and efficient opportunities to help ensure that they are properly recycling packaging, he added. The stance is not shared by an Australian coalition of environmental and community groups though, which has raised funds to influence drinking habits towards turning to the tap. Coalition organiser John Dee, from the environmental pressure group Planet Ark, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the alliance was pushing local councils in the country to stop providing bottled water to workers and at official functions. Thos focus, he added, stemmed from what he claimed was considerable concern at how bottling water was affecting the environment. "We're spending AUS$385m (€225m) on the stuff every single year and the impact environmentally is substantial,"​ Dee stated. "It's responsible for about 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions every year just in Australia, and every single litre of bottled water produced is using about 200 millilitres of oil." ​The campaign is reflective of a growing movement against bottled water internationally. In some major US cities, restaurateurs and politicians alike are beginning to view bottled water with more environmental scrutiny. San Francisos mayor Gavin Newsom this year announced a ban on the cities departments using money to buy bottled water, while New York officials are urging consumption of tap water to cut down on the cities high levels of packaging waste. Switching consumer taste back to tap water after years of heavy promotion for the bottled market could prove difficult for environmental groups though. Bottled water consumption is set to outgrow the once dominant carbonated beverage segment within two years, according to recent research by analyst Zenith International. If the current market growth continues, global bottled water consumption is expected to grow to 251bn litres by 2011 from 187bn litres last year, Zenith added.

Related topics: Markets, Soft Drinks & Water

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