When your thoughts turn to water, do not bot­tle them up

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY NEWS -

Robin and Pa­tri­cia Sil­ver, The Home, Salts Mill, Sal­taire, www. the­home­on­line.co.uk

ASK ANY­ONE over the age of 50 and they’ll quickly tell you that there was a time when peo­ple didn’t walk around car­ry­ing a plas­tic water bot­tle.

In fact, min­eral water was some­thing of a rar­ity in Bri­tain. It was in­vari­ably fizzy (now called “sparkling”) and al­ways in a glass bot­tle. The brand leader was Perrier with its bul­bous green shape and slightly salty taste and it was pre­sented as a lux­u­ri­ous French ac­com­pa­ni­ment to life.

In the 1970s, sales were just a few drops but by the end of the 1980s, over 150 mil­lion bot­tles were be­ing sold in Bri­tain.

This was fu­elled by ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, a more out­ward look­ing Euro­pean dis­po­si­tion (rather un­fash­ion­able at the mo­ment) and the cel­e­bra­tion of “de­sign” in its worst pos­si­ble for­mat. The bot­tle it­self was so pop­u­lar that it was used as a flower vase in restau­rants and at home.

Perrier sales col­lapsed af­ter a con­tam­i­na­tion scare in 1992 but by then other brands from France and Italy had be­gun to pro­lif­er­ate and still water like Evian, Volvic and Panna be­came pop­u­lar and to­day ac­counts for about 85 per cent of bot­tled water con­sump­tion. Later on, lo­cal Bri­tish water brands be­gan to ap­pear.

In the 1970s, with the ar­rival of cheap Euro­pean hol­i­days, we were warned not to drink tap water on the Con­ti­nent as it was un­safe and un­healthy. As a re­sult, the metaphor­i­cal and real flood­gates opened and by the 1980s min­eral wa­ters were com­mon­place as they be­came avail­able in plas­tic bot­tles. PET (Poly­eth­yl­ene Tereph­tha­late) bot­tles were lighter in weight, shat­ter­proof and eas­ier to carry and Evian water in par­tic­u­lar caught on fu­elled by its as­so­ci­a­tion with health and fitness, con­sumed cold af­ter a work out.

To­day the over­whelm­ing con­cern is how to get rid of these bot­tles as it is es­ti­mated that they will take 450 years to de­grade and in Bri­tain alone, over 15 mil­lion bot­tles are dumped ev­ery day – that’s 5.5 bil­lion bot­tles a year.

One an­swer has been to in­tro­duce re-us­able bot­tles with built-in fil­ters which can be filled with tap water. Even with de­signs by Philippe Starck and brands like Brita this has had a rel­a­tively slow take up prob­a­bly be­cause it re­quires a lit­tle ef­fort and ad­vanced plan­ning.

Other coun­tries have a “de­posit” sys­tem where a bot­tle has an added cost that is re­funded when it is re­turned. In Germany and Norway, it is claimed that 95 per cent of bot­tles are now re­turned and re­cy­cled since this mea­sure was in­tro­duced.

This sug­ges­tion seems un­likely to be in­tro­duced in Bri­tain de­spite a trial in Scot­land and the ob­vi­ous ad­van­tage that less lit­ter is thrown into our streets. But here’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent idea.

In the same way that you take a car to a garage to fill up with petrol when the level is low, how about tak­ing your empty water bot­tle to a re­fill­ing sta­tion. This can pre­serve the brand iden­ti­ties of dif­fer­ent water com­pa­nies and en­cour­age re­peat busi­ness as the re­turn­ing bot­tle could only be filled with the same brand of water that it orig­i­nally con­tained. At the same time, this will re­duce the eco­log­i­cal crit­i­cism of waste­ful­ness. The dis­pensers could be in su­per­mar­kets (free­ing up valu­able shelf space), garages, shops, schools, univer­si­ties and even bus stops. They could be op­er­ated with­out hu­man in­volve­ment like some cof­fee ma­chines. Af­ter all, this method is al­ready used in some del­i­catessens where olive oil, bal­samic vine­gar and even wine bot­tles are re­filled from large bar­rels.

Al­ter­na­tively, as we are lucky enough to have such good water in this part of the world, we could just drink it straight from the tap. Sim­ple!

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