Should Bottled Water Be Banned?

I often hear of arguments saying bottles of mineral water should be banned. The logic of banning bottled water is that it is a strong commitment to reducing single-use plastic which has high environmental costs. However, others argue it is a rather drastic measure which only tackles small part of the problem.


Reasons to ban bottled water

  1. Plastic bottles require oil, water and environmental costs of transporting. This use of oil and plastic contributes to global warming, carbon emissions and is unecessary.
  2. Creates unnecessary landfill. Many plastic bottles end up as litter in the sea or the countryside where the plastic doesn’t degrade. This is both a visual eyesore but can cause problems and even death for wildlife.
  3. The water footprint of a bottled water is greater than just the water involved. Bottled water requires water in the packaging, production and distribution stage.
  4. Banning bottled water will encourage people to choose sustainable alternatives – refillable water.
  5. Already airports are providing places to top up water bottles rather than expect people to buy new ones.

Reasons not to ban bottled water

1. Water has a lower water footprint than other drinks. According to IBWA water has the lowest water footprint of any drink

It takes:

  • 1.39 litres to make one litre of bottled water
  • 2.02 litres for one-liter soda.
  • 4 litres of water for one-litre beer
  • 4.74 litres for one-litre wine.
  • 34.5 litres of water for every litre of alcoholic spirits

2. Encourages less healthy options. If bottled water is banned, but people want to drink they will be forced to choose less healthy options such as sugary and carbonated drinks. The problem of single-use plastic is not reduced, but we just see a rise in demand for other types of bottled drinks.

3. It takes away people’s choice of whether to buy water. Why should we ban bottled water, but not soda and alcohol which is worse for you?

4. There are better ways to deal with the problem of single-use plastic. Rather than ban bottled water, it would be better to tackle the wider issue. This could involve an ‘environmental tax’ on all plastic, single-use drinks. This provides a financial incentive to cut back on buying plastic bottles. The revenue raised could be used to fund clean-up operations in the sea and rivers.

5. Tap water may be unsafe or more likely to contain contaminants. Even in the US, potentially millions of people are drinking unsafe tap water. (Science Mag) One study found that during the Flint water crisis in 2015, nearly 21 million Americans—about 6%—were getting water from systems that violated health standards.

Personal view

For what it is worth I’d like to give my twopence worth on this topic. But, first, I have to admit my bias and prejudices. The thing is I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t drink soft drinks – I really hate Coke and things like that. I’m vegetarian. I cycle to work. I vote Green (if I ever get round to voting). I get up at 6 am in the morning to meditate. But, I do have one weakness – I really like drinking bottled water.

Sometimes, I like to sip the nicely carbonated San Pelegrino, other times I like to drink the pure still Evian. Sometimes I drink filtered tap water. But, water is the only thing I like to drink. I know it’s a bad habit – But, I’ve tried to kick it without success.

And I’m sure people are right when they say Thames tap water is much better for your health than Evian. (I mean all those nitrates, and chlorine is good for you right ?) And the fact tap water gets recycled seven times means it must be very eco.

Tax Bottled Water

Now as an economist I’m very fond of Pigouvian taxes. I believe we should have higher taxes on petrol, Fatty foods e.t.c

If people think bottled water has negative externalities (pollution, unnecessary landfill) then I’d be happy for an appropriate tax to be placed on bottled water so bad people like me can pay the true social cost.

But, if we tax bottled water shouldn’t we tax soft drinks? And is not water good for you? Maybe we should subsidise bottled water and tax soft drinks to encourage people to drink sugar-free liquid?


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