22 – Reject packaged drinks


Packaged drinks are a perfect example of how cheap energy has warped us into consuming resources for no good reason other than it makes money for someone else. We pay over 1,000 times the price of tap water to drink essentially the same water from a plastic bottle.

It has been revealed with monotonous regularity that the perceived health benefits of bottled water are illusory and some soft drink companies simply bottle tap water and sell it. Drink bottles are a huge waste problem. Only about one third of the bottles sold are recycled – high by world standards – and the rest end up in landfill or the oceans. Because they are hollow, they take up a lot of space in landfill (around 30%) and kill animals that crawl inside them.

It is marginally more convenient to buy a drink in a disposable container than in a re-usable one, but it is environmentally expensive.

Reality check

498 billion litres of packaged drinks were sold world wide in 2005. That is about 77 litres of bottled drink per person on the planet. This amount is growing at around seven per cent every year, with the largest growth being for bottled water.

The resources associated with those numbers are enormous.

  • Each kilogram of PET plastic consumes 17.5 litres of water and around three litres of oil to make.

  • Drink factories use up to 3.5 litres of water for every litre of drink they sell.

  • All told, every 600ml bottle of water consumes around 1.5 Megajoules of energy.

  • Globally, bottled drinks are responsible for around 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide released annually into the atmosphere.

In 2006 Prime Minister John Howard protested that the dental health of the nation is being harmed by the growth in drinking bottled water. Most bottled water does not contain flouride.

While many people would see this as an good reason to drink bottled water, it illustrates the point that many people only drink fluids delivered to them in cans or bottles.

What I do

I keep all the plastic bottles that come into the house and fill them about 90 per cent full of water. I keep about ten of them in the freezer, for picnics or school lunches and another half a dozen of them in the fridge.

Once a week I nearly fill a saucepan with white sugar, and cover the sugar with filtered tap water. I boil that until clear and then bottle the syrup in glass bottles. During the week we make cordials using that syrup with citrus juice, or whatever juicy fruits are in season. It has all the dental and other negatives associated with sugar, but it is my alternative to packaged drinks.

I make all my tea in a teapot. I empty the teapot into a jug during the day, then put syrup, lemon juice, ice-cubes and water into the jug, and let it ‘brew’ until the evening. Uncle Joe’s iced tea is legendary. Chinese home-stay students have taken the recipe back to China.

Hidden traps

You’re in the car and you’re hot. You’re filling up with petrol. The fridge beckons.

What can I say?

Get into the habit of taking home-bottled water with you.

Search terms

oil bottled water calculate

PET plastic water

Contamination bottled water

Hard Facts

Over 25,000 tonnes of PET bottles are used in Sydney every year wasting 475 megalitres of water. That is almost the volume of water that flows down the Darling River.

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