Australians & Bottled Water | An Ill-fated love-affair

by Emily Carlstrom

The numbers don’t lie; us Aussies love our bottled water. In fact, over 27% of Aussies aged 14 or older drink bottled water at least once per week.

When we were doing our market research for the release of the Kappi Bottle, we were astounded and appalled at just how prevalent the consumption of bottled water was in Australian modern society.

Look, we’ve all been there. You’re out and about and start to get a little parched. Maybe you’re a while off home and there’s a 7-11 on the corner. Bottled water for only a $1? Bargain! Maybe you’ve seen the War on Waste’s episode on bottled water and read some of the stats regarding the impact discarded bottles is having on our environment. But you rationalise it as only one bottle, just this once - right?

Well listen, we’re not here to get all preachy about your bottled water indiscretions or the nonsensical notion of paying for something that is for all intents and purposes free. Instead we’re going to hit you with some unbiased, cold-hard facts about Australians’ bottled water consumption and let you make up your own mind about whether you want to contribute to these stats going forward.

How Much Bottled Water Do Australians Consume?

Before the 1980s, bottled water was a foreign concept. However, fast forward 38 years and it’s not uncommon to step into a milkbar/gas station/convenience store and see entire walls of coolers dedicated to various brands of bottled water.

The typical Australian drinks over 30 litres of bottled water each year. In 2015, Australians consumed more than 726 million litres of bottled water, and the numbers are climbing.

The demographics vary across the country. However, most of this bottled water consumption comes from those under the age of 40. Women are also more likely to buy bottled water than men. Looking at our Instagram analytics, these stats are an almost perfect match for our target audience. Hence why we thought this would be an incredibly important issue to bring better awareness to.

How Much Do Australians Spend on Bottled Water?

Over one million bottles of water are purchased every minute across the globe. By 2020, over one trillion units of bottled water are predicted to be sold annually. While Australians are not the biggest contributor to these figures, on a per capita basis we buy a LOT of water.

Bottled water is one of the great marketing gimmicks of all time. People are willing to spend $2.75 to $3.50 per bottle for something that they can easily get at home.

Compared to bottled water, tap water is incredibly inexpensive. It would take eight years of drinking tap water to recoup the individual cost of a single bottle of water.

And the bottled water industry is enjoying the efforts of their marketing. In Australia, the production of bottled water is a $700 million industry. By 2020, it should reach over $825 million at current estimates.

Most Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles End Up in the Landfill

While we feel people generally try and do the right thing when it comes to recycling PET plastics, research shows that less than 40% of all bottles sold in Australia actually get recycled.

Over 118,000 tonnes of plastic are purchased annually because of bottled water sales.  If 60% of water bottles end up in landfills, Australians may add over 70,000 tonnes of plastic to the landfills each year. The landfills are not the only places that these bottles end up. Many single-use plastics, including water bottles, end up in the oceans. By 2025, researchers predict that there will be one tonne of plastic waste in the ocean for every three tonnes of marine life.

Understanding the Impact of Bottled Water Consumption

While it’s important to look at where the discarded bottles end up, we also need to look at where they come from and how they’re made.

It requires over a litre of oil to produce just one litre of bottled water. Producing bottled water also requires a considerable amount of freshwater. That one-litre bottle that you purchase likely resulted in three to seven litres of wasted water.

And after the water is pumped from the ground, bottled, and packaged, it needs to be transported to a store near you. This entire process generates more than 60,000 tons of greenhouse gasses annually.

Australia Has Strict Guidelines for Tap Water Quality

A recent survey found that 35 percent of Australians prefer bottled water over tap. However, a blind taste test found that most people cannot tell the difference between tap water and bottled water.

If your home is connected to a public water system instead of a well, your tap water is likely just as healthy as the bottled water that you buy at a store. In some cases, the tap water may even be a safer option.

The National Health and Medical Research Council has instituted over 250 guidelines concerning water quality standards. Public water utilities are required to follow these guidelines to ensure that your home has safe, healthy tap water.

While water utilities need to follow these guidelines, bottled water does not require the same standards. This was clearly evident in Ep. 1, Season 2 of the War on Waste where laboratory results revealed that many of the most common brands of bottled water actually contained minerals in excess of the Australian recommended guidelines. What’s more, the issue of plastic additives leaching is only just starting to be understood. If you would like to learn more about the harmful effects of plastic on our health you can check out our blog post here.

What Can You Do to Reduce Bottled Water Waste?

Simple. BYO Bottle. Go out and grab yourself a really high quality bottle that you absolutely love, because this thing will be your daily companion.

We’re not talking about that old disposable PET water bottle that you bought ages ago and felt too guilty to throw away. And, we’re not talking about those high-quality reusable BPA-free plastic water bottles. They still contain BPF, BPS and a whole host of other additives that are just as harmful as BPA (Don’t believe us? Check out our blog post here).

No, we’re talking about a good quality glass or stainless steel bottle. And listen, you don’t have to go out and spend a huge amount of money. My daily water bottle was an old 1L glass bottle that I used for two years until we received our initial Kappi bottles. Although, now that I’ve moved to a double-walled stainless steel bottle, I couldn’t go back to glass. It’s lighter, more durable, keeps my water cool/hot for hours, fits in my cup holder and it looks awesome (if I do say so myself).

If you are thinking about springing for a good-quality, double-walled stainless steel water bottle, it’s helpful to rationalise it on a cost-per-use basis. I refill my 600ml bottle 4-6 times per day depending on my activity levels. At $39.95, this works out to just over two cents per refill if used everyday for a year. And trust us, these bad boys are designed and constructed to survive many years of use and abuse!

Shop Kappi Double-Walled Stainless Steel Water Bottles here.


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  • Suzanne Kelly

    Thanks for this article very timely, very interesting. I am trying to find out how much of Australia’s spring water is being turned into bottled water not least as aboriginal leaders have just called for 10,000 wild camels to be shot from the air to preserve their water supply is this to preserve the money spinner or do they need water to drink? I’d love to find out

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