9 questions about plastic bottles

Keep Britain Tidy, with Brita UK, have released a new report on our purchasing (or not) of bottled water. Research was conducted in January and February 2018, following on from similar research in 2017. It is timely stuff. 

The main finding is that despite the significant amount of profile that has been given to this issue in recent months, we are still buying gallons of water in little plastic bottles. Why? According to KBT, a mixture of 'hassle, forgetfulness and hygiene concerns' are the main barriers. It is a classic 'knowledge-action gap' situation.  

Having formerly worked for Keep Britain Tidy, I have had many conversations around these issues over the years and a few things come to mind again now. So here nine questions about plastic bottle use:

  1. There are some signs of change. According to the KBT research, the amount of people who feel guilty about buying bottled water has gone up from 25% in 2017 to 31% in 2018; will this drop down again in a years time when there is an inevitable drop off in media attention around this issue? 
  2. When you find yourself without any other thirst quenching options and in front of fridge full of drinks, do you feel more or less guilty buying bottled water compared to a can or bottle of soft drink? 
  3. Does bottled water carry a stigma? If it did, would it push people towards buying other drinks instead? Even though the health and environmental impacts of bottled water are less than just about any other drink that comes in a bottle. Or would they just go thirsty?
  4. By increasing the cost of soft drinks through the sugar tax will the total amount of plastic being bought reduce? Companies are already reducing the size of their bottles to keep prices down, this must be decreasing the total amount of plastic being used already.
  5. Will the soft drinks industry, while also howling about already being demonized, cite the impact of the sugar tax on plastic as a lobbying position to block the bottle deposit scheme proposals? Are environmental groups prepared for this? 
  6. What role for our water providers in unlocking the barriers to provision of drinking water in public places? Could well maintained water fountains in public places become a statutory duty? 
  7. What is happening in our schools? The last time I visited an Academy school, the canteen was prominently displaying bottled water for sale and was keeping its water dispenser tucked away in a corner. Surely Government can make an impact here. Do school inspectors report on the provision of drinking water? Is 'outstanding' practice outstanding enough?
  8. Is this public really aware of what recycled plastic is used for? There are positive and negative stories to be told about this. Could more information on this help motivate a reduction in plastic bottle use?  
  9. Where are the business opportunities? How can retailers make money out of providing free water refills? Its the question they're all asking themselves. The answers scare me.

Keep Britain Tidy's report is definitely worth a read, I hope they can continue to research in this area and help us find the leverage point that moves the system. 


Cover image credit: Kentama, Creative Commons


Morgan PhillipsComment