Australian town bans bottled water

Author: By Belinda Goldsmith, Reuters

Residents of rural Bundanoon, a picturesque, tourist destination 90 miles
southwest of Sydney, voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to rid the town of
bottled water to combat the carbon footprint from bottling and transporting
it.

Local businesses in the town of 2,500 people have agreed to replace all
single-use bottles with reuseable bottles that can be filled from water
fountains and to bear the loss of sales.

“Bottled water has a role to play in various parts of Australia and many parts
of the world but we don’t really need it as we have a wonderful municipal
water supply,” said local businessman Huw Kingston, who led the campaign.

“We’re not a bunch of raving greenies but this is us showing we can work
together as a community for sustainability.”

Kingston, who runs a combined cafe and bike shop, said the ban was voluntary,
with “no water police in Bundanoon”, so it was up to the town’s 50 to 60
businesses to implement the change.

He said a catalyst for the campaign was an application by Sydney company
Norlex Holdings Pty Ltd to build a local water extraction plant, raising
people’s awareness of the issue. The application was rejected but an appeal
is before the courts.

The campaign has spread beyond Bundanoon, prompting the government of New
South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, to also look at ways to
cut down on bottled water.

Organisations like conservation group WWF have campaigned against bottled
water, saying resources are wasted in bottling and transporting water which
may be no safer or healthier than tap water while selling for up to a
thousand times the price.

NSW Premier Nathan Rees this week announced an immediate ban on state
departments and agencies buying bottled water.

“Tap water isn’t just better for the environment, it’s better for your wallet
– you can refill your drink bottle 1,350 times for the average cost of a
bottle of spring water,” Rees said.

Australians spent about $500 million (US$395 million) on bottled water in
2008, a 10 per cent increase on 2007.

Environmental group Do Something!, which helped drive a ban on plastic bags in
Coles Bay in the state of Tasmania, welcomed the NSW government and
Bundanoon bans.

“We are very much hoping that this move will get Australians to rethink the
half billion dollars a year that they spend on bottled water,” said Do
Something! chairman Jon Dee.

But Geoff Parker, director of the Australasian Bottled Water Institute Inc,
set up 10 years ago to represent the industry, said the bans were
disappointing as they stopped consumer choice and were detrimental to local
bottlers and distributors.

“Bottled water does not replace tap water but it does compete with other
beverages in the shop fridge or vending machine and the decision to remove
quite possibly the healthiest option in this selection does not embrace
common sense,” he told Reuters.

“The environmental footprint of one bottle of water of locally produced water
would be much smaller than a tin of canned tomatoes imported from overseas,
some imported cheese, or French champagne. We need to keep it in
perspective.”

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