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May 17, 2021

Bottler battle over water sale

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Luis Feliu

The powerful lobby representing Australia’s water bottlers has jumped on Tweed Shire Council’s recent move urging people against buying bottled water because of its environmental harm.

In an extraordinary attack on council’s decision last month to stop stocking bottled water in council office vending machines, the Australasian Bottled Water Institute says such a ban could lead to obesity and other ‘chronic disease’ by forcing staff and visitors to other options ‘with more kilojoules’.

But council’s water manager Anthony Burnham today poured cold water on the attack, saying the whole intent of the article in council’s newsletter advising of the ban and urging people to drink tap water was to raise awareness of the issue with council ‘setting its own example’.

‘We have tap and chilled tap water available to our staff, therefore we’re not contributing to any health problems by taking this inititative, as water is readily available to staff,’ Mr Burnham told Echonetdaily.

The institute this week issued a release expressing its ‘disappointment’ to the move, saying that ‘as a nation ranked fourth in OECD countries for obesity, we should be encouraging people to drink more water from whatever source – bottle, bubbler or tap.’

In the release irreverently headed ‘Tweed Council’s bottled water ban = expanding waistlines’, the institute’s CEO, Geoff Parker, said ‘to ban bottled water from vending machines ‘defies logic’.

One of the major players in the lobby group is Coca Cola Amatil, whose Mount Franklin brand is the biggest selling bottled water in Australia.

In the newsletter article, council urged ‘residents to think twice before buying a bottle of water the decided not to stock water in its office vending machines for ‘many good reasons’.

Council water-unit officer Elizabeth Seidl said in the article that ‘Australia’s annual consumption of bottled water exceeds 600 million litres, even though Australians are able to drink some of the best tap water in the world.

Ms Seidl said the safety of the Tweed’s tap water ‘is equal to the best bottled water and better than most’.

Landfill

She also said bottled water caused major environmental problems with discarded bottles creating ‘massive amounts of landfill and litter on our streets and beaches’.

‘Significant resources are also needed to bottle, transport and refrigerate water, especially if that water is imported from overseas,’ she said.

‘The manufacture of plastic water bottles squanders a non-renewable resource, oil, and the road and air miles generated by transporting bottled water are a significant generator of greenhouse gases.

‘The refrigeration needed for bottled water also causes emissions and bottled spring water can sometimes put unsustainable pressure on natural aquifers,’ she said.

But Mr Parker claims ‘the argument by a council representative that the Tweed region has great quality tap water and therefore they don’t need it in vending machines shows a misunderstanding by the council of consumer behaviour and the impact of obesity and chronic disease.

‘The council is denying employees and visitors to council offices choice. Whilst some countries might restrict choice and remove products from sale, Australia isn’t one of them. What’s next for people in the Tweed?’ he said.

‘Bottled water, which comes in a package that is 100 per cent recyclable, doesn’t compete with tap water but with all other bottled beverages it shares shelf space with, be that in the supermarket, local store or vending machine.

Obesity

‘To remove bottled water from council vending machines and force people to other options with more kilojoules, in today’s society with 60 per cent of adults and one in four kids as either overweight or obese, is shameful.

‘The council needs to shoulder part of the blame for the expanding waistlines in the future and should be doing more to encourage healthy beverage consumption, not less, Mr Parker said.

Ms Seidl said that ‘in money terms, buying bottled water does not add up, as the price of bottled water is 1,000 to 2,000 times that of tap water on average.

‘In the Tweed, tap water costs $2.05 for 1000 litres while a 600mL bottle of water may cost as much as $3.50. This is an extraordinary mark up of about 285,000 per cent.

“Even if you purchase bottled water in bulk, you will still end up paying around $1.50 per litre which is still about 730 times the cost of our tap water,” she said.

“And for every 500mL bottle you purchase, it takes close to one litre of water to manufacture it.”

‘With tap water, we can always rely on the quality. With bottled water, the quality can be highly variable, depending on its source.

‘The Tweed’s tap water is tested weekly for a vast range of chemical and microbiological parameters, ensuring that it is always safe to drink.’

 


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9 COMMENTS

  1. The Australasian Bottled Water Institute, Coca-Cola Amatil, and bottlers in general, use ridiculous arguments for bottled water. It just makes them look deceitful. I am so happy that the Tweed Council has taken this step. It’s crucial to raise awareness about the ludicrous markups in price and extensive environmental implications of bottled water. “100% recyclable” plastic is misleading- plastic is a material that resists biodegradation, downgrades in quality each time it is recycled (thus eventually ending in landfill), and requires virgin material added to create a new product. Tap water all the way! (NUDE YOUR FOOD and drinks!)

  2. What is shameful is the Australasian Bottled Water Institute stretching incredulity with this attack on a commonsense approach to a big pollution problem. Tweed Council is to be congratulated for this decision. It makes me feel quite ill to know that there is a lobbyist who would argue that black is white if he is paid enough.

  3. Well if Tweed tapwater is so good, why can I always taste it? & why when I fill my washing machine it is either discoloured(brown) or a bright blue? Inconsistant……..

  4. Tweed Council’s announcement that it is ditching bottled water is most commendable and beneficial to the environment, however there are many people in the community who will not or cannot drink fluoridated tap water. I choose reverse osmosis water over tap as I know how damaging the artificial fluoride is to soft tissue and how it accumulates in the body. I have a number of friends who cannot even shower in town water due to rashes and chronic health problems.
    Fluoridation is on the table for discussion at the Local Government Conference. The NSW Local Govt Assn policy really needs to be reviewed. The current QLD Local Govt Assn policy is that without the EXPRESS consent of the community, fluoridation is unethical mass medication. 95% of the world’s population does not fluoridate their drinking water; most European countries don’t fluoridate water because of concerns about adverse health effects and recognition that fluoridation is unethical mass medication.
    While the annual technical costs of fluoridation are not huge, the other side of the equation, the costs of adverse health effects is never looked at. Recent data on dental fluorosis from the 2007 NSW Child Dental Health Survey shows a quarter of children in NSW fluoridated areas have Dental Fluorosis at some level with nearly 4 children in every 100 having Moderate ( unsightly clearly visible ) Dental Fluorosis. Fluorosis is a sign of fluoride overdose that occurred when children’s teeth were forming. Porcelain Veneers used to disguise fluorosis cost upwards of $1000 a tooth. For over 10 years now it has been widely accepted that the main action of fluoride is “topical “ when it touches teeth , not “systemic” – as when swallowed. These issues were considered by the 16 Queensland Councils that have rejected fluoridation in the last 6 months. The fact that there are now 36 human studies linking fluoride exposure at only moderately raised levels to the lowering of IQ is something that also needs to taken into consideration. All the 36 fluoride – IQ studies are referenced at www. fluoridealert.org

  5. For anyone interested in this topic do yourself a favour and seek out the documentary ‘Tapped’. And encourage others to watch it.

  6. If Coca Cola Amatil are so worried about obesity they should remove all their sugar laden drinks from sale in Australia
    The Australian bottled water institute is a bunch of phoney’s representing the sugar drink companies
    Well done Tweed shire next step take floride out of your water to show that you are totally committed to the health of residents of your shire

  7. For all the reasons given above, it is clearly preferable to drink Unbottled water, unless it is fresh from your creek,river or filtered rainwater. Tweed Shire Council has made great efforts to provide residents with drinkable water, especially from the highest quality water treatment/filtration plant at Bray Park. However questions need to be asked about the additives (currently present or proposed) such as Chlorine, Flouride, and others even more harmful.
    Also because of the deteriorated state of the pipes and the distances it travels,water monitoring will likely show a significant difference in quality at Bray Park, Murwillumbah and Tweed heads.
    Much can still be done to improve what comes out of the tap.
    Ari Ehrlich Tyalgum

  8. What a feeble arguement the bottled water lobby has come up with. Surely someone who buys bottled water in favour of the myriad sugarladen drinks at the supermarket is not then going to turn to them to slake their thirst. We always drink filtered tap water at home and it is lovely. I always thought bottled water was the best advertising con I’ve ever come aross.

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