Welcome to EarthLab

Organic and sustainable design for modern homes

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A future without plastic water bottles?

I've blogged already about the eco felt I use, which is derived from recycled plastic drinks bottles. But it would take an awful lot of pillows to acount for the number of bottles we use.

A quick Google tells me that Italy, where I live, is the world's number one per capita consumer of plastic water bottles, amounting to a staggering 10 billion litres! Italians generally distrust tap water supplies and have a liking for bottled mineral water, it's not uncommon to hear a conversation on the merits of various waters here.

Plastic bottles represent a huge waste in terms of resources to produce them, not to mention the energy involved in transporting the water. They have also been found to leach harmful chemicals into the water itself. Italy does have recycling bins for plastic, but not everyone uses them and the recycling itself requires energy.

I have to confess to having added to this problem in my time, I developed a taste for sparkling water and got hooked. But a couple of years ago we took the decision to try and eliminate plastic water bottles as much as possible, and began getting our water from Egeria, a spring on the outskirts of Rome. Egeria sells bottled water but you can also go and fill for yourself at a fraction of the price. It's popular with the Romans and there is also a small park there with a playground and bar. The water is fantastic but it did take up a valuable chunk of weekend to go and fetch it, as well as a car journey.

Then a year ago a bunch of unassuming sheds like the one in the picture above began popping up all over the Sabina area north east of Rome, where we used to live and now spend our weekends. They take mains water and filter it to make great drinking water, which you can choose as sparkling or still. The cost is 5 eurocents for 1.5 litres, in other words next to nothing, and way way cheaper than bottles. The machines were an immediate hit, there are almost always people waiting to fill up their bottles. The municipalities involved have surely saved huge amounts in waste disposal too. So, people get cheap, delicious water, taxes are saved, there are a few less plastic bottles on the planet, in short a win win win situation. I really hope this solution gets adopted more widely.

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