In response to the tide of plastic waste that litters our shores and seas, several water brands have come up with a seemingly “good” alternative – water in a can! Before we explore whether or not we think this is a good thing, first we need to rewind a little.
Back in the early 20th century, drinks brands all used glass bottles. Coca Cola in fact first started using plastic in 1978. Bottled water brands started using plastic bottles from the early 70’s and gradually things like the green glass Perrier bottles we remember from the ’80s became something we see less and less frequently. As our thirst for bottled water continued to grow, plastic bottles had a huge benefit to the manufacturers. Firstly factory breakages were a thing of the past, and more importantly, the cost of haulage and transportation is greatly reduced by using plastic instead of glass. The simple reason for this – is that it weighs far less.
An empty 750ml glass water bottle (no water inside) weighs 750gms…… the same size plastic bottle weighs around 45gm. If you were to transport a whole pallet of glass water bottles (still empty) the total weight would be around 756 kilos. The same pallet of plastic bottles would weigh just 45 kilos. You can see this is a huge difference and will have a significant impact for manufacturers/distributors on haulage costs, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
So if soft drink and water brands are to satisfy our demand for more and more variations of products, glass isn’t really an option for the cost implications outlined above. As we’ve discovered to the cost of our oceans and marine life, nor is plastic. So is the answer in a can of water? After all, we’ve been drinking fizzy drinks in cans for decades. Aluminium can apparently be infinitely recycled, is far lighter than glass, and can be packed in tighter than bottles making deliveries more effective.
However – do we really need it? Around the world we have forest and wildfires destroying swathes of Australia and California, we face more regional flooding, water scarcity and polar ice cap melt. Is the answer not just simply to consume less, and protect the resources we have? Bottled water is typically bought in 750ml, 1 litre or even 1.5-litre bottles. This means many people who still buy them, keep them to drink from throughout the day. However, cans are typically 330 ml or 500ml. This means that a person choosing a 330ml can over a 1.5-litre bottle will need to buy almost 5 times the amount of product to receive the same volume of water! Whether or not they truly are a most sustainable option as these brands claim remains to be seen. I think we can all agree we don’t need up to 5 times more waste being generated so yet more people can consume water in countries where tap water is at its purest. Many more cans in circulation, most of which probably won’t be properly disposed of or recycled.
The price of the cans of water also appears to be much higher than that of the plastic bottled water too. We’ve calculated that at £0.74 for 330ml they are the same price as 1.5 litres of bottled water for 5 times less water! If you were going to drink just 1.5 litres of this a day it would cost you over £3.70, which is an astonishing £1,367 a YEAR!
More expensive to consume, and generates yet more waste in the environment. But the worst part is that one of these brands has won a Sustainability award and, according to their website, is supported by Glastonbury and Greenpeace! Creating a demand for a new product isn’t sustainability, generating more water miles to produce a product when there is a perfectly adequate option in people’s homes, offices, gyms and schools shouldn’t be supported by world recognised brands.