Refill Stations Challenge London’s Bottled Water Industry

by | Oct 6, 2009

waterglassLondon is planning to set up its first water machines at rail and bus stations this month in a move that could impact England’s $2.4 billion bottled water industry, as companies find it increasingly difficult to justify their carbon footprint as the quality of tap water improves, reports the Guardian. This move is on the heels of a small Australian town’s ban on bottled water.

In the first trial, Hydrachills will be installed at Hammersmith bus station and at the Tower Bridge museum by Thames Water, Britain’s privatized water company, reports the Guardian. The machines can fill bottles of up to 500 ml with chilled water for a small charge with all proceeds donated to Waste Watch, a charity working to change the way people use natural resources, according to the newspaper.

If London’s water stations find favor with the 400,000 visitors who annually pass through the two sites, the scheme will be extended to underground, bus and railway stations across London and the south-east before the 2012 Olympics, according to the Guardian

Bottled water companies are striking back. Hildon, regarded by many as the most exclusive bottled water, last week launched its second aggressive advertising campaign that claims tap water was only good enough to shower in and that it has an “unpleasant taste,” reports the Guardian.

Water companies ignored the attacks, and instead promoted their own benefits, according to the article. As an example, the Drinking Water Inspectorate’s latest water quality report said Thames Water’s tap water was 99.99 percent compliant with national and European standards — its best-ever performance, with average compliance across the industry at 99.96 percent, reports the Guardian.

Consumption of bottled water doubled in the 10 years to 2006, but since then sales have fallen, reports the Guardian.

For the year ended July 12, U.S. sales of bottled water fell 6 percent to $7.6 billion, according to researchers, which led to a price war among bottled water companies during the summer.

Last week, the small Australian town of Bundanoon pulled all bottled water from its shelves and replaced it with refillable bottles that can be filled from fountains inside the town’s shops or at water stations in the street in what is believed to be a world-first ban on bottled water, reports AFP.

The town, two hours south of Sydney, voted in July to ban bottled water after a beverage company moved to tap into a local aquifer for its bottled water business, according to AFP.

Activists say bottling water causes unnecessary use of plastics and fuel for transport and a New South Wales study found that in 2006, the industry was responsible for releasing 60,000 ton of gases blamed for global warming, reports AFP.

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