So you want a drink of water….think before you buy

How should we drink (buy) water?

Water is a refreshing, healthy drink that is often the number one choice for quenching thirst. It is found almost everywhere: in our homes, offices, shops and restaurants. Most, if not all, of our supermarkets sell bottled water; there are shelves stacked full. It is often a common sight to see people walking round with a plastic bottle of water in their hand. Has this become the norm or is the tide turning? Don’t we need to think before we make that choice to buy a plastic bottle of water? What is its impact before and after the five minutes of drinking from it?

The selling of water


The selling of water has become a real money making business. We regularly see water bottle adverts on billboards and on our TVs. On the front of the water bottles that we buy, we see images of fresh water running down mountains and we are constantly reminded of the health benefits.

The water in plastic bottles isn’t always what we are led to believe it is.

Sometimes bottled water is actually only tap water that might have been filtered and water bottled from a source does not follow the same strict regulations that tap water does.

That’s the water. What about the actual plastic bottles?

Plastic bottles

There are also health risks associated with drinking bottled water. Most plastic bottles contain PET (polyethylene terephthalate) which is safe but when stored at high temperatures can leach chemicals into the water. So leaving a bottle of water in the sun on a shelf or in the car causes the chemical balance to change, making the chemicals leach into the water faster. Antimony is a chemical that is used to make PET and in high concentrations can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. German scientists found that bottles left lying around will develop increasing levels of antimony.

Another chemical associated with some plastic bottles is BPA (bisphenol A), a chemical found in polycarbonate (often used for products made of harder plastics). This chemical has been proven to cause brain and behavioural problems in kids and problems linked to the brain, female reproductive system and immune system in adults. Most water bottles don’t include BPA these days but some other products that are made from harder plastic compounds.

Plastic is a great invention; it is a strong, durable substance but that is its downfall. It lasts for thousands of years meaning almost every single piece of plastic ever made, still exists in some form.

Plastic isn’t good for the environment for many reasons. Every single plastic bottle requires virgin petrol and water for its production. In fact, more water is needed to make the bottle than what is stored in it. The Pacific Institute, an American non-profit research institute, “estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in our use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one quarter full with oil.”

So, plastic isn’t good for our environment or our health and we need to find alternatives.


Alternative choices to plastic that are out there


Water is available in cartons; Aquapax and Vivid Water in a Box are two companies that produce water in cartons.

Good points

  • Unlike plastic bottles, cartons come from a renewable and sustainable source – trees.
  • They can biodegrade.
  • They are recyclable.
  • They don’t contain PET and so don’t leach chemicals into the water

Bad points

  • Cartons need plastic lids
  • Many cartons use layers of plastic and sometimes aluminium in order to keep the contents fresh




Water can also be purchased in cans; Ugly Drinks and CanO Water are two examples.

Good points

  • They are 100% recyclable
  • They are light, and therefore easy to transport
  • The water stays cooler for longer
  • Some (CanO water) are resealable using small amounts of plastic which can be recycled with the metal

Bad points

  • If it is not recycled an aluminium can can take up to 500 years to degrade
  • Aluminium is not a renewable source and therefore if not recycled it has to be created from scratch


Refillable bottles

water to go
All of these alternatives are one step closer to a more environmentally friendly solution to reducing plastic. But there is one more option.

Buying a refillable bottle.

Whilst these bottles are more expensive than a single-use plastic bottle initially, they are cheaper in the long run. Rather than having to buy bottles, cartons or cans, it requires remembering to take the bottle out and fill it with tap water. Tap water is just as good, if not better, as plastic bottled water because it is highly regulated.

For those that dislike the taste or the minerals that are in tap water e.g. fluoride, there are filter options like Water-to-Go that filter out any chemicals or dirt in the water.

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Water is a key life ingredient but everyone has their own circumstances and although refilling is the ideal option, it might be necessary to buy water. The problem is that most shops only provide plastic water bottles.

We need to see cartons or cans in supermarkets instead of plastic. If you agree sign this petition and support our campaign to introduce more non-plastic water packaging to supermarket shelves.

By Ella (aged 10)

Plastic bottle photo from
Main image and running water from
Water to Go bottle from