The main one seems to be a query about what the difference is between tap water and natural source water. There is a clear difference, natural source waters like spring water and natural mineral water, have to be safe to drink at source, tap water is water that has been through a long process of chemical treatment to make it safe for human consumption. Natural source waters will differ in mineral content and taste due to the unique composition of the land it’s taken from and producers really take care to protect large areas surrounding their source.
So why do people choose natural source water when tap is available? There seem to be three main reasons for this. The first is that many people aren’t keen on the chemical treatment process of tap water. The second is that they want a healthy choice when out on the go and finally, the biggest reason is that people prefer the taste of the water.
So what is the difference between natural mineral water and spring water?
To be a natural mineral water, the producer must be able to demonstrate a consistent mineral composition over time. The name of the source and the place of its extraction must be included on the label. Producers are not able to add or remove anything from the water before bottling. Spring water must be safe to drink at source but does not need to have a stable mineral composition. Both spring water and natural mineral water must come from an underground source.
Let’s talk environment. It’s a huge topic at the moment and for very good reason, plastic is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Natural source water producers have really done their research, the PET bottles much of their water is bottled into meet the food safety requirements but have also been chosen for the fact that they are collected for recycling by 100% of the local authorities in the UK. They have studied the carbon footprint of many different types of packaging and found this to be one of the best, as long as consumers recycle effectively. There are even ‘eco bottles’ available now, made from 100% recycled materials. Producers also work incredibly hard to protect vast areas of land around their water source, ensuring they are free from pollution and contamination, providing important natural habitat.
Bottled water has the lowest impact of any soft drink on the market, whether judged by its carbon footprint or water footprint, it represents just 10% of the Co2 emissions while making up 20% of the soft drinks industry. No producer wants to see their packaging in the environment and so they are working closely with the government, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, WRAP and others to prevent this from happening.
So how many bottles are produced annually? A Grocer magazine report in March 2019 showed that sales of mineral and spring water had exceeded 2.2 billion litres in the UK. Most is sold in PET bottles although glass, cans and cartons are also available. So what’s the good news? Well PET is the most widely recycled product and 74% of plastic drinks bottles were recycled in 2016, and hopefully with more awareness that number has risen even higher in subsequent years. The PET bottles are 100% recyclable, including the bottle, lid and label.
Why don’t they use all other materials? Although there are other packaging options out there, natural source water producers have been very careful to look into their impact as a whole. Often alternatives are not actually better, as the recycling options are limited when you look at the UK as a whole or the carbon footprint is higher. There are other options out there for people to have choice but the general consensus is that PET plastic bottles are the best overall when recycled properly. Things like mineral water filling stations sound brilliant but legally spring water and natural mineral water must be bottled at source and receive no chemical treatment.
The industry does care and is trying to make something that meets legal requirements, is as environmentally friendly but is still commercially viable. This is what the Natural Hydration Council has to say:
PET plastic bottles represent only 2.1% of litter in the UK, of which natural source water represents 18% (BPF). Valpak’s 2017 study found that 74% of plastic (PET/HDPE) drinks bottles were collected for recycling from the kerbside in the UK in 2016, but we recognise more needs to be done to tackle the issue of littering and recycling, particularly when on the go. In 2017, we supported an initiative called For Fishes Sake, run by environmental charity, Hubbub.
We are committed to helping address the issue of plastic waste and are working with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, which has developed a strategy to address the short and longer term challenges associated with plastic packaging. This multi-stakeholder independent coalition published an ambitious roadmap in 2018 to tackle litter, increase recycling, and create a truly circular economy.
So in conclusion, water is by far the healthiest choice when needing to grab a drink when out and about, it is also preferable to many due to the lack of chemical treatment and provided that the bottles are recycled correctly, it can be the least impactful choice when choosing a drink.