Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The folly of bottled water

Extracts from an article by
restaurant reviewer Giles Coren for the Times Online

If I am not offered tap water before mineral water, restaurants will be penalised

Mineral water is a preposterous vanity. It is flown and shipped around the world, from France and Norway at best, from Japan and Fiji at worst. It is bottled in glass that is mostly thrown away and is stupidly heavy to freight, or in plastic which never, ever, decomposes and just goes to landfill or ends up in one of the "plastic patches" the size of Texas currently gyring in our oceans.

Food snobs and restaurant critics make a big song and dance about mineral waters they like and don’t like. New York’s Ritz-Carlton even caters to the whim of abstemious punters with a dedicated water list and sommelier.

The vanity of it! While half the world dies of thirst or puts up with water you wouldn’t piss in, or already have, we have invested years and years, and vast amounts of money, into an ingenious system which cleanses water of all the nasties that most other humans and animals have always had to put up with, and delivers it, dirt-cheap, to our homes and workplaces in pipes, which we can access at a tap.

And yet last year we bought three billion litres of bottled water.

3,000,000,000 litres! I have no idea how much that is. But it seems a lot.

Especially when we were fooled into buying it because of labels that said "pure as an alpine stream", "bottled at the foot of a Mexican volcano" or "cleansed for three million years beneath a Siberian glacier". What morons we are.

We spent £2 billion on the stuff. And then we grumble about water metering and annual domestic bills of a couple of hundred quid for water that is just as good, and whose consumption by us is unlimited. Those two billion pounds could go some way to mending the odd leak, don’t you think? Towards digging the odd reservoir?

From the restaurants’ point of view it is just a clipping system. It’s more free money. The mark-ups are bigger even than they are on wine. You’ll pay four to five pounds in most posh London restaurants for stuff no different, no different at all, from what you brushed your teeth in that morning (not leaving the tap on while doing so, I hope). The result is billions of unnecessary food miles, non-biodegradable waste, millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases, more urban pollution, hell in a handcart.

From now on, if a restaurant does not offer me tap water, politely, unsarcastically, and before they offer mineral water, then they will be penalised.

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At 12:41 PM, Blogger RC said...

tap water is almost always great for me...

there are only a few random backwoodsy places in Texas I had water and WISHED the places I was in served bottled water.

oh well.

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Alma said...

I remember once I read a bottle of water that states its source as "municipality of Houston"... or maybe I saw it on Penn & Teller's Bullshit show. Regardless, I remember thinking what genious that guy must be... filling bottles from his kitchen sink!

At 8:14 PM, Anonymous sylvia said...

Thank you for posting. This is one of my pet peeves. In 2004 I raced/sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii. I was alarmed and disgusted to see quite a bit of trash in the ocean. Almost all of it was plastic bottles. The ocean is a precious microcosm, home to a vast world of astounding life; how would we feel if people threw all that crap in our houses and yards? Grrrrr.


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