Have a guess how many litres of bottled water the UK knocks back a year. Got a figure in mind? Double it. About 2.5 BILLION litres is the answer. We know, crazy! The sad thing is, bottled water is no better for your health than plain old tap water. Actually, in some instances, tap water carries way more benefits over its plasticy companion.
Here are a few common “bottled water is king” myths debunked.
Myth 1: Bottled water is a convenient and cheap choice.
Well, it’s convenient in the way that microwave meals are – readily available and hassle free. But it’s certainly not cheap, it can cost anywhere between 500 and 1000 times more than tap water and gallon for gallon, it’s more expensive than diesel! Yet if you consume two litres a day from your trusty tap, you’ll part with less than £1 per year for the privilege.
Myth 2: Bottled water is safer to drink than tap water, because it’s purer.
Nope. Bottled water may actually be less safe than tap water, depending on its origins. You see, the UK is at the forefront in terms of quality tap water and stringent safety tests, following standards set by the EU Drinking Water Directive. The latest results show 99.96% compliance rates for tap water in England and Wales, 99.89% for Scotland, and 99.86% for Northern Ireland. Bottled water, conversely, is not managed by the same Directive because it’s classed as a food and beverage item, and won’t be tested to such strict levels of compliance.
And all that clever marketing speak about water being coaxed into bottles from springs and glaciers and mountains? Over half of it is actually municipal water, just like the stuff that comes out of your tap.
Myth 3: Bottled water contains more added minerals than tap water, making it healthier.
To be honest, the levels of these added minerals are so low in quantity that you’ll easily be covering your RDA with your food intake. Plus, tap water contains a small amount of chlorine, typically imperceptible to taste. This actually has an antibacterial effect (think swimming pools with less eye stinging and floaty poo) which makes tap water the beneficial choice.
Myth 4: Bottles are recyclable, therefore any carbon emissions are negated.
Ah, this is a biggie. Single-use bottles may well be recyclable, but it’s estimated that a 500ml bottle carries a carbon footprint of around 83g of CO2. Which, when you refer back to the horror-stat of 2.5bn bottles being purchased yearly in the UK alone, is quite a meaty chunk of carbon production. To minimise the damage, every bottle would need to be recycled, globally – and this just doesn’t happen. A bottle sent to landfill can take up to 700 years to degrade, and 90% of rubbish in our oceans is plastic waste. About 40,000 pieces per square mile, in fact.
Myth 5: Bottled water is potentially harmful to babies and small children.
Bottled water often contains levels of sodium and sulphate that are too high for little tummies to digest, which could make them poorly. You may need to use bottled water if your home supply of drinking water has become contaminated, or you’re travelling abroad and the local tap water isn’t recommended. In which case, bottled water should be boiled before giving to your child or using to make up formula milk by the pack instructions.
Different brands can vary, so check the label of the bottle. You’re looking for:
- Less than 200 milligrams (mg) a litre of sodium (also written as Na)
- No more than 250mg a litre of sulphate (also written as SO4)
With a tiny bit of preparation, tap water can be just as easy to grab as a plastic bottle. Invest in a reusable bottle, keep tap water in a jug in the fridge so it’s always chilled, add some fruit for a flavour punch, and away you go.
Until next time...
Sources (because we like to do our research!)