Are there countries that import bottled water?

Mineral water import: a nonsensical ecological sin?

It is downright absurd: Although there are more than 200 mineral fountains and particularly high-quality tap water in Germany, we are diligently importing mineral water in disposable plastic bottles from elsewhere. In 2017 alone, 800 million plastic bottles were carted across Europe - and ended up on the trash here. Also absurd: In the French town of Vittel, the groundwater level is now falling due to mineral water production, and the town will soon have to be supplied via a water pipeline.

Mineral water is very popular. The French mineral waters Volvic, Vittel, Evian and Contrex are among the leading non-carbonated mineral water brands in Germany. These waters, produced by the companies Nestlé and Danone Waters, make up a large part of the mineral water imports to Germany - and that is a lot: in 2017 alone, around 1.3 billion liters of mineral water were imported.

Imported plastic glut

The problem with it: This mineral water is sold in disposable plastic bottles. As a result, around 800 million plastic bottles were transported over long distances from France, Italy and other countries to Germany in 2017. Once drunk, these plastic bottles end up in the garbage and multiply the already enormous mountain of plastic waste that we Germans produce. In addition, the long transport routes and sometimes particularly heavy water bottles are also wasting resources and polluting the climate, as reported by Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH).

The Evian brand is particularly criticized by the environmental organization. Because their plastic bottles are particularly thick and heavy and contain a correspondingly large amount of plastic: "The use of one-way plastic bottles, which weigh almost as much as refillable returnable bottles, is completely irresponsible," criticizes Thomas Fischer, DUH head of circular economy. "Instead of conserving resources and avoiding waste, corporations like Danone Waters waste fossil raw materials with unprecedented excesses." He demands that Danone Waters stop this unecological excess of materials.

But nature in some regions of origin of the mineral water is already suffering: “While the Nestlé Group in the village of Vittel taps 750 million liters of water every year, the residents will soon be left on dry land,” reports Fischer. "In Vittel, the groundwater level has been falling by 30 centimeters every year since 1990." Now plans are being made to build a kilometer-long pipeline to supply the residents of Vittel with water from the neighboring village.

The alternative: regional and reusable

It would not be necessary to import these mineral waters: especially in Germany there are plenty of regional sources. There are around 200 mineral fountains in this country, many of which fill their water in reusable bottles. Because they are refilled up to 50 times and the transport routes are short, reusable bottles are considered to be more resource and climate-friendly than single-use plastic bottles. "Our tap water is also of particularly good quality and is an alternative to plastic bottle madness," says the deputy DUH federal manager Barbara Metz. In their opinion, it is therefore completely absurd to transport mineral water across national borders over long distances.

Something can be done about this ecological absurdity - very practical: we consumers could start buying water in glass bottles instead of mineral water in disposable plastic bottles or switching straight to tap water - the quality of this is often even better than purchased mineral water, as studies show . In the longer term, this could also induce companies such as Nestlé and Danone Waters to change something about their single-use bottle practices. But politics is also called for, according to Deutsche Umwelthilfe: The current reusable quota of only 43 percent is very far from the legal target of 70 percent. A first step could be to levy a tax of 20 cents on disposable plastic bottles and beverage cans. Then the environmental pollution caused by single-use plastic bottles would be at least slightly reflected in their price.

Source: Deutsche Umwelthilfe DUH

19th September 2018

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