Staying hydrated on the move
Water plays a number of important roles in the human body. Water acts as a:
- Building material
- Solvent and reaction medium
- Carrier of nutrients and waste products
- Thermoregulatory agent - that is it helps regulate body temperature
- Lubricant and shock absorber.
Water balance in the body is therefore essential to healthy living.
When people are out and about they often choose bottled water for hydration. To stay well hydrated, it’s recommended that men consume 2.6 litres of fluid per day and women consume 2.1 litres per day1. Of course this amount may vary depending on your level of physical activity, age, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, even what part of Australia you live in. Some people need more, some people less.
For many Australians bottled water is a convenient way to keep hydrated away from home. Water is one of only a few zero-calorie, on-the-go hydration options.
1. National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand including Recommended Dietary Intakes (NHRMC, Canberra, 2006)
The industry is a proud supporter of communities, especially when in need. Each year, members of the peak industry association, the Australasian Bottled Water Institute (ABWI), support the relief efforts for drought, fire and flood, as well as for community-based organisations, such as schools, sporting organisations and community clean-up projects. In 2008-09 members donated more than $1.2 million to communities in product and in-kind support. This equates to approximately 225,000 litres of water.
How much groundwater is used?
Each year the bottled water industry uses approximately 600 million litres (or megalitres - ML) of water sourced primarily from underground springs and aquifers. While this might sound like a lot, it is estimated to be just under 0.01 per cent of the groundwater allocated for use in Australia each year.
How is this worked out?
- Australians use 80,000 gigalitres (80,000 billion litres) of water per year1 - this equals 219 gigalitres a day (219 billion litres a day)
- 600 megalitres into 80,000 gigalitres = 0.0075 per cent
To put this further into context, metropolitan Melbourne alone uses 500 gigalitres of water per year2 or 1.3 billion litres of water each day. So the bottled water industry, using 600 million litres, uses equivalent to half a day’s supply for Melbourne.
Re-using water bottles
Plastic bottles have one of the highest recycle or re-use rates within a household. In 2006, 90% of households recycled or re-used plastic bottles, up from 80% in 20001.
Single serve water bottles, usually in 600ml to 1.5L sizes, are 100% recyclable. So all the packaging can be reused if the bottles are recycled properly.
Bulk bottled water e.g. water cooler bottles, accounts for 40 per cent of the bottled water market in Australia. Most of this is sold in 11 litre or 15 litre containers. These bottles are refilled around 30-40 times during their lifetime and are fully recyclable once their use has come to an end, usually after five years.
Landfill in Australia
All plastic bottles made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate), including condiment containers, household cleaning bottles and water bottles, contribute just 0.3 per cent of the material going to landfill in Australia. It is important to remember that all water bottles are 100% recyclable so this figure will decrease even further as people recycle more.
The bottled water market
In 2008, Australians consumed approximately 600 megalitres of bottled water, from both water coolers (40%) and single serve bottles (60%). Of this volume, 90% was sourced from groundwater with the remaining 10% comprising filtered rain water or municipal water.
The industry is worth approximately $600 million annually with single digit growth expected for the short term1.
1. Australasian Bottled Water Institute industry research
Increasingly efficient use of water
Australian bottlers strive to achieve world’s best practice in water usage. Naturally some will be more efficient in their water use than others. On average, Australian and New Zealand bottlers use just 1.4 litres of water in their plants to produce 1 litre of finished product. This compares to European and US bottlers than can use as much as three times that amount.
Bottlers know water is a precious resource and just because they set the benchmark, this doesn’t mean the industry can relax. All bottlers, large and small, are continuously looking for ways of doing things better.
All bottled water is packaged in either small polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, larger polycarbonate bottles or refillable glass bottles. All these materials are 100 percent recyclable. Even the caps and labels are designed to be recycled along with the bottle and are compatible with local recycling systems.
Approximately 46% of all PET bottles are recycled1, which is around the same recycling rate as glass. We all need to do more to increase this rate.
As mentioned earlier, all large water cooler bottles are recycled. When we include this with the recycling rates for PET bottles, bottled water has a total recycling rate of 60%, which is the highest recycling rate for any commercial beverage.
Recycling at home and on the go
With approximately 90% of Australian households having access to kerbside recycling, residential recycling rates for different types of beverage containers are:
- Glass beverage containers - 56%
- Aluminium beverage containers - 83%
- PET beverage containers - 69%
Unfortunately, it is the away from home recycling rates that tell a different story:
- Glass beverage containers - 17%
- Aluminium beverage containers - 31%
- PET beverage containers - 17%
That’s why groups such as the Packaging Stewardship Forum and National Packaging Covenant have undertaken hundreds of projects across Australia to help reduce the packaging used and improve recycling rates of the packaging away from home.
Less PET means big savings
In 1994, Australian bottlers were the first in the world to package beverages using recycled material in PET bottles. Light weighting of PET water bottles in Australia since the late 1990s has meant 30% less material, energy and water has been used to make the same number of bottles1.
In 2004 one tonne of PET made 38,000 bottles - today the same amount of PET makes 46,500 bottles2. It makes commercial sense to continue to reduce the package while maintaining the required standards of function e.g. package strength for transportation.
A 750ml PET bottle has an 80% smaller carbon footprint than a 750ml glass bottle through the whole lifecycle3.
1. Visy Industries Data
2. Franklin and Associated Life Cycle Inventory for Container Systems for Wine, USA, 2006
3. Visy Industries data, Plastics and Chemicals Industry Association (PACIA) data and NSW Department of Climate Change calculator
A complement to tap water
Australia as a nation is fortunate to have a safe municipal water supply. Most towns and cities have good quality water that local residents enjoy every day. Water from the tap is an important source of hydration for most Australians.
Bottled water is not intended as a replacement for tap water. Rather, it provides a healthy and convenient option for people when they are on the go. Bottled water and tap water work hand-in-hand to provide people with their daily hydration needs at home or out and about.
At home, some people choose to only drink bottled water and this could be for a number of reasons, such as the quality of their tap water, a preference for the taste of bottled water or wanting to avoid other chemicals that might be in town water like chlorine and fluoride. Ultimately it comes down to individual choice.
All major municipal water suppliers regularly update their websites on water quality. Please refer to your local provider’s site.
The Australasian Bottled Water Institute (ABWI) is the peak industry association and certifying body representing all sectors of the bottled water industry in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands.
Founded in 1995, ABWI is the regional member of the International Council of Bottled Water Associations (ICBWA), and was formerly known as the Australian Chapter of the International Bottled Water Association.
ABWI’s member companies produce and distribute approximately 90% of total bottled water production in Australia and New Zealand.
Who are ABWI’s members?
ABWI members span the breadth of the bottled water industry and include micro, small, medium and large bottlers. Collectively ABWI members produce and distribute 90% of all the bottled water produced from metropolitan and rural areas right across Australia, the South Pacific Islands and New Zealand.
Many members first start bottling water as an alternative crop to more traditional agricultural pursuits. In Australia, local bottlers employ approximately 10,000 people and include people who work at the source as well as in administration, marketing and delivery of the product to market.
All members not only conform to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand’s (FSANZ) legislative standards but must also meet stringent quality standards for the safe processing of bottled water, as set by the ABWI Model Code. Failure to comply with the Model Code results in termination of ABWI membership.
For a list of ABWI members, click here.