London bans plastic water bottles

  • Chris Jeavans
  • 28 Aug 08, 03:19 PM GMT

London, Ontario that is. The Canadian city's council last week voted to cease sales of bottled water at municipal buildings and facilities including parks and community centres.

Plastic water bottlesThe restrictions will begin on 1 September but will only apply to locations where water fountains or other easy ways of accessing drinking water are available.

Councillors, who voted 15-3 in favour of the move, say it is aimed at cutting the 40 million plastic drinks bottles sold in the city each year, of which only half are recycled.

The ban follows similar initiatives in other North American cities including Seattle earlier this year and San Francisco last year. In January, Chicago added a 5 cent tax to bottled water sold in the city.

This side of the pond, Liverpool council voted for a similar ban in 2007.

The new mayor of London, UK, Boris Johnson has promised to look into "a new era" of public water fountains in the city and the previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, launched a campaign to get customers in restaurants to ask for tap water, rather than bottled.

One of my new habits which I do think I will continue once September comes is to carry an aluminium water bottle around with me.

It really is just as easy as buying a new plastic one each time and at £2.99 for the bottle, it has paid for itself within a few refills from the tap.


  • Comment number 1.

    Regarding bottled water in Chicago. I was wondering why the bottles of water in Chicago were the most expenisve on my US tour earlier this year.

    I know that 5 cents is 2.7p, which is nothing really.

    I think the water fountains using the 16-18 litre bottles are recycled as when the supplier stocks up on bottles, they take the empties away.

    Much prefer the 'piped' water fountains as in some workplaces with the bottles, we ran out.

  • Comment number 2.

    Could someone please make the water in south Leicestershire to taste nice? It's horrible.

    My parents seem to think it's ok and no need to buy a filter water jug.

    Then I can taste the difference as the water where I used to live in West Yorkshire was lovely

  • Comment number 3.

    Pinkfloydareace, why don't you pick one up with your pocket money?

    Or give your parents a balance: they buy it, and if they don't like the taste of the filtered water better than the tapwater, you'll pay them back (or do extra chores or something).

    I, too, grew up with wonderful tap water and am now in a location with less-than-wonderful stuff. I don't notice the taste when I use it for tea, though, so I'm trying to drink more (noncaffeinated) tea and juice to make up. I'll probably buy a filter jug myself soon, though.

  • Comment number 4.

    Congratulations to Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best (a best friend's kid sister from when I lived in London). She has done some great things during her tenure but I think this will be her lasting legacy.
    And, I've been avoiding plastic bottles for a long time, and this video report on the garbage island in the Pacific only just reinforced my decision.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Chris,

    Reusable is a good choice. I have had a glass bottle for the last 10 years for work. My previous job the guys spent a fortune on cans, plastic bottles etc. A total waste of money.

  • Comment number 6.

    Shopping malls and all these pseudo public spaces that are taking over our cities should be forced by law to provide drinking fountains in a prominent place. It is the most basic service to the society they rely on for their business. I am fed up with carrying a water bottle for my children. Your are more likely to find a defibrillator than a tap! Where is the petition for me to sign?

  • Comment number 7.

    I will be doing a 5km fun run on Sunday 7th Sept at Hyde Park and the amount of waste produced by competitors throwing their water bottles on the ground is sickening.

    Why they cannot place bins around the place for the run I do not know. I understand that for a professional athlete its not possible to slow down to put rubbish in a bin, but out of the 20,000 who will be taking part next week there are roughly 10% of them who fall into that category.

    The rest of them are people like myself - out to have a giggle, raise some money for good causes. And to be honest there is NO excuse for any of us to be so dirty by throwing our litter on the ground.

    Its the one thing that ruins events like this for me :0(

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm curious: this is a month-long exercise and yet there'd been no mention of menstrual products. I realize this is a private matter but surely no more private or distasteful than diapers or deodorant, and tampons, menstrual pads and their packaging contain significant amounts of plastic that all go straight to the landfill. You may not wish to share your personal experiences in this realm (I myself use cloth pads) but I think at least a general discussion is warranted, since this is a significant part of the waste stream.

    I am really enjoying your blog. Thank you!

  • Comment number 9.

    I grew up with hard water in the rural Midlands. I now live in Scotland and have soft water. Having always happily drunken tap water I was surprised at how unappetising it tastes down south. On return up here I can appreciate the taste of soft water.

    Unless there are signs specifically telling you it isn't safe to, I top up my water bottle with tap water in toilets (although there isn't always a public loo available).

    In many places there are dried up public drinking fountains -particularly from the temperance movement. It would be wonderful if these could flow again.

  • Comment number 10.


    Jenny, Scots water is excellent. I always drink from the tap, except when some dirt has got in from a burst pipe. Watch out for that.

  • Comment number 11.

    Plastic water bottles are an obscenity. Even if they did not poison the water they contain with carcinogens, they poison the environment. I blame marketers who apparently can sell us anything. It is a fact that most municipal water, at least here in Canada, is as good or better than the stuff they sell us, at an insane mark up in plastic bottles.

    I have a small Japanese stainless steel thermos that I have been using for over 10 years, not only does it keep the water cold, there is no pollution. I paid $40 for it, or about the cost of 20 bottles of water. Is there any argument left for bottled water? I think not. In my whole life I have purchased maybe 10 bottles of the stuff, always because I had to. It should be banned everywhere.

  • Comment number 12.

    I hope they ban bottled water in my city too. It's so frustrating to see people simply throw out empties. I bought myself a plastic water bottle about 4 years ago, although its still plastic at least I'm reusing. We all need to remember that even though not everything can be recycled, we can reduce or reuse as feasible methods of control as well.

    Thanks again to everyone, especially you Chris for this interesting and thought evoking blog :)

  • Comment number 13.

    For me hydration of individuals has to be the priority. Taking in adequate water is clearly fundamental to the wellbeing of us all. I would not want to see such a ban in force without suitable provision and access to free water fountains / taps being already in place.

    However, just to play devils advocate, let's not forget the role bottled water plays in disaster relief. Take the recent floods where sewage contamination has rendered tap water undrinkable. Plastic undoubtedly has it's uses.

    However in the main I am anti-bottled water for mainstream lazy everyday convenient consumption.

  • Comment number 14.

    I too am blessed with good tap water and see bottles as a waste of money/ energy etc. My work have drinking fountains, but unfortunately provide polystyrene cups to drink it from. I have a 3 year-old bottle I use to refill...

    #8 menstruation is no longer the 'necessary evil' it used to be thanks to medical science, unless you're trying to get pregnant. Modern contraceptives mean you no longer need to put up with the 'monthly blues' - I opted out in 2000, and can now sleep soundly in my PMS-free bed, safe in the knowledge that I won't be adding to the world's problems by bringing it another mouth to feed :)

  • Comment number 15.

    I strongly endorse the comments of #6, #13 and the last paragraph of #9.

    Furthermore, I wish there could be SIGNIFICANTLY more water fountains at airports, especially due to the extremely annoying ban on liquids in hand luggage since August 2006. As it is, I am forced to buy bottled water from the duty free shops (still overpriced), whenever I travel by air. With water fountains, I would be able to refill my empty water bottles (the security normally allow them through).

    At home, I always drink tap water.

  • Comment number 16.

    London Ontario have it spot on, it seems. I think that the UK probably won't ban water in plastic bottles - but we might see it start to be taxed significantly in future.

    I would avoid the use of water filter jugs here too mind. If the water company can't sort out the quality of your drinking water with their billions in infrastructure, a £50 water jug won't either. Also - those filters have a limited capacity, and if you don't change them often enough (and they start to elute back into the water), you could be making things worse, not better.

    I have a metal water bottle I take to work, or when I go out anywhere. Works fine for me.

  • Comment number 17.

    I would also be interested in any research you've done about feminine products. I have personally been using OB tampons for years because it has less than half the waste of other products and I've tried the reusable cups, although they never fit quite right. Pretty awful actually.
    I've seen other products too that are fabric pads that velcro in place and can be washed an reused but I haven't been up to trying that one yet.
    I'm in chicago and thats the best I've done just by browsing while I'm out shopping but I'd be curious what the UK offers and anything else you might stumble across.

  • Comment number 18.

    are you sure aluminium is a good choice over plastic? isn't it quite strongly linked to alzheimer's?

  • Comment number 19.

    My mum works in a university library. There are many students that buy bottled water for 85p a bottle, take 2 sips and leave the bottle behind.

    My mum reckons during busy weeks, the cleaners pick up 80-100 bottles of water in the morning - most of them having half the water remaining.

    Then students complain they are skint!

    I used the sports bottle that came free when buying either a bag or spent more than £x at a sports shop for water when I was a student.

  • Comment number 20.

    #18 - 'are you sure aluminium is a good choice over plastic? isn't it quite strongly linked to alzheimer's?'

    Not according to the Alzheimers Society

    besides, metal solvency depends on the pH of your water. Most of the UK has medium to hard water, and most metals aren't very soluble in neutral to alkaline pH ranges. The more acid your tapwater, the more likely you are to get leaching from pipework/containers etc - but even then, I think that the risks are very low.

  • Comment number 21.

    First of all, I must say that this has been a highly enjoyable blog which has served a very useful insight into the world of not only the unnecessary overuse of plastic, but several other edging subjects. The comments have also allowed a broad pallet to be accessible to others like myself who are lesser in the know about such subjects (unfortunate however that some decide to come off as being brainwashed with an annoying one dimensional mantra to boot, however some of the websites mentioned by said individual are very useful and worth a look).

    I recently bought a plastic water bottle for the humble sum of £5.00 that has an input in the middle which is filled with water and then placed in the freezer and acts as a cooler for the beverage in the bottle. I have decided to label this as my Summer bottle. I also have a aluminium flask, which I label as my Spring/Autumn/Winter bottle.

    It's a serious mind trip to go into a supermarket and see a whole section dedicated to bottled water, and is highly alarming to see people buying the stuff in packs of four or six or eight. You pay water rates, you may as well utilise them!

  • Comment number 22.

    #17 I have a couple of friends who swear by mooncup, here's a link to the British site which might help:

    I would seriously urge all women of childbearing age who don't want to contribute to world overpopulation to go for contraceptive injections or Inter-Uterine Devices - no towels/ tampons to worry about, no moods, no cramps, no mess to have to deal with, and best of all no screaming brats who do nothing but consume for at least the first 20 years of their lives!

    I follow the '3 R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) to the best of my ability, but truly believe my greatest contribution to the future of this planet is my refusal to procreate, therefore saving the earth a lifetime's worth of waste

  • Comment number 23.

    #22 - allyleeds

    A guy from Newsnight lived a 'low carbon life' for a whole, maybe a year / eighteen months ago - very insightful.

    However despite his very best efforts his great work was undone by two things:-

    1. Flights for business and pleasure

    2. He and his wife had their second child during the year

    Both of these are massive environmental impacts and by far have a greater impact than you can ever 'off-set' through waste reduction and abstaining from plastic, despite the very best of intentions.

    World population numbers are forecast to continue to strongly grow and will place ever increasing demands upon the planet. Are you familiar with the 'three planet living theory'?


    I have four children - sorry!!
    However I rarely fly anywhere. Mainly because I have four children. i consider a kind of carbon off-setting.


  • Comment number 24.

    £5 for a plastic water bottle? £2.99 for a aluminium one? I always drink tap water, but when I'm out and about, I use a plastic bottle that previously contained mineral water, usually a supermarket own brand that cost 20-30p. One of those can easily last me a year, but ultimately, I can put it in the recycling box and buy a new one if it goes bad. Also, should I damage it or leave it on a train by accident, it doesn't matter! And it weighs almost nothing when empty.

    Water fountains are something that are severely lacking in this country. Unfortunately, in many places this is because they want people to buy their rip-off bottled water.

  • Comment number 25.

    #23 no I haven't looked into the 3 planet thing till you suggested it, I promise to spend more time studying it when I have more time.

    4 kids? You're a braver person than me! My refusal to have any gives (in my rationale at least!) one more person room to have 4 according to averages; I just worry that some people reproduce because that's the social norm, rather than what they really want, or what the planet needs.

    So many children die each day through starvation; deaths that could be avoided by effective use of contraception in the first place. These populations are generally the most reliant on food and water aid (both usually packaged in plastic); isn't it about time we focussed on birth control as not just a 'family planning' thing but better a 'planet saving' activity?

  • Comment number 26.

    Oh and #23

    You bring up the kids, I'll offset it by doing the flying ;)

    Only joking, I also rarely fly, why bother when there's so much on our doorsteps?

  • Comment number 27.

    I have 4 children too :-) I chose a long time ago to not contribute to water pollution by continuing to use hormonal contraceptives. (Oh and back when I did they made very little difference to my PMS!) There are two sides to every coin, aren't there?

    I do use a mooncup now that ecological, full-term breastfeeding no longer stops my menses (I sell cloth pads too but I'm not here to spam ;-) ) Other options include the 'Jam Sponge'

    Totally OT for this blog but I would be much more impressed if every government body, local, regional, whatever, subscribed to the Nestle boycott...

  • Comment number 28.

    Oh and also, yes our water up here in the Pennines is really nice, but I prefer it with the chlorine filtered out...

  • Comment number 29.

    Did Ken Livingstone actually try, even once, ordering tap water in a London restaurant?? Doesn't sound like it!! Almost all restauranteurs in London smugly refuse to do such an unprofitable gesture. Perhaps his successor can press forward with this sensible attempt to curtail plastic waste and, if nothing else, embarrass London restauranteurs into serving free tap water.

  • Comment number 30.

    1) i just want to say that as a member of the health care industry, water fountains are great to have in parks, and public facilities as some people don't want to buy a bottle of water and most people don't drink enough water as it is, but CAN be extremely unsanitary, as i've seen people spit in them, i've seen trash in them, gum, children putting their mouths on the fountain head. i am not by any means afraid of germs but i'd like to have the right to choose good infection control for myself.

    2) in response to the comment about aluminum, the link to Alzheimer's disease has been disproved.

  • Comment number 31.


    I agree absolutely, these restauranteurs should be setting a good environmetal example and not cashing on people's normal drinking requirements when eating.

  • Comment number 32.

    #23 - what he said. It's difficult to quantify (as the 'cake' is sliced up differently by practically every study on CO2 emissions), but it is thought that the total impact of waste on our annual CO2 emissions per capita is probably around 10-15%.

    So even by removing waste entirely, we're still looking at a reasonably modest contribution. Travel and food production impacts are greater in comparison.

  • Comment number 33.


    Hi Jonathan.

    It's more like a big plastic flask really; 34 oz with a drip free top. The plastic is fairly thick, so I shalt have any problems with splitting like I used to have with old mineral water bottles.

    Given that I expect it to last a long time, I didn't think that £5.00 was a lot to spend; it's durable and the money that was spent on it means that I'm not going to leave it anywhere by mistake.

  • Comment number 34.

    I did a similar waste experiment last year, if you are interested head to:

    It was last May, enjoy.

  • Comment number 35.

    #29 - My partner and I always order a jug of iced tap water whenever we go to a restaurant and we have never had a problem... bottled water has never been forced upon us. Also I can only think of one occasion when it's appeared on the bill!

    #8, #17 and #22 - I too would love to see some discussion about the different menstral products on the market.

    I've been using a 'mooncup' for the last couple of months now and I already love it. I find it slightly uncomfortable to put in and remove but once in I forget it is there (something I have never been able to do with tampons and towels).

  • Comment number 36.

    I never drink bottled water, the environmental impact of bottling water overseas in plastic and then flying it across the world for sale is truly shocking.

    But unfortunately, my health comes first, and if the government does decide to flouridate our water supplies - then I will be drinking ONLY bottled water!

    I'm afraid the scientific journals are all in plain agreement, and flouridation will not only impact negatively on the health of people of low socioeconomic status but will also dramatically affect the environment.

  • Comment number 37.

    #8 I also wondered this and was gonna ask today- I use Kotex pads as they are the most comfortable but I'll have a look at Mooncup.

    Great idea to not have kids if you want to reduce your carbon footprint/waste etc- bad idea to use hormonal if you don't want anything to be affected by the overage of oestrogen in the water supply (apparently this can affect the fertility of fish and possibly other animals- mainly male)-bad idea to use condoms as I'm sure there would be plenty of seagulls choking on these- and are they made of rubber anymore or plastic based?
    Maybe the environmentally concerned should become nuns/monks?!

    As for the main issue of plastic bottles etc in an ideal world it would be nice not to have any and to drink out of water fountains, have refill machines in supermarkets etc- but with all the health issues surrounding this that won't happen. One idea would be to ban "on the go" 500mm bottles and issue everyone Camelbacks (waterbladder in a backpack)- but the drinks companies would not like that idea! If we could at least ban bottled water we may get somewhere- though for holidays abroad (Spain etc) bottled water would be an essential. I suppose that's one good thing about the credit crunch- less holidays abroad, less flights, less bottled water!
    Or an even better idea- have more pubs and we could all drink there!

  • Comment number 38.

    This is another example of the trade-off. When I anticipate needing water (like hiking, long car trips, work) I have a refillable water bottle. When I get thirsty shopping I buy a plastic bottle of water because whats the alternative? Can of coke? Is that better for the enviroment? Glass bottle of water? Even more expensive, larger carbon footprint and most town centres don't have handy recycling bins.

    Public water fountains are a great idea in principle... in practice how long before some chav thinks its funny to wipe the nozzle with bleach? Given that someone enbedded razor blades into the swings on my local park anything is possible.

  • Comment number 39.

    #27 and #37 agreed that many hormonal-based contraceptives cause excess oestrogen. I personally use Mirena, see here:

    It's progestogen only, in minute doses about one quarter that of the mini-pill, I think I'd be excreting more oestrogen without it!

    Offset that with the no kids thing, plus the fact that I haven't needed a single sanitary product in over 8 years now and I think I've got the balance fairly right, but will be happy to listen if you disagree :)

  • Comment number 40.

    #30 and #38 - very good points about the water fountains, I can imagine the weekend drunks using them as urinals.

    I've found a bottle of tap water is a great way of carrying my cloth shopping bag around with me when going into town; it stops it flapping in the breeze, doesn't take up too much shopping space and weighs nothing when empty. Trust me, when you live in one of the Yorkshire valleys and the bus stop's at the top of the hill, you soon learn never to leave the house without a trusty bottle of tap water!

  • Comment number 41.

    100g of one of my favourite cheeses (Aran- made from Ewes milk) contains more oestrogen than I'm likely to absorb from 6 months drinking tap water. As with the 'carcinogens' leaching from plastic bottles the human body can deal with quite a lot without too much trouble. You'll get far more carcinogen from eating chips or breakfast cereal (acrylamide) and i use 500ml bottles of the stuff at work that doesn't worry me either!

  • Comment number 42.

    yes Peter, it's all about balance. If I'm out and about and thirsty, I don't feel guilty about buying a can or bottle of whatever I fancy; I do so safe in the knowledge that the packaging will be recycled when I get home :)

  • Comment number 43.

    Oh, and I'm just too damn tight-fisted to buy a drink at the shop opposite the bus stop every time I walk up that hill ;)

  • Comment number 44.

    On the occassions I have been to France for holidays, I have to buy bottled water as the water has been horrible. Thank goodness some supermarkets sell 12 litres for 90-£1.10.

  • Comment number 45.

    #35: In Central London, ("Tourist Central"), almost all restaurants refuse to serve tap water. They feel they have the customer 'over the barrel' and that they have the right to gouge the customer by serving only ridiculously over-priced and high carbon foot-print bottled water. I lived there for years.....I know.

  • Comment number 46.

    #39- might have to look into that, thanks...

  • Comment number 47.

    #46 I recommend Mirena to all and any women!

    I first had mine fitted to control endometriosis (*very* painful!) - the added benefits of reliable contraception and absolutely no periods were a welcome addition!

    It's time women challenged the assumption that the monthly cycle is compulsory, not just because of the devastating effect sanitary products have on the environment, but for the sake of our sanity!

  • Comment number 48.

    "On the occassions I have been to France for holidays, I have to buy bottled water as the water has been horrible. Thank goodness some supermarkets sell 12 litres for 90-?1.10."

    The French HEAVILY chlorinate their water. Put in a bottle in the fridge until its ice cold and it'll taste much better (not least because the chlorine evaporates) At least its safe to drink which is more than can be said for most of the worlds supply.

  • Comment number 49.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that each country's tap water harbours different micro-organisms. The people born in those countries, or who stay for some time quickly develop a natural immunity to these. Move to a different country and it takes more than a fortnight's holiday for the immune system to adapt, leading to poisoning from tap water that's perfectly safe for the locals to drink.

    Surely in that situation it's better for the environment to buy bottles of water, than the consequences of a tummy upset?

  • Comment number 50.

    #49. Not really. Most peoples gut bacteria are pretty similar and its gut bacteria that normally contaminate water. Our immune systems can cope with a remarkable amount of bacteria (like 50,000 E.coli per ml) but more than that will overwhelm the defences and make you ill. There are no safe levels of bugs like cryptosporidium or cholera. You'd be suprised how close to home cholera is found.... I wouldn't advise swallowing any seawater off Croatia for a start and I keep my typhoid shots up to date when I visit the med too.

    Dysentry from dirty water is the worlds biggest killer and it isn't tourists dying. You shouldn't have to worry about tap water within the EU, but in some places (like cyprus) it tastes so bad because of all the treatment that even the locals drink bottled.

  • Comment number 51.

    Thanks again Peter, I knew somebody out there would have a sensible answer for me!

  • Comment number 52.

    No problem! To be honest we're all the descendants of people who survived untreated water last century so genetically we're pretty tough but mother nature is tougher and there are some real nasties still out there. Best not to chance it. I had a friend caught amoebic dysentry in Turkey and lost 3 stone in a month and half.... not funny at all. Amoebas can survive fairly heavy treatment which is why the water in Southern Europe normally tastes like its come out of swimming pool.

  • Comment number 53.

    There's an easy way to tell if or not tap water is safe to drink:

    If you can hold it back with your thumb over the tap, it's coming from a cistern and therefore not safe to drink. If you can't hold it back with your thumb over the tap, it's coming from the mains and therefore is safe to drink.

  • Comment number 54.

    I really HATE plastic and most of the time I battle with my morals drinking water from a plastic bottle BUT I feel my reasons are justified.

    When I was 12, 3 members of my family got very sick with Cryptosporidium in Torbay and ever since I have had a phobia about tap water.

    Not to help matters, recent hype with terrorism has also got me worrying that resevoirs are an easy target to harm if not kill.

    AND if that wasn't enough, I live in London and the water pipes here go back to Victorian times (acknowledged by Thames Water) which gives me even more cause for concern as there are reports suggesting there are traces of all sorts in the water i.e. Cocaine.

    With all of the above in mind, I think that the consumer of water bottled at the source should not be targetted and pressure on the large water corporations should be stepped up to act more responsibly with their packaging.

    Independent, private water companies such as Evian and Volvic should be pressured to invest in finding alternative packaging for their water other than plastic.

    If we can put a man into space, why is it so hard to find an alternative to plastic that is harmless to the environment?

  • Comment number 55.

    #53. Not true at all. All thats telling you is the water pressure and mains pressure on the 6th floor of a hotel will be less than from a cistern on the roof. Basic physics.

    If you have crypto in the mains you're going to be spending a lot of time on the loo. Cisterns are more risky, but not greatly so. If they're airtight nothing should get in them in the first place. Effective treatment is more important.

    #54. Don't worry. In the 60's 'action direct' put lab cholera into Paris's water supply. The chlorine and turbitity of the water killed it in minutes. You'd need dumper trucks full of most poisons to contaminate a reservoir.

  • Comment number 56.

    Peter, I did once accidentally drink the tap water in Cairo, sold to me by a hotel owner in a 1.5 litre bottle. It didn't dawn on me that the seal had been previously broken until my ex and I had drunk it all and went to buy another one. Said hotel owner told us 'of course I reuse the bottles people leave behind by filling them with tap water' - the idea of throwing those bottles away was just totally alien to him, we in the west have a lot to learn!

    I spent the next 3 days in fear of something life-threatening, but suffered no ill effects. My ex on the other hand spent almost a week on the toilet (shame!). It just goes to show that a strong immune system can work wonders against even the most evil of bugs :)

  • Comment number 57.

    Have you looked into the much easier produced hemp based plastics, which are safer to both produce as well as to throw away as that they do decompose.

  • Comment number 58.

    The aluminum water bottles are coated with a liner inside, but the liner might wear away and expose you to aluminum. But the amount of aluminum you'd get from a water bottle is very small and unlikely to affect you.
    Aluminum in sufficient quantities causes neurological damage, though, and if I were looking for a water bottle I might avoid it. I don't have aluminum cookware either.

  • Comment number 59.

    #57 - Have you considered the environmental impacts of producing hemp based plastics and then landfilling or composting these vs the impact of producing conventional plastics and recycling them?

  • Comment number 60.

    #58 - 'Aluminum in sufficient quantities causes neurological damage.'

    Not according to the Alzheimers Society.

  • Comment number 61.

    Peter Sym: While you're technically right, pressure is as good a way as any of telling the difference between mains and stored water in buildings of one or two floors. It's just a rule of thumb (literally!) and it may not be right everytime, but it works often enough.

    Mains water contains dissolved chlorine for the purpose of killing germs. However, the only thing keeping it dissolved is the pressure in the pipes. A cistern is by definition open to the atmosphere, allowing the dissolved chlorine to escape and germs to enter; and you don't know how long it's been there.

    And biodegradeable or easier-to-recycle bottles are missing the point. There is already an underground network of pipes covering most of this country, and transporting water in containers in parallel with this network is criminally irresponsible.

  • Comment number 62.

    I would like to comment that not all tap water is as safe as most of you seem to believe. I live in an old property in Brussels and have just learned from the local council that my incoming water flows through "Victorian" lead pipes under the pavement. These apparently are due to be replaced in the next 2-3 years, but until this happens I, for one, will stick to bottled water for consumption. Luckily I live not in the UK but in Belgium, where I can buy Spa mineral water in glass bottles. I started buying these in crates a few years ago when I got a letter from the supermarket where I do my shopping that Belgium was imposing a tax on plastic bottles and whether I would consider switching to glass. As I don't have a car I get the crates delivered once a month. When I place a new order, the crates with the empty bottles are picked up for me and replaced and I must say I'm very pleased with this solution. I think the magic word is "deposit", the exchange system that every country used to have before plastics took over. Of course it's more cumbersome logistically as well as labour intensive, but I think it's what we need to cut waste. And while we're at it, why not ban cans at the same time or tax them heavily at least. Everything should be sold in glass bottles again, from milk to beer. Perhaps the milkman should make a comeback in a big way!

  • Comment number 63.

    #62 - 'I would like to comment that not all tap water is as safe as most of you seem to believe. I live in an old property in Brussels and have just learned from the local council that my incoming water flows through "Victorian" lead pipes under the pavement. These apparently are due to be replaced in the next 2-3 years, but until this happens I, for one, will stick to bottled water for consumption.'

    I wouldn't worry about the lead pipes. You'll pick up more contaminants from the bottled water. Unless you live in a very soft-water area (and I don't think Belgium has much in the way of soft water - it's mainly low-lying, and low-lying areas tend to have the wrong underlying geology for soft water), there is negligible risk from the use of such pipes. They build up a patina over time, and next to nothing leaches out of them - I still have one in my house for the main supply, and this is Victorian like yours.

    When it got damaged a few years back, I replaced most of the lead with plastic and copper (although the first incoming section to the water main is still lead pipe), but I kept the piece I'd removed and cut it into sections to have a look at it. The whole inside of the pipe was lined with a thin layer of scale - which is quite insoluble, and which acts as a barrier between the water and the lead.

    I had my tap water tested prior to this [a mate of mine worked in an environmental analysis lab, and ran a testing suite for me] and the lead content was minimal. Our water here is reasonably neutral - we don't suffer with limescale to a great extent, but it isn't anywhere near as soft as it is elsewhere in the UK. It's all about the pH of your water - lead has a quality known as 'plumbosolvency', and it becomes a lot more soluble the more acid your water becomes. To counter this the water companies add small amounts of a corrosion inhibitor to the supply network, adding something known as orthophosphate. might be of interest to you here.

  • Comment number 64.

    how is a cistern 'by definition' open to the atmosphere? my toilet cisterns aren't

  • Comment number 65.

    #64 - Mains water storage cisterns generally are open to the atmosphere - although they may have covers, they'll also be vented to equalize pressure - if you don't vent them and then you empty them, you'll produce a vacuum which will cave the sides of the tank in. Equally, if it isn't vented and you try to fill it, you'll create a head of pressure as the unvented air has nowhere to go.

    The toilet cistern is also vented as it has an overflow, either to a pipe or back to the W/C. So when it fills, the displaced air escapes down the overflow (or around the edge of the cistern cover), and when it empties, air returns via the same route.

  • Comment number 66.

    #63 I live in West Yorks and I've had the same kettle for the past 8 years, there isn't a single spot of limescale on it yet. This is not a sarcastic question, I'm now worried because I live in a Victorian property with the original mains. Do I need to swap to bottled water to avoid lead poisoning? My tap water tastes great by the way, I'm just a little concerned now.

    The water bottles would *absolutely* be recycled if I had to buy them...

  • Comment number 67.

    You could check with the Drinking Water Inspectorate what the score is in your area.

    Here's last years report for your area.

    I think that you can get your water company to come and take a sample if you are bothered (well, you used to be able to, but I don't know what the score is nowadays). My guess is that they will be undertaking preventative dosing with orthophosphate to prevent the lead becoming an issue.


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