Consumption of bottled water has risen dramatically in Switzerland, according to figures published in the newspaper Blick.
Before the 1970s, few in Switzerland drank water from anywhere other than kitchen taps or fountains. By 1998, 680 million litres of bottled water a year were consumed. Now the figure is an eye watering 977 million litres, 115 litres per person every year. That is equivalent to nearly 350 small single-use plastic bottles per person per year.
In addition, Switzerland has some of the best drinking water in the world. Some communes get their water from mountain springs, making it better than bottled water – it’s from a similar source but fresher.
So why are sales of bottled water so high? One advertiser, who didn’t want to be named, told Blick that the growth in sales of mineral water is strongly driven by advertising.
Around the world, rivers, lakes and oceans are becoming increasingly polluted by plastics, much of which is tiny micro plastic fragments invisible to the naked eye. Even Switzerland’s beautiful lakes are full of plastic. Research done in 2013 by Florian Faure, a researcher at EPFL in Lausanne, found significant levels of micro plastics in Lake Geneva. The level of micro plastics in the lake are approaching levels found in the mediterranean, according to Faure.
In addition, recycling gives people a false sense that single-use plastic is harmless. Unfortunately, 18% of PET bottles in Switzerland are not recycled1, and the environmental impact of making the bottle, bottling, transport and recycling is significant. Nestlé estimates that recycling the bottle reduces the climate change impact by only 25%.
Will McCallum, head of oceans at Greenpeace UK, reckons giving up the plastic-on-the-go lifestyle that generates much of the plastic waste damaging our oceans and waterways requires us to gradually unlearn existing habits. Getting a good reusable water bottle is one of the most important steps, he says. Home carbonation machines are a good option for fizz lovers.
Anyone looking for an incentive to change their ways could consider the cost saving. CHF 2 francs a day is CHF 730 francs a year.
Blick article (in German)
1 Figures from Federal Office for the Environment FOEN for 2016.