I thought that I would like to share this article from the Daily Mail on comments made by the Environment Minister.
Sorry it's a long post!
We've all been there, thinking about whether to ask for tap water in a restaurant: "Will the waiter refuse me? Will he accept, but grudgingly, with a raised, slightly superior, ego-bruising eyebrow?"
Worse perhaps: "Will the person I'm with think I'm being tight fisted, willing to sacrifice quality just to save some money?"
We Brits pride ourselves on our common sense. Yet, paradoxically, even though our drinking water is some of the best in the world, and the health benefits of drinking water are increasingly very well known, generally when we're in a restaurant most people don't ask for tap water (and, even more oddly, a huge number of people drink mostly bottled water in their homes too).
It could be something to do with the fact that some people assume that the quality of what we get out of the tap is inferior to bottled water; but for a lot of people it's probably more to do with the fact that we're all a little scared of the reaction of our waiter, or those who are with us at the time.
There is clearly a pretty silly social element at work here - and this needs to change.
In England, we've got some of the best-quality water in the world and we should be more proud of it.
As the Environment Minister, I'm not going to tell people what to drink but I believe there is no place for snobbery about tap water, and no excuse for making people feel small if they do ask for it.
In Paris, leading restaurants have been offering "designer" (Pierre Cardin) carafes full of tap water instead of bottled water, and I am delighted that, in London, Thames Water is planning to sponsor a similar initiative.
If this move by Thames and the Mayor of London makes people more likely to ask for what they want in restaurants, then that has to be a good thing.
Of course there are circumstances where bottled water is a sensible option and fizzy (and those flavoured) waters are different products.
Ultimately, this is a question of choice - it's not the job of the Government to tell people what to buy.
But as far as I am concerned, it's absurd to use up the Earth's resources (including oil and lots more water) to manufacture a bottle and then fill it with water from somewhere else, using up still more of the Earth's resources to transport it hundreds or even thousands of miles, only for the bottle to end up being sent to landfill or using energy to be recycled - when the alternative is turning on the tap.
Sillier still is then to put ice cubes in your glass, also frozen from water from the tap.
Consumer groups estimate that we buy 13 billion plastic bottles of water in the UK each year. That is equal to about one bottle of mineral water per head of population every fortnight. Of those, we recycle some three billion and throw away an incredible ten billion.
In the manufacturing process, it requires seven - yes seven - litres of water, to make a single one litre plastic bottle.
And many of the bottles that are thrown away end up in our rivers and canals, creating a miniature version of the toxic vortex of bottles and other plastic debris that swirls around some of our great oceans.
It is very welcome to see that some of the bottled-water companies are looking to do more to encourage bottle recycling and the companies undoubtedly do a good job to protect the countryside by minimising the environmental damage when they take water out of the ground.
That said, with water available relatively cheaply at the end of a pipe - which doesn't have nearly as big an effect on the environment - it does seem very curious that still mineral water is so popular.
Rightly, over the past few years most people's attitudes to what man’s effect are on the environment, and particularly on climate change, has moved on quite a lot.
It's no longer seen as a bit odd to care about "green" matters - and this is clearly a good thing.
However, in large part because of the Victorians' engineering genius, our attitude to water is out of date - we take it for granted, but it is a precious and limited resource that we must value properly.
It's for this reason that I have recently launched the Government's strategy on water, and why water-metering (among other things) will need to become more widespread in areas where water is scarce.
There used to exist a widespread view in this country that says: what's freely available, what everybody can get, is necessarily not as valuable as something that is purchased individually, especially those goods that are seen as luxuries (due to scarcity, high prices, frighteningly effective marketing, or a combination of all of these).
Attitudes to common goods have changed, but nevertheless some products, rightly or wrongly, are seen as superior.
In the case of the difference between tap and still bottled water (even supposed "status" waters) this claim looks particularly dubious.
In the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, we took the view that there are good reasons to switch to using tap water in meetings because of bottled water's environmental impact (and cost).
This decision was the right one, and we will be getting other Government departments to follow suit.
Whether restaurants serve tap water is a decision for them, but if people ask for tap water as a matter of course, then the current stigma that's attached to it can't last.
There is certainly a debate to be had, and it does no harm for restaurants to know the public's views about this.
That’s one mans distorted view of peoples preferences for good tasting water, and I say distorted because what he should be talking about is, not what’s in the bottle but the plastic bottle its self.
It has long been apparent that a person leaves common sense behind when entering Parliament (always assuming that they had some in the first place) but the above article in the Daily Mail by the Environment Minister surely proves it beyond all doubt!
His main objection and purely speculative suggestion is that the explosion of sales in bottled water by the British population is to save embarrassment in restaurants, where does he get his silly ideas? Has he actually done any research on how many people from our 60 million plus population eat in restaurants? And of that amount how many of them actually drink water of any type with there meal? I think not, what he is saying is totally silly (the word he repeatedly uses about purchasers of bottled water.) and unfounded. Has the Minister got shares in Thames Water or some other water company I wonder?
Personally I would avoid at all cost drinking the foul tasting Chlorine polluted water straight from the tap, without first making sure that it was suitably filtered, especially as the current Loony Labour Government are about to force feed the population a highly toxic acid, Fluoride just in case it might save some people getting tooth cavities, but that’s another story!
Yes He is probably right in his patronising comment that “Brits do pride them selves on their common sense” yes you are right minister,and that of course is why the choose to drink good tasting water, the choice is there’s, surely. He does however make one valid point about the transporting of water from all over the world, in the same way as it is totally questionable about the wisdom of transporting wine, cheese, apples, lamb, or any other foods stuff from Australia or New Zealand when we already produce it here, but then we do have a free trade arrangement, don’t we? But are we talking about the content or the plastic bottle, and if it is the bottle it comes in? Use your common sense Minister and simply ban all non-recyclable plastics, a simple solution!
Now, going back to the restaurant, I have never known any one to be embarrassed about asking for a jug of tap water and I have never known a restaurant refuse, I wouldn’t choose it because I know better!
But most people ask for a bottle of water because they are out for lunch or dinner to experience good food and drink, and are more likely to be embarrassed about asking for a cheap house wine to save a “raised eyebrow” from a waiter, who probably doesn’t know one wine from another anyway!
The minister may not be aware but all of the drinks (whether in a bottle or not) are in fact water in one form or another, and all of them take a huge amount of water to produce, so if he wants to be silly (his word) why not have restaurant draw their wine from 50 gallon drums stored out the back somewhere and serve it up in a jug! Just think of the saving there in transport and plastic bottles etc. I’m a bit suspicious of his motives for picking on water in this manner, it is not good enough to pick on “still” water in this way as the same principle applies to any drink transported anywhere in the world, why not pick on health damaging sugary drinks such as Coca Cola, or wine, beer and spirits?
I really shudder at his amazingly “silly” comment “There is certainly a debate to be had, and it does no harm for restaurants to know the public views about this”
Again this silly man has totally missed the point! The public has already shown its views and chosen bottled water and that is why the industry is so big and continuing to grow, where does he get his information? Has this ridiculous Nanny state got nothing better to do with its time?
If he is really serious about saving our land fill sites from 10 billion empty plastic water bottles, along with all other plastic bottles, simply ban them as a health and environment menace, or at least make sure that all bottles are recyclable and have a substantial deposit on them to make sure that people take them back to the shops, perhaps he should visit the Netherlands to see what they do.
Further on in his article the minister gets even sillier and quotes:
“But as far as I am concerned, it’s absurd to use up the Earths resources (including oil and lots of water) to manufacture a bottle and then fill it with water from somewhere else, using up still more of the Earths resources to transport it hundreds if not thousands of miles, only for the bottle to end up being sent to landfill or using energy to be recycled – when the alternative is to turn on the tap.”
He should be reminded that the fuel that goes into his car or in the taxi or bus that he uses is a diminishing Earth resource, the gas that heats his house and the electricity that lights his home or keeps his fridge and freezer working, or cooks his meals, and once it has been used it never comes back, but does cause environmental pollution and climate change, whilst water recycle its self continually just as it has done for millions of years, just as nature intended, so you see the resource of water is never used up but it is used time and time again.
His figure of 13 billion plastic water bottles cannot be trusted based on other information he gives, but even if the figure is accurate he seems to suggest (heavily) that it is restaurants that are responsible and that being caused by “embarrassed” customers (are all restaurant goers shy?) surely it only shows that tap water just doesn’t taste good and nothing to do with “snobbery” how silly of him to say “It’s a precious and limited resource” Precious it certainly is, but it is not limited in the same sense that oil based products are, water and water vapour is always kept in the Earths atmosphere, and just in case he hasn’t noticed it is conveniently delivered back to Earth in the form of rain to be collected and re-used over and over again. Clever isn’t it?