Switching from plastic water bottles to other single-use materials like glass and aluminium risks creating fresh problems for the environment, according to a new analysis.
The independent think tank Green Alliance found that substituting half of the UK’s plastic water bottles for glass ones could generate more than a million tonnes of carbon emissions, equal to the average emissions created by the entire population of Bath (around 100,000 people).
The analysis concluded that refilling reusable water bottles is the only sustainable alternative to single-use plastic, noting that a typical container designed for refill only has to be topped up 15 times to have a lower carbon impact than a plastic one.
Consumption of bottled water has doubled in the past 15 years, and is still rising. Over half of all single-use plastic bottles used in the UK are for water with the average UK adult consuming 150 single-use water bottles every year.
More recently, rising public concern about plastic and marine pollution has resulted in the development of water in aluminium cans, glass bottles or cartons.
Green Alliance, however, found that these alternative materials also have significant environmental impacts. It found that if half of the UK’s plastic water bottles switched to cans, mining the aluminium could generate 162,010 tonnes of toxic waste, enough to fill up the Royal Albert Hall over six times.
Tap water, on the other hand, is inexpensive and causes 180 times fewer emissions than a standard plastic bottle of water.