Residents of a rural Australian town hoping to protect the Earth and their wallets have voted to ban the sale of bottled water, the first community in the country — and possibly the world — to take such a drastic step in the growing backlash against the industry.
Residents of Bundanoon cheered after their near-unanimous approval of the measure at a town meeting on Wednesday. It was the second blow to Australia’s beverage industry in one day: Hours earlier, the New South Wales state premier banned all state departments and agencies from buying bottled water, calling it a waste of money and natural resources.
“I have never seen 350 Australians in the same room all agreeing to something,” said Jon Dee, who helped spearhead the “Bundy on Tap” campaign in Bundanoon, a town of 2,500 people about 160km south of Sydney. “It’s time for people to realize they’re being conned by the bottled water industry.”
First popularized in the 1980s as a convenient, healthy alternative to sugary drinks, bottled water today is often criticized as an environmental menace, with bottles cluttering landfills and requiring large amounts of energy to produce and transport.
Over the past few years, at least 60 cities in the US and a handful of others in Canada and the UK have agreed to stop spending taxpayer dollars on bottled water, which is often consumed during city meetings, said Deborah Lapidus, organizer of Corporate Accountability International’s “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign in the US.
But the Boston-based nonprofit corporate watchdog has never heard of a community banning the sale of bottled water, she said.
“I think what this town is doing is taking it one step further and recognizing that there’s safe drinking water coming out of our taps,” she said.
Bundanoon’s battle against the bottle has been brewing for years, ever since a Sydney-based beverage company announced plans to build a water extraction plant in the town. Residents were furious over the prospect of an outsider taking their water, trucking it up to Sydney for processing and then selling it back to them. The town is still fighting the company’s proposal in court.
Then in March, Huw Kingston, who owns the town’s combination cafe and bike shop, had a thought: If the town was so against hosting a water bottling company, why not ban the end product?
To prevent lost profit in the 10-or-so town businesses that sell bottled water, Kingston suggested they instead sell reusable bottles for about the same price. Residents will be able to fill the bottles for free at public water fountains, or pay a small fee to fill them with filtered water kept in the stores.
The measure will not impose penalties on those who don’t comply when it goes into effect in September. Still, all the business owners voluntarily agreed to follow it, recognizing the financial and environmental drawbacks of bottled water, Kingston said.
On Wednesday, 356 people turned up for a vote — the biggest turnout ever at a town meeting.
Only two people voted no. One said he was worried banning bottled water would encourage people to drink sugary beverages. The other was Geoff Parker, director of the Australasian Bottled Water Institute, which represents the bottled water industry.
Australians spent A$500 million (US$390 million) on bottled water last year — a hefty sum for a country of just under 22 million people.
On Thursday, Parker blasted the ban as unfair, misguided and ineffective.
He said the bottled water industry is a leader in researching ways to minimize bottled beverage impact on the environment. Plus, he said, the ban removes consumer choice.
“To take away someone’s right to choose possibly the healthiest option in a shop fridge or a vending machine we think doesn’t embrace common sense,” he said.
But tap water is just as good as the stuff you find encased in plastic, said Dee, who also serves as director of the Australian environment group Do Something.
“We’re hoping it will act as a catalyst to people’s memories to remember the days when we did not have bottled water,” he said. “What is ‘Evian’ spelled backwards? ‘Naive.’”
A public health expert yesterday warned that too many people are meeting in small groups in coffee shops and restaurants without keeping a proper distance from one another, as he urged the government to loosen the criteria for testing young Taiwanese returning from abroad for COVID-19. People need to keep a social distance of at least 2m, National Taiwan University (NTU) College of Public Health dean Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權) said as the college presented its seventh weekly report on COVID-19 at a morning news conference. More than 300,000 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in more than three-quarters of all
TWEET CONFIRMED: The US’ Morgan Ortagus backed up Taiwan, saying China only admitted that human-to-human transmission was possible as late as Jan. 20 Taiwan warned the WHO and China about possible human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus at the end of last year, but the global health body did not make it public, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. Department of International Organizations Director-General Bob Chen (陳龍錦) made the remark at a news briefing in Taipei, when asked about statements made by US Department of State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus. “Dec. 31— that’s the same day Taiwan first tried to warn WHO of human-human transmission. Chinese authorities meanwhile silenced doctors and refused to admit human-human transmission until Jan. 20, with catastrophic consequences,” Ortagus wrote on
MORE CASES EXPECTED: Many young Taiwanese would be returning home over the next two weeks, as schools in many nations closed, the health minister said Twenty-six new COVID-19 cases were confirmed yesterday, including five clusters, and all but one were imported, bringing Taiwan’s total number to 195, as border controls and home quarantine measures prove their effectiveness, the head of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said. Twelve of the new cases were in people tested at airports upon their return, 11 were in people under home quarantine and two were people who tested positive after seeking medical treatment, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said at its daily news conference. “The new domestic case is a woman who lives with
ON THE LOOKOUT: A Lockheed EP-3 reconnaissance plane was yesterday seen flying southwest of Kaohsiung, according to Twitter account ‘Aircraft Spots’ A Twitter account that tracks military aircraft movements has indicated an increase in US military activity near Taiwan, coinciding with an increase in Chinese military activity in the area. Planes from the US Seventh Fleet have been sighted frequently above the South China Sea in the past several days, and a US Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane was seen flying close to Taiwanese airspace southwest of Kaohsiung yesterday, according to posts by the Twitter account Aircraft Spots. The EP-3 was seen circling above the same area, Aircraft Spots said, adding that other planes from the fleet were seen in the past few days