Water being poured into a glass. To go with stories about fluoride (and fluoridation) of drinking water. Picture: Thinkstock
Water being poured into a glass. To go with stories about fluoride (and fluoridation) of drinking water. Picture: Thinkstock

Here’s the ‘novel idea’ we need to try

IT'S the problem we've invented because of the excuse of inconvenience.

Australia is regarded as having some of the best water quality in the world, and yet we contribute to the staggering one million plastic bottles being used every minute around the world - most of which end up in the ocean or landfill.

Now there's a push to return to old ways and go back to the "novel idea" of using the tap, filling up reusable bottles in an effort to combat our waste issue and reliance on plastic.

The water issue was one of several tackled in ABC's Q&A panel on waste on Monday night and social media was quick to react, calling for a return to the "old days" when drinking straight from the hose was the norm.

Audience member Peter Hadfield, from Sydney Water, asked the panel what needed to happen to get people to fill their reusable water bottle with H20 from the tap.

He said bottled water could be up to 2000 times more expensive than tap water so a waste problem in Australia caused by plastic bottles seemed "totally needless".

Panellists were quick to point out bottled water did not exist in their day, but with everyone guilty of the habit, they said it was hard to point fingers on who was to blame or who needed to address the issue.

"We can say government must ban it and maybe they should and make it harder - make it more expensive," said Ronni Kahn, chief executive of food rescue charity OzHarvest.

"Each and every one of us are buying bottles of water.

"So I'm always very wary of pointing fingers at other people. Definitely government could do more but so could all of us as consumers. We have to take responsibility. We have to take action and be responsible for the results."

Jo Taranto, director of social enterprise start up Good for the Hood, said it was one of the simplest habits to kick when you're looking at reducing your plastic footprint.

"We are so blessed in Australia to have clean drinking water," she said.

"I do think occasionally people are scared about what is in water.

"If you are scared about what's in water, you can filter it. You can filter it and you can drink it.

"There is a fear but I do think it's convenience.

"As we've said, most people in the community want to do something for the environment. What trumps that? Generally convenience. People go, 'you know what, if it's inconvenient, I'm just going to buy that'.

"It's like anything, you have to get into the habit of taking your bottle with you."

Host Tony Jones asked Mr Hadfield if the fact people were buying too much bottled water suggested they did not trust the water coming from their taps.

Mr Hadfield there was a perception - particularly thanks to bottled water marketing - the quality in plastic bottles was better.

War on Waste host Craig Reucassel said they had tested water in season two of the series, which premieres on Tuesday night.

"It's fascinating the difference - there's no safety issue with tap water," he revealed.

"In Australia, we're incredibly lucky. A lot of the plastic waste is coming from countries where you don't have good tap water. And obviously people are forced to buy bottled water. "That's what frustrates me so much in Australia is we have great tap water and we're still doing that.

"It's not only about convenience, our fault, and you do need councils, and councils are doing this. If I am the person that carries around my water bottle as I do, there's access to water around the place and becomes more of a normality.

"Years ago Australia was quite bad but it is happening a lot more now. Again, it's the habit change."

Mr Hadfield said Sydney Water was working with 20 local governments in the area and rolled out 170 new water refill stations to overcome the problem and the excuse of inconvenience.

With several other waste issues tackled by the panel, including food waste, recycling, composting and packaging, audience members said it was easy to feel overwhelmed and like what you were doing was not making a difference.

"Each and every one of us has the power to make a difference," Ms Kahn said.

"When you do your little bit, it all adds up. That's really all that you can do."