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Think-tank warns against all single-use drinks packaging

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

Switching from plastic water bottles to other single-use materials like glass and aluminium could cause new environmental problems, says a new study.

The research by Green Alliance, an independent think-tank, has found that if half of the UK’s plastic water bottles were switched to cans, mining the aluminium could generate over 160,000 tonnes of toxic waste, enough to fill up the Albert Hall six times over.

Switching to glass could generate over a million tonnes of carbon emissions, equal to the average emissions of 94,538 people in the UK, roughly the number who live in the city of Bath. A move to cartons, meanwhile, could create over 98,000 tonnes of low quality waste every year because cartons can’t be turned back into new ones. That’s enough to fill almost 9,000 bin lorries, predicts the think-tank.

Instead, Green Alliance advocates the use of refillable bottles, which only have to be topped up 15 times to have a lower carbon impact than a single-use plastic one.

The organisation says: “In turning away from plastic, we should be careful not to create new problems for our environment by using other materials in huge quantities. The good news is that switching to other single-use container types usually isn’t necessary at all. Everyone in the UK has access to high quality tap water.

“Not only is this the cheapest option, it’s also getting easier to access on the go. Although more are needed, water fountains are now found in many public places. And, until they are everywhere, apps like Refill help people to locate more than 20,000 places where they can top up their reusable bottles, no matter where they are in the UK.”

According to the think-tank, tap water causes 180 times fewer emissions than a standard single-use plastic bottle of water.

Sales of bottled water have increased by nearly a third since 2015 with the average adult in the UK consuming around 150 single-use water bottles every year.

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