I'm going to sound like one of "those people' this column. Actually, I'm one of "those people" each column, as the opinions I share aren't always my own, but rather to act as devil's advocate, I just can't help myself.
I recently returned from a small island resort off the coast of Phuket, which I've been visiting since 2013. This year there were some noticeable changes. Plastic bags are being replaced with cloth ones, and instead of guests being supplied with bottled water in plastic, glass bottles were supplied, and reused. The amount of plastic being kept out of the system would have been immense, and it served to remind me how strange and wasteful the whole bottled water industry is, especially in Victoria, where the tap water in most places is safe to drink. Bottled water and excessive packaging have become "normal" now, although even within my lifetime this was not so.
As a child I recall leftist-leaning doomsday novels and movies showing the most basic of necessities - air and water - ceasing to be free, and being sold. This was a comment on the nature of capitalism, which, unmonitored, would be controlled by soulless and faceless powers so hell bent on making money that nothing would be free, and the population would be divided between a few rich, and the majority, enslaved poor. Far fetched indeed!
Or was it?
We don't need evil, shadowy figures conspiring in the background to make us pay for something that was once free. All we need are advertisers to create a trend. Buying the very water which is available from a tap is crazy, especially when Melbourne's water itself, tap water, used to be bottled and shipped overseas. That aside, the whole industry not only has us paying for something essential to most life forms on earth, but also creating an enormous waste problem as a result. Not to mention water being removed from places that need it for farming, and shipped off to cities. (Right on our doorstep in this shire water is constantly being taken, causing detriment to our environment). Water is a finite resource, the amount we have on earth now is the amount we have always had, and the amount we shall always have, and sucking springs around the world dry to put into bottles and ship to cities has some pretty dangerous consequences.
Our tap water in most of Australia is pretty good, why on earth are we buying it in plastic bottles?
Well, because we have been so very subtly told that it is healthy to drink more water, trendy to have "brand name" water, and convenient to always have a bottle on hand. Well yes, it is healthy, but drinking from a water fountain (hard to find nowadays), or from the tap is healthy. As far as being trendy is concerned, in a sane world being trendy would be recognised as being a slave to stupidity and criminalised. Filling a reusable glass bottle or thermos with tap water and carrying that around is also convenient, far more convenient than cleaning up the mess made by all those discarded plastic water bottles.
Single use plastic bags are another sign of humanity's insanity. What a total waste of resources to produce something used once (or a couple of times if you use them for bin liners), when a cloth or string bag works equally well, and certainly was good enough for shoppers when I was a kid. It's heart breaking to see discarded plastic bags littering the road sides, and dotted through the forests and across beaches.
Slowly and insidiously single use plastic bags became normal. When I was a teenager my local supermarket replaced paper shopping bags with plastic, under the guise of saving paper, and therefore saving trees. Very few questioned the long term effects, or why, if the environment needed protection, shoppers couldn't just use their own string or cloth bags.
For me, bottled water and single use plastic bags - practices that are really quite new - show how dumb industrialised nations are. Sure, now that the destructive genie is out of the bottle we are trying to rectify the problem we caused, but when you see a resort in Thailand successfully replacing plastic bottles with glass, you start wondering why things are changing so slowly here.....or if they ever will.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.