Sometimes you have to wonder about humankind and its collective level of stupidity.

As a frog, I am sitting here in amazement wondering why it is that people throw away perfectly good money buying something they can get for free.

Check out this study by the Earth Policy Institute, that shows that demand for bottled water is increasing even in places where tap water perfectly good to drink.

It never ceases to amaze me that people whinge and moan the minute petrol prices increase, but they are happy to pay twice that for bottled water when they can simply go to a tap and get it for nothing!

Then there is the mountain of plastic bottles that have to be produced and then disposed of! – it takes 1000 years for those bottles to break down!

Thank goodness Frogs aren’t that stupid.

34 Comments Posted

  1. I’ve spoken to people involved in the recycling industry – including Terra Nova (ex RMF) in Christchurch.

    None of the #1 and #2 collected curbside is used to make new beverage containers. Why ? In a nutshell, cost and contamination. Food grade containers require virgin resins (not hard to figure out why), and the recycled resins are used to manufacture things like carpets and fleecies. These do not get recycled – hence at most the resins have 2 trips through the system before arriving at a landfill.

    And on a related note, what does the “T” in PET (#1) stand for ?

  2. I buy Kiwi Blue Still Spring Water. I live in Taupo, I can taste the difference in the water from the tap and the bottle. I prefer the water from the bottle. I dont mind paying a little something for it.

    And I always recycle my bottles.

  3. I grew up with untreated drinking water and I really miss the taste. I also miss drinking from clear streams in native forest. Bottled water is the closest thing that I can find for the taste, and it really saddens me every time that I buy it. What have we done to this country? And more to the point, what can we do about it now?

    Chlorination and fluoridation of our water supplies is bad enough, but the one that blew me away was the addition of aluminium chlorohydrate (to clump together stuff). All to make it “safe” to drink.

  4. Hi Stuey,

    I’m not an expert here, but …

    Shopping at places like Pico (one of Rod Donald’s legacies) and bulk vegetable etc markets, or the local dairy, I take my own containers and return egg cartons etc.
    I agree that there is still an absolutely horrifying build up of overpackaging!

    All plastic etc that I end up having to take home is washed and sorted as part of “doing the dishes” and goes in my bin from Hurunui Plastics (started by Andy Anderson et al from Amberley)… or is saved in bulk at this stage. (Not a totally tidy solution) Plastics into transport fuel is one of the aims there. (I can put you on to the people in the know).

    My current efforts are in “time and motion” thinking, and how to encourage others (including”busy people”) to join in. I am cooperative but assertive at the checkout (and as more people are doing this the attitudes there are gradually changing.)

    We gradually ended up where we are now. So (hopefully a lot faster than) gradually we HAVE TO turn the tide!

    By the time the penny drops for the majority we need to have the “know how” and some good efficient solutions to make it easy for them!


  5. Reject the toxic plague

    eredwen, I am interested to know what foodstuffs you do buy? I am unable to find much that is not over-packaged in plastic/single-use containers. This is made even worse by the knowledge from this thread that plastic containers are not actually recycled.

    We are members of an organic shopping co-op where they buy in bulk and you take along your own containers and then fill them, and we certainly produce about a quarter of the waste of other houses in our street, but it seems impossible to get any better than that.

  6. AFAIK all food grade plastic must be virgin plastic for safety reasons. There are some multi-layer bottles with recycled plastic inside.

    Here in the UK, plastic is not ‘recycled’ so it is burnt in an incinerator or landfilled I believe. I actually support the incineration process for three reasons:

    ‘Recycling’ is at the whim of the market, and more often than not it ends up being dumped in a landfill in the UK or in China (sad but true). Landfill is the worst process imaginable for the environment, and extremely wasteful in energy terms.

    Incineration produces electricity from waste at high temperatures (much of which is paper and plastic anyway) which reduces demand for coal power stations and landfill space. It is also better on the environment because landfills give of large amounts of methane, a potent GHG.

    And incineration also makes people more aware of the impacts of the throw-away society, because they are located near the towns/cities. You can visually see the chimney, whereas the shocking waste of landfill is hidden in a rural valley somewhere.

    Interestingly, it is only since gas central heating came in that landfills have been necessary- apparently before that people would burn most household waste (paper etc) in their home fireplace.


    I’ve put out one rubbish bag in the last six months.

    It really doesn’t take much extra time and effort to avoid most of the waste that my neighbours put out in their rubbish bags, recycling crates, or in the trailer loads they take to the dump, or the stuff that gets into the waste stream from the decisions they make.

    However it does take some knowledge, forethought and organisation.

    Being aware, realising that every little bit counts, and everyone’s behaviour including mine, counts … is the key.

    This leads to organised shopping, taking ones own (or recycled) bags, avoiding one-use containers, refusing wrapping, choosing and buying products which have been manufactured (preferably locally) in a sustainable way and will last , and then only when needed (rather than “wanted”) simple composting, buying and selling (or giving away): “trade me”, giving to charities (but check out what they do with ithe stuff), “Supershed” in Christchurch … etc etc

    It is a matter of attitude and realising and accepting that “what I do, and EVERYTHING I do (or don’t do) does matter”. We got ourselves into this mess. It follows that only we and not “they” can get us out of it.

    Multiply this behaviour by several million and Aotearoa NZ could clean up its act fairly quickly!

    “Pigs might fly”? … Kiwis used to do this within my lifetime, and it sure beats the alternative(s)!


  8. And on a related note, here’s a timely warning in todays Chch Press (not online) about the landfill in Kate Valley (50km north of Chch).
    Designed as the “last” landfill needed for the region with a 35 year planned life, Kate Valley opened last year. With current rising levels of waste the landfill will be filled 10 years ahead of schedule, imposing severe economic and environmental costs of future generations of Cantabrians.
    However, operator Transwaste are happy, raking in the extra cash with landfill fees at $75 per tonne.

    More external costs that are not factored into current business decisions and profits. More warning signs that our environment is under stress are being ignored.

    I hope the next generation have a well developed sense of humour and are not selfish and vindicative – otherwise our lot will be for the high jump.

  9. If I remember correctly, PET bottles often have a layer of recycled material inside two layers of new material. Reusing can cause the recycled material to contaminate the contents.

    I also remember, as a kid, just going into shops and asking for water – getting a water bottle filled up. But you cannot do that now days.

    I also remember, while cycling and walking around the South Island, being able to fill bottles of water from rivers at the side of the road. I would not want to do that now.

    And – lastly – bottled water is Cambodia is about $2 /20 liter bottle, or 15US cents / 900 ml bottle. Better water is about 50US cents / 1.5 l bottle. Then you start getting into the Evian etc – which I have not bought.

    BTW – we reuse the 20 l bottles 🙂

  10. when i was in NZ at Christmas, i couldn’t believe the price people paid for water. a 750ml bottle costs $2.50-$2.80. In Japan, a standard 500ml bottle is 105-120 yen ($1.30-$1.50). i find it unbelievable that things have got to this level. NZers seem to have a lot of money to throw away. PET bottles are a huge landfill problem now all over the world. i too buy them occasionally and keep refilling them, but there are lots of warnings about that they are not safe to be reused for too long. the best example is Japanese primary school pupils who all carry a thermos flask of water or barley water everyday in the summer. one decent sized thermos flask might set you back $40 but that’s only the equivalent of less than 15 bottles of water. get a water filter and reuse a flask for years!

  11. alistair

    “- in France we use colossal quantities of them, but these days they are about 90% recycled (just about every municipality has recyclables collections, and people do it) ”

    I’ll explode yet another myth about plastic bottles. The bottles that are collected are NOT recycled, they are DOWN cycled. Virtually all food grade containers are made from virgin resin (oil derived) due to contamination of the used containers.

    See myth #2 at

  12. Firstly, water isn’t free, those pipes and treatment get paid for by taxes and those who use the most pay the same as those who use little. If water was metered as a matter of course then people wouldn’t waste it and a real choice could be made as to how much is used.

    Secondly, I agree with sarahdotcom, many use the bottle, as I do, and refill it at the water cooler until it has had it. I also buy bottles for taking on flights or for travel on trains, simply because there isn’t an alternative. Some places have foul local water, even though it may be healthy, so it is a matter of taste.

    On the bright side, more people drinking more water is very positive for their health!

  13. Thank you for the info, and effort of some of you, in keeping things unfluorided here. I can’t imagine you can explain the majority of water buyers to my reasoning, but my ignorant reasoning would probably be right in many places.
    And i off course agree that the wisdom of commerce alone is complete ARSE!

  14. I and most people I know buy water for the bottle, not the water. We refill the bottle until it’s past use, and then recycle it. I suppose it’s not ideal, but I can’t really think of a better plan.

  15. In France, the drinking water is generally “quite good”, but we are probably world champions for drinking the bottled stuff.

    My little commune of 500 people has its own municipal water supply, from local springs, and the tap water is truly delicious. (just a few KM from the spring where they bottle Badoit, which is exported all over the world… good water, baaad principle…)

    Perhaps as a result of this, when I’m in the city, I instinctively drink tap water and generally find it really foul. I guess I have lowered my tolerance for chlorine etc. (our local supply is not routinely chlorinated : if it tastes of chlorine at home, that’s a sure sign that, after a bacteriological check, there were wee bugs in it a few weeks back…)

    Just a word in mitigation of the plastic-bottle thing :
    – in France we use colossal quantities of them, but these days they are about 90% recycled (just about every municipality has recyclables collections, and people do it)

  16. boot:

    Thanks for that info.

    I agree about diet. However, as that wasn’t enough for me to avoid some tooth decay, I chose to take fluoride tabs during the part of pregnancy when my kids teeth were developing and they took fluoride tabs while their teeth were growing. They both have perfect teeth now and fluoride toothpaste is available.

    Thus I also agree that there is no real justification for inapproprite mass medication.


  17. joy:

    I agree totally about the use of the Canterbury Plains for dairy.

    From what I know of the matter, Canterbury’s rules for protection of its aquifers have been overtaken by the number of dairy units and their high demand for water. (Because they spend so much money setting up their units, and use as precedent the water rights granted to others, Regional Councils are swayed into accomodating them). Our future pure water is therefore at risk in some areas. We know that some aqifers do refill but the purity of others may be at risk.

    The immediate “almighty dollar” of an interest group often seems to be considered ahead of a priceless collective asset.

    (Like the song … “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”)


  18. Even/Eredwen

    As far as I know ChCh city council rejected the proposal to fluoridate water last year after thousands of submissions from the likes of myself were received very much anti the idea. If it ain’t broke/don’t fix it! The pro-fluoride lobby kept going on about kids dental problems etc…what a load of rubbish, more like the rubbish parents allow kids to eat being the cause of most dental problems… We filter our tap water to be super safe, ChCh must have some of the most pure water in the world for a major urban area, but we shouldn’t take it for granted…and as noted by others above, we definitely shouldn’t be feeding the Canterbury Plains with it, much of it ultimately leading to dairy farmers chemicals slowly but surely killing off the Selwyn and other rivers.

  19. be careful – I might even start to agree with you. I have never had a problem drinking tap water in most countries where tap water is fine to drink – but on the plus side the manufacturers have marketed their product well and people chose to buy it – capitalism and free choice is a great thing. Of course sometimes the bottled water is convenient – but I tend to reuse the water-bottles several times.- I will curse the day when the tops are no longer screw-cap.

  20. Guilty, on occasion! Local water is NOT A grade and quite often the council recomends boiling the water before drinking. When the council water is fully treated it tastes AWFUL.

    Yes, I know, we should be buying a water filter, but then we also pay rates which contain a water rate. Mostly I refill the water bottles that we do have with boiled water.

    Alhtough I do have a strong, historic dairy farming background I do most seriously question the use of the Canterbury plains for dairy. Or the Hawkes Bay, another dry area and parts of my home in the Wairarapa.

    Then I could raise the subject of potable water being used for toilets, laundry, gardening, waterblasting, cleaning up dairy sheds. Joy.

  21. even:

    Last time I looked, Christchurch water was and is not fluoridated (because of the fact that it is supplied from a series of different artesian wells.)


    I agree about the “battalions of people here in Christchurch who still think it’s great to water that great unforgiving lawn of the Canterbury plains, with water that for now really is safe to drink and good to drink.”

    That is another example of many of us not thinking, or caring, about cause and effect in our now consumer society … and another is Auckland’s water being bottled and shipped to Christchurch in water bottles.


  22. im pretty sure chch is the only major city to not of artificially added fluoride to its water supply.

    I cant understand why people waste their money on bottled water especially here in Christchurch where the water is safe and good straight from the tap.

  23. “Humankind’s collective level of stupidity” demonstrated here goes well beyond “spending money unneccesarily”. This is either the assumption that “whatever I do will not make a difference”, or the more egocentric attitude which neither sees nor takes heed of any part of the “big picture”.

    The water is there in a bottle. The bottle can be thrown away. No problems.

    No thought of why it is on sale in the first place, nor where it came from and certainly no thought for what happens to it after it is discarded.

    Aotearoa, now a “consumer society” has joined in the madness …
    We have all the idiot channels on SkyTV, endless advertising, dumbed down news outlets. It follows that our colonisation is well underway and it seems that in some areas of the country shopping has become the national sport.

    In this consumer society how many of us think of cause and effect ? Depressingly few I believe.

    I have a water bottle. I picked the most robust one I could find out of a throw-away bin, washed it and and have used it continuously for well over a year so far … but I have to think ahead and remember to take it with me and refill it when the opportunity presents itself … (even to the extent of keeping a larger container full of water in the car when travelling.)


  24. I live in chch and use bottled water for certain things. I’ll stop now but the reason i was doing it is becasue of the flouride in the water supply. Studies show that flouride binds minerals out of the body, and also show that it doesn’t have any significent effect on healthy teeth… that requires something else.
    But if the greens think it’s important, i stop and pause.

    Also wish i could go to Sue Bradford’s wage meet in chch tonight but cannot get out of work, anyone in chch who can go should!

  25. Tap water might be “safe” to drink, but it certainly contains something nasty. I can’t drink very much of it without feeling bloaty and slightly ill.

    I use a water filter at home and work leaving it clean and drinkable, but on the
    go I often purchase bottled water – (some brands do seem to be just tap water, I admit, but it’s pretty easy to taste the difference).

    I agree that buying so many plastic bottles is a horrible waste, but when the alternative is to not drink water I don’t see what else one can do…

    The research I’ve seen shows that 8/10 people can’t tell the difference between
    tap and bottled water. That means that 1 in 5 people *can*.

    – Colin

  26. Yes, stupid. But, pause to consider how and why the natural water in some places got to the state that it’s in that it must be remanufactured to make it safe to drink. Also consider what and who qualifies the water to be ‘good to drink’

    In some developing and developed places, you cannot get safe access to water on-the-hoof, even here in New Zealand.

    Water full of chlorine, flouride, and tasting of chalk may be considered safe to drink, and good to drink, but not everyone would agree.

    Move to reusable containers, and not throwaway bottles, then the question is different. What is more offensive, the dodgy water or the dodgy bottle?

    There are still battalions of people here in Christchurch who still think it’s great to water that great unforgiving lawn of the Canterbury plains, with water that for now really is safe to drink and good to drink. Maybe we should dump those used bottles on the private lawns of those folks.


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