ABA critical of bottled water resolution

Posted by Isobel Drake on 25th June 2008

The American Beverage Association, a trade organization representing manufacturers and distributors of non-alcoholic drinks, has criticized the decision by a committee of the US Conference of Mayors to discourage the use of bottled water as “sound-bite environmentalism”. The resolution was reportedly passed narrowly after contentious debate amongst mayors and will result in a phase out of city spending on bottled water and an attempt to reduce purchases of the beverage.

The bottled water industry has been under increased pressure from environmental groups in recent times amid concerns that it wastes water and leaves an unnecessarily large carbon footprint.

“Cities are sending the wrong message about the quality of public water when we spend taxpayer dollars on water in disposable containers from a private corporation,” said the proposer of the resolution, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. “Our public water systems are among the best in the world and demand significant and ongoing investment.”

The ABA believe that the impact on the environment has been inaccurately portrayed by some mayors, however, and view the beverage as a complement to tap water rather than an alternative. “Unfortunately, a group of mayors have chosen to engage in sound-bite environmentalism rather than sound public policy by creating a false choice between bottled water and tap water,” said Kevin Keane, a senior vice president at the American Beverage Association. “It’s disappointing that some mayors find it more important to attack a healthy beverage at a time when families are suffering from floods, rising fuel and gas costs and threats to their homes and jobs.”

“This proposal is the cynical equivalent of being against rope until you need a lifeline,” Mr Keane added. “There’s great irony in the fact that while companies are helping mayors in flood-ravaged communities in the Midwest recover, a handful of mayors in Miami are attacking the water products helping those residents remain hydrated and in good health.”The ABA disputed the environmental concerns pointing to the fact that plastic water bottles are 100 percent recyclable to stake their case. “We’re making a positive impact on the environment that goes far beyond politically expedient sound-bites,” Mr Keane argued. “It is unfortunate that a group of mayors, at the encouragement of activist groups, are inaccurately portraying the impact of bottled water on the environment. There’s no other consumer products industry doing more to reduce their impact on the environment than the beverage industry.”

The bottled water industry has experienced extensive growth in recent years, with Australia witnessing one of the greatest rates of increased consumption. Australia still, however, lags well behind some countries in terms of consumption, as the 12L consumed per person each year falls well short of the almost 200L consumption rate of Italians.