Garrett throws support behind bottled water ban

Posted by James Ferre on 9th July 2009

The bottled water industry is expected to come under heightened scrutiny following the decision by the NSW Government to place a ban on all agencies and departments buying bottled water. And Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, has shown support for the move.

Mr Garrett told ABC radio today that other states should consider following the lead of New South Wales.

“I think it’s worth looking at,” he said. “Quite clearly we’re having a really important, pretty healthy debate about the value of bottled water.”

“It’s up to individual state governments to decide what positions they want to take, but I think Nathan (Rees) has done the right thing.”

Adding to pressure on the $500 million industry, the Southern Highlands town of Bundanoon placed a ban on bottled water – the first Australian town to do so.

Industry response

Australia’s leading organisation representing food and grocery manufacturers, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) warned today that the move could have the unintended consequence of promoting unhealthy beverage choices.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said the decision was incredibly short-sighted, especially considering the current debate about obesity in Australia.

“From a government which has touted rising rates of obesity as the number one health risk facing Australians, their decision seems ludicrous,” Ms Carnell said. “Moves to ban bottled water by government beggars belief and clearly sends the wrong heath message.”

“Bottled water provides a healthy choice for consumers when they are in the office, away from home or exercising and people buy it for convenience.”

Growth under threat

The bottled water sector has faced difficulties in Europe and the US over the past year as consumers turn to the tap to cut costs amidst continued campaigns against the product by environmental groups. The consistent double-digit growth from 2000-2008 appears a long time ago for many manufacturers, with market analysts anticipating almost all the growth for the sector in the coming five years to come from Asia. Australian sales growth is now expected to be in the low single digits for the foreseeable future.