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Bottled water problem: Institutional and design answers


For tap water in the EU, this year started well. Denmark, who started its six-months EU presidency on 1 January, introduced the rule to use tap water, not bottled water, in all EU working sessions. The initiative has since been known as “The tap water Presidency.”

The Danish Presidency of the Council has been certified as sustainable under the new international ISO20121 standard for sustainable events. The standard is developed for large events such as the Olympic Games in London and the Danish Presidency is one of the first major international events to be organized and implemented in a certifiable sustainable manner. (The Danish EU Presidency 2012 website)

The green trend has subsequently spread to Brussels as MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) started realising such alternative water use was actually working.

While high-level initiatives undoubtedly send a positive signal to campaigners who aim to raise awareness of environmental perils related to excessive bottled water use, some questions remain. They include concerns about the quality and taste of tap water in certain places, and actions individual citizens can take to reduce the use of bottled water without compromising having healthy and tasty water on the go.

As with many other inventions, the Bobble Bottle  (a portable, reusable water bottle which filters water) was born out of necessity. Designer Karim Rashid, whose Bobble Bottle entered the market two years ago, initially began working with Move Collective, the founders of Bobble, to design luggage. At some point, he suggested they make a special water bottle for travellers. One year later, the luggage project was dropped, and the company focused on producing the water bottle.

“I travel constantly and the Bobble came about from my frustration with airport security and not being able to bring bottled water with me,” Rashid says. “So I suggested the idea of a built-in filet so I can basically dump out the water and refill it on the other side of security from a bathroom tap.”

Rashid says Bobble water will become a global phenomenon. “Shipping costly spring water is a huge detriment to the earth. Drinking straight from the tap, using BPA-free plastic and saving hundreds of bottles at a time can help to save the world.”

To those playing the Devil’s advocate and criticising Rashid’s creation as yet another consumerist fad, he replies that they are “wrong and ignorant”. “We throw away 14 million plastic bottles a day in the US alone, 92 per cent of them end up in landfills,” he says. “Bobble is a revolution that only only reduces waste and saves money, but also saves an incredible amount of energy and reduces carbon footprint from bottled water production.” To Rashid, even if the Bobble Bottle is not a final solution, it is a great stepping stone to addressing this environmental problem.

The designer also says that when he doesn’t have a Bobble nearby, he makes sure he only drinks local water no matter where in the world he finds himself. He never drinks imported water, either. “In a hotel in Paris they have Swedish water, in a hotel in America they have Italian water, and in a hotel in Japan they have French water. This is the most absurd idea to ship water all over the world. We have too many problems to be so wasteful.”

Rashid hopes that in the future there will be an initiative by a humanitarian foundation or a public body to provide bottles such as the Bobble for people in areas with acute drinking water shortages, and believes that the current price and the possibility of long-term usage makes it an affordable and healthy solution for many.

Initiatives such as the one launched during Denmark’s EU presidency or the Bobble Bottle are part of the solution to the problem of excessive bottled water use. Although these steps will not solve the whole problem immediately, they are a good means on the way. Good-looking, too.

Images: Courtesy of Karim Rashid Inc.

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About The Author(s)

Larisa Rankovic

Larisa Rankovic

Media researcher

I explore media in their diverse ways - as a researcher, consultant and journalist. Working on PhD thesis about community media.

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