Harrogate Spring Water
Harrogate Spring Water is the fastest-growing bottled water brand in Britain. It is an appropriate business for the town, because Harrogate's prosperity is built on mineral water.
Harrogate needs dynamic businesses to succeed and bring employment to the town, but plastic pollution is a huge problem. Unfortunately Harrogate Spring Water's product is water in plastic bottles (and some glass bottles).
Picking up rubbish
I regularly pick up rubbish when walking around Harrogate, for example on The Stray or the Yorkshire Showground. The photo below shows the rubbish I picked up in 1 minute at the Yorkshire Showground. Click the buttons below the photo to see the amount I had assembled after 2 minutes and then 4 minutes.
The young and the old
Young people rightly get a lot of credit for their environmental awareness and activism. Still, it's not as simple as 'young people good, older people bad.' From what I've seen, it is overwhelmingly young people who leave rubbish on The Stray and in other places around Harrogate.
In the '4 minutes' photo, there's a can of Lynx deodorant. Nobody over the age of 19 uses that. I'm confident it wasn't a member of the Rotary Club who dumped it.
The environmental problem
The main problem with bottled water is plastic pollution. A proportion of the plastic bottles, and the plastic wrap around multi-packs, becomes litter. Some of it ends up in streams, rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans, and we know that every part of the Earth is now polluted with plastic. Tiny particles of plastic even fall with rain and snow.
According to a study in June this year, we are consuming 5g of plastic a week, mainly from drinking water with plastic in it. There is plastic in groundwater, surface water, tap water, and bottled water.
Another environmental issue is the carbon emissions associated with trucking bottles of water around the country and around the world.
Bottled water companies aren't the only ones damaging the environment - none of us is perfect. But plastic bottles are the most common items found in our rivers. It is obvious that significant and sometimes painful changes are needed, and plastic production and pollution have to be high on the agenda.
Harrogate Spring Water is clearly aware that environmental concerns are becoming more acute. They have an environment page on their website.
It highlights various environmental efforts they are making. For example, their plastic bottles use 51% recycled materials, and their diamond bottles are designed to be twisted and compacted, which means they take up less space when being carried empty, and in the recycling bin.
There is an uneasy relationship between marketing and absolute clarity on the environmental impact of consumer products.
These are genuine efforts to reduce the adverse impacts of Harrogate Spring Water's products on the environment, but it is an effort to reduce negative impacts, not a net positive. Some of their packaging does end up as litter polluting the environment. 80% of plastic bottles do not get recycled.
How can bottled water companies like Harrogate Spring Water tackle the environmental problems which seem to be inherent in their businesses? Here are some ideas, which are more 'thinking aloud' than definitive.
- Make it more of a luxury product - sell less at a higher price
- Consider whether non-plastic packaging would be less damaging
- Support a deposit and return scheme on bottles
- Sponsor drinking fountains in Harrogate, and sell nice, branded, reusable bottles
- Use electric vehicles for deliveries
- Try to make it a more local product, so it involves less transport. Much of the value is in the brand, not the water itself; it's therefore not inconceivable that local sources of water could be found, and bottled under the Harrogate Spring Water label. Water is heavy, and it doesn't make much sense to transport it long distances, or even overseas