Could one invention solve plastic pollution AND the UK’s ‘obesity crisis’? asks James Osborn, Associate Director in our Pharma team.
Like many thirsty UK humans, I often stop off to buy a delicious bottle of water. Or, if I’m feeling fancy, a Lipton’s Ice Tea. Peach flavour.
But also like many thirsty UK humans, until recently I experienced almost no guilt about guzzling in this thoughtless manner. Even after, belly sloshing happily with the juice of cool springs or delicious liquid sugar, tossing the used receptacle in to the nearest overflowing litter bin.
No longer. We all know that consuming in this way is bad because Sir David Attenborough told us so. Michael Gove told us so too, but rather more menacingly.
“We need to see a change in attitudes and behaviour!”, he shrieked, channelling either a waning dictator or – most likely – a dejected head teacher.
They’re both spot-on, of course. Every day an astounding 16 million plastic bottles become UK landfill or ocean-choking waste. And, in London, each adult buys on average 175 plastic bottles every year.
There is clearly a massive disconnect between the basic need to imbibe Evian and the societal requirement to occasionally go outside.
However, before our bodies dry out or we just stay home and watch Netflix forever, an incredible invention has arrived to solve not only the issue of thirst but, potentially, a number of significant healthcare challenges.
A slow-release hydration implant embossed with a 4D image of Elon Musk’s head?
But put it this way: The Drinking Fountain Association – formed in 1859 and where, until last month, a handlebar moustache was an obligatory part of the office dress code – can’t believe its luck.
It’s true. Once mocked alongside obsolete Victoriana like the penny-farthing, this ingenious invention will once again become central to our urban lives.
Already Sadiq Khan has announced the locations of London’s first new drinking fountains and, while they don’t exactly resemble the decorative monuments to Adam’s ale that once adorned the capital’s streets, it’s surely a huge step towards lowering plastic usage.
When shown the potential cost savings, it should not be difficult to convince most people to use one bottle all week. That would instantly cut plastic bottle purchases by two-thirds.
But, with the sugar tax now in place, what if we could also inspire a whole new generation of people to drink less fructose and carbonated sugar at the same time?
Babies don’t emerge from the womb and demand Rockstar Punched Guava. Free water could become the natural drink of choice for the under 10s, with a positive knock-on effect on their future health habits.
With joined-up government policy and the right stakeholders engaged at local level, a Ribenaless generation – boasting lower obesity levels, not to mention fewer fillings – could become a reality.
And, with more cities planning for fountains as I type, that’s probably my cue to go easy on the Lipton’s too.