Thirst growing for bottled water

The increasing reliance of Greeks on bottled water has boosted sales of the resource, reportedly retailed at 1,600 times the price of water sold by the Athens Water and Sewerage Company (EYDAP), and is becoming a real burden on the environment, still sullied by countless makeshift landfills. Recent figures show that Greeks drink more than a billion liters of bottled water annually, with consumption rising by some 10 percent each year. Production of bottled water skyrocketed from 40 million liters per year in 1981 to 278 million liters in 1993, then to 600 million liters in 2001. This rapidly growing consumption has benefited the bottlers of spring water in Greece but also supermarket chains and street kiosks, which sell bottled water for 50 cents and 1 euro per liter respectively. In restaurants, bottles of water, often brought to the table at the outset by waiters, can retail for up to 3 euros. Some blame this phenomenon on years of aggressive marketing. «Drinking bottled water has been imposed as a model of consumption,» said Athens University professor Polixeni Nikolopoulou-Stamati. «Look at advertisements on television. All these young, slim people convey the idea that drinking this kind of water will make you healthier and more attractive,» she added. Another concern is the environmental impact of all the discarded plastic. At current rates of consumption, the average Greek is drinking 70 liters of bottled water a year, and discarding dozens of plastic bottles. Plastic refuse, particularly bottles, accounts for about a quarter of trash on the country’s landfills. The production cost of millions of plastic bottles is also significant, both in terms of raw materials and energy. The process by which plastic bottles are made, using petroleum byproducts, is anything but energy-saving. According to recent statistics, about 17 million liters of oil are needed to bottle some 26 billion liters of water.