Travellers from developed countries are used to being able to turn on the tap to get clean drinking water. However there are many countries around the world where the water that comes out of the taps is not potable (drinkable). While water may be readily available for washing or bathing, drinking it can cause serious illness. The most common alternative in countries where water is not safe to drink is bottled water which is cheap and readily available. Unfortunately the number of plastic water bottles used generates a huge amount of waste and is a common source of pollution. Although some bottles are recycled many end up slowly degrading in landfills or are burnt which can cause toxic fumes. Here are four ways you can reduce your impact on the environment and avoid using plastic bottles next time you’re travelling:
1. Refill your bottles: In some countries it is possible to refill bottles with purified water. This not only reduces the number of plastic bottles you use but can also work out much cheaper. Your hotel or local taxi driver should be able to point you in the right direction.
2. Boil rather than buy water: Boiling water is the safest way to make it safe to drink as it kills all common water borne pathogens. If you have the facilities to boil water when you’re travelling you can reduce your need to use bottles. Make sure you boil the water vigorously for 1 minute and allow it to cool to room temperature. A pinch of salt per litre will improve the taste.
3. Choose a hotel with a water purification system: Larger hotels often install their own purification or desalination system making the water from the hotel taps safe to drink. If you’re staying in one of these places, ask whether the hotel water is drinkable and what they are doing to reduce the use of plastic bottles. Some smaller hotels have large water coolers guests can refill their bottles from.
4. Carry your own water filter: There are now a range of portable filters on the market that can easily be taken with you when travelling. These come in range of sizes depending on your needs and are great for people intending to get off the beaten track where drinkable water may not be available at all.
So the next time you’re travelling check out these great options for getting drinkable water without using plastic bottles. If you do end up buying water in plastic bottles, make sure you keep these separate from other rubbish. Some bottles can be recycled and people in parts of Thailand and China earn extra money by taking bottles to recycling firms. The least you can do is make it easier by keeping bottles separate from other waste.