David Spencer One Australian town has banned bottled water, but we could return to the glorious days of glass bottles if we reused them. If you go to a corner shop in Bundanoon, New South Wales, and ask for a bottle of mineral water, you will be given short shrift. The town has become the first in the world to ban bottled water; choosing instead to stock its shelves with refillable bottles and unveiling a host of new public drinking fountains. John Dee, spokesman for the towns campaign said: While our politicians grapple with the enormity of dealing with climate change, what Bundanoon shows is that at a very local level we can sometimes do things that can surprise ourselves, in terms of our ability to bring about real and measurable change that has a benefit for the environment. While the level of real and measurable change this gesture will have on the global issue of climate change is, to say the very least, debatable, it is nonetheless an admirable move. And it got me thinking about soft drink containers, which have gone through several guises since glass bottles were launched. After many years, progress and cost considerations led to the bottles demise outside certain well-to-do pubs, and cans became all the rage. But now plastic bottles have taken over. There are three reasons why they are a bad idea. First, quantity. When I want a drink, I generally find that 330ml is sufficient to quench the thirst; the standard size of a glass bottle or can. A 500ml plastic bottle leaves me with the dilemma of throwing a third of my oft-overpriced drink away, or else carrying around the awkwardly large bottle until my thirst returns. Second, the container does affect the taste and satisfaction of the beverage. The general consensus seems to be that the best taste comes from glass bottles. Cans come a close second. And third by some distance is the plastic bottle. So on balance, the taste of the average drink started going downhill the moment we moved away from the glass bottle. Alongside this trend, the rapid rise in popularity of bottled water in the last 20 years has forced the number of plastic bottles we all get through up to almost unsustainable levels, making environmental concerns the third reason. The prospect of banning bottled drinks on a wider scale than the odd individual town seems highly unlikely to me, but there must be other solutions to this mounting problem. In poorer countries, the money and facilities to mass-produce plastic bottles is not available. So glass bottles are still the norm. But with a twist. Rather than disposing of the bottle each time, in many African nations they are collected back in, returned to the factory, sterilised and refilled. It is quite obvious that some bottles you buy have been through this process dozens of times. We are mass producing the worst possible bottles both for the environment and for the drink itself, the majority of which will end up in landfills. I can think of no reason why soft drinks, and even water, could not be produced in this way. Maybe we should try and learn a few lessons from the developing world. Gulf Times