Many ideas have emerged in recent months to reduce the use of disposable plastic, including water sold in cartons. But is it really the answer?

Water in a carton: the alternative to plastic in the United States

The idea hails from the United States, where the product will shortly be released in commercial outlets, from big box retailers to small grocery stores, not to mention at vending machines. We’re talking about water in a carton, an alternative to plastic in three different sizes: 0.50 liter, 0.33 liter or 0.25 liter. A product created as an answer to the age-old question of plastic pollution, and which is also starting to be produced in Italy.

Water in a carton in Italy

The first to welcome the idea was Fonte Margherita, a brand which for over 100 years has represented the oldest bottling plant in the Veneto region, at the foot of the Piccole Dolomites. And then came Acquainbrick, a project created to raise consumer awareness on the environmental issue, which offers a packaging solution very similar to that generally used for milk. In Europe after all, Italy is first in the ranking––third worldwide––in regards to water bottled in plastic, with over 11 billion bottles disposed every year. Despite tap water being drinkable almost everywhere, of good quality and subjected to strict analysis controls.

Water in a carton: sustainable or not?

But can cartons be the solution to the problem? We are talking about Tetra Pak, a complex packaging called polylaminate, that is a material made up of several layered materials: paper, aluminum and polyethylene. A packaging that is anything but easy to recycle and reuse, precisely because of its multilayer nature. Furthermore, as far as recycling collection, each city has its own rules and, depending on the place, Tetra Pak must be thrown into the paper or in the plastic bin. In short, not exactly the ideal solution to respond to the environmental emergency, also considering the resources used to produce a similar material, starting with the paper component.

Alternatives to plastic

Why, therefore, resort to such a complex packaging, when alternatives to plastic bottles already exist? For those who don’t like the taste of tap water, for example, can purchase glass bottles (better still with a returnable policy), “case dell’acqua” public water points, NaturaSì draft spots, without forgetting, for those who live in the countryside, springs and sources, and then the many drinking fountains (to find the nearest you check online at Fontanelle.org). There are also filtering systems for water capable of eliminating limescale, that can be added directly on the home faucet, or, for those looking for a more affordable solution, filtering jugs. The most portable product however, is now the most popular among young people that it doesn’t need much of an introduction: stainless steel reusable bottles not only allow you to greatly reduce waste, but also save money (the average unit price is about 15 euro, a small long-term investment, given the durability of the product), also capable of keeping the beverage chilled longer.

by Michela Becchi