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15 PLN for a jug, 4 PLN for ice cubes. How much does water cost?

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One of the retail chains has just announced that it will introduce machines in some of its stores, where you will be able to fill your own bottle with filtered water. The cost is 15 groszy for half a liter. – When such an action is taken by a large chain of stores, and additionally it does so under the pretext of ecology, it seems suspicious to me – says activist Jan Mencwel. – It would be enough to put a tap in the store.

A row in one of the neighborhood groups in Warsaw. Someone posts a photo of a receipt with a fee for iced coffee. The coffee costs PLN 15, but there is an additional fee – PLN 4 for ice cubes. Because water, restaurateurs argue, costs money. Also the frozen one

The discussion about how much water should cost comes back periodically, a similar one appeared in the group a year ago. “Last time I ate I asked for a carafe of water in a pub. I made sure it was tap water. Yes, yes. Filtered – the waiter confirmed. +18 PLN on the bill. I paid, politely saying on leaving that it was a bit too much,” says one of the members. Another adds: “I'm slowly stopping ordering water if there's no tap water. I have the impression that it's treated as “prestigious” here – you order (here the brand of water is mentioned), you're better.”

Someone else cites an example from a popular vegan restaurant. The staff refuse to serve tap water, but the menu says “water with fruit and mint.” A one-liter jug ​​with “three slices of citrus and a sprig of mint” costs 15 PLN.

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But there are also positive examples. – We serve filtered water, it's free here – says Nobert from the popular Warsaw restaurant Bibenda.

– I recommend ordering tap water in restaurants. It should be free, local governments pay for its treatment, so pubs should not charge for something we have already chipped in for – comments activist Jan Mencwel, author of the book “Hydrozagadka. Kto takską wody polską i jak jej rezyską”.

Don't be ashamed of tap water

In 2008, Ken Livingstone, then Mayor of London, encouraged people to drink tap water. “The message is very simple: don't be ashamed to ask for tap water when you eat out. You will save money and help protect the planet. By drinking less bottled water, we can reduce the amount of waste associated with its production and transport, and also get rid of the problem of disposing of used bottles,” he argued. The media calculated at the time that 1.3 million pounds was spent from taxpayers' pockets on buying bottled water for offices serving the British government. In local governments England and Wales – 4.8 million

Experts emphasized that water in London is of excellent quality, and if we assume that a liter of tap water costs one tenth of a penny, then tap water was also 500 times cheaper than bottled water. The campaign brought results, ordering “tap water” (i.e. free tap water) became standard in Great Britain.

The Thames in LondonReuters

A similar campaign was launched in Poland a few years later. Ambassadors of “I drink tap water” included Marta Dymek from the blog “Jadłonomia”, the famous gourmet Maciej Nowak and actress Magdalena Popławska. The authors of the campaign cooperated with specialists and dealt with myths about tap water. They reassured those concerned about the quality of water that in many places in Poland the water treatment systems had been thoroughly modernized. They added that contrary to appearances, tap water contains valuable minerals and bioelements such as calcium and magnesium.

The campaign website also included a list of restaurants that serve tap water. Unfortunately, the site has not been updated for a long time.

What about taste?

“There was a time when my husband and I ordered 6 crates of water a month. Plus, a ton of plastic is a bit of a waste of money. We started drinking from the tap and got used to it. At first, it really seemed to us that it wasn't the same, now I don't see any difference. And then there are filter jugs, filter attachments for taps. A bit more expensive, but definitely more convenient than a jug,” writes Agnieszka in a group dedicated to saving.

Others also talk about getting used to the taste of tap water. They encourage beginners to add a few drops of lemon juice to tap water. The Wrocław City Hall convinces that it is enough to drink tap water for 10 days to get used to it. This is part of the “Drink Tap Water” campaign.

MPWiK: Warsaw tap water meets strict requirements

MPWiK: Warsaw tap water meets strict requirements12.04 | Marta Pytkowska on the methods of making tap water drinkable and the state of Warsaw's tap water

The social initiative of the Municipal Water and Sewage Company, the Hydropolis Water Knowledge Centre and the city of Wrocław explains the entire campaign as follows: “It was born out of the question of why in a country where almost everyone has access to high-quality water at home, people still buy bottled water, which is unecological, uneconomical and impractical,” we read on the website.

According to calculations by the Wrocław City Hall, using tap water saves a lot of money – By consuming 2 l per day, you can save PLN 1,388 per year and 26 kg of plasticIn Wrocław, 45% of residents drink tap water, which translates into savings of PLN 562 million and 10 million kg of plastic.

“Refillomat” or maybe a regular tap?

The Żabka chain of stores decided to take advantage of the trend of drinking water from reusable bottles. Water can be refilled in devices called “refillomats” (from the English “refill” – to refill). As we learned in the chain's press office, the testing phase has been going on for some time now, and at the moment the devices are made available to customers in several stores in Warsaw and Poznań. – All a customer has to do is come to Żabka with their reusable bottle, buy a refill of water (0.5 liter) at the checkout and then go to the dispenser. Water is available in four variants: chilled, still, slightly carbonated and carbonated – each of them costs 15 groszy.

The idea was met with mixed reactions. – When such an action is taken by a large chain of stores and, what's more, it does it under the pretext of ecology, it seems suspicious to me. Considering the capabilities of such a large company, such an action is, well, a drop in the ocean of needs – comments Jan Mencwel. – In addition, it is multiplying entities, Żabka is installing special machines when it would be enough to put a tap in the store. It is reinventing the wheel: in many large cities, tap water is drinkable. However, then there would be no “wow” effect, and it would be harder to charge for such water – he states.

But Mencwel also sees some good sides to the campaign. – Any promotion of reusable packaging is fine. This helps reduce waste. In addition, having your own bottle makes life easier, you can fill it at any tap instead of running to the store for more plastic packaging.

We also asked other retail chains present in Poland about ideas for promoting reusable packaging. We did not receive a response by the time of publication of the text. According to Mencwel, we should not count on large companies to take an interest in ecology on their own.

– I'm afraid that in order to encourage retail chains to act in a truly ecological manner, we need systemic solutions – he explains. – Ecology costs money, but it should primarily cost the big players, not individual consumers. In Scandinavian countries, there is a vending machine in every shop where you can throw plastic and glass bottles. Their origin is not important, they don't have to be bought in this shop, and you don't need receipts. And it works – he emphasises.

Author:Natalia Szostak

Main image source: Shutterstock

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