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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Oil and water

Oily water

Credit: iStockphoto

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Brace yourselves: I got the calculator out for this post and have been trying to do some maths.

I've been trying to work out the oil used to package the bottled water we drink in Australia. You might have to check my numbers!

The Department of Environment and Climate Change reckons that in 2006 we drank 250 million litres of bottled water, which took 456,131 barrels of oil to package in plastic.

I had no idea how large a barrel of oil is, so I looked it up: Wikipedia says it's approximately 159 litres.

So let's find out how much oil is used per litre of water:

  • 456,131 barrels multiplied by 159 litres gives us a total of 72,524,829 litres of oil
  • 250,000,000 litres of water divided by 72,524,829 litres of oil gives us 3.44 litres of oil to package 1 litre of water.

Then you've got to transport those bottles to the packaging facility, and then truck them to shops all over Australia - even more oil.

Given that oil is becoming scarcer, shouldn't we be saving it for more important things like medical uses or transport? Why are we using it for disposable containers, throwing it out afterwards to sit in landfill for so long? It's wasteful and I know we can do better.