Unbottled: Working with BRITA to uncover the bottled water industry’s marketing practices


Here in the UK we’re lucky enough to have some of the best quality tap water in the world. But of the 13 billion plastic bottles used in the UK each year, an estimated 7.7 billion – or nearly 60% – are plastic water bottles. So why are so many people choosing bottled water over tap? 

Bottled water companies have managed to turn water – a natural resource to which everyone has a right – into a hugely profitable commodity that is contributing to the plastics crisis that is polluting our planet. 

Through celebrity endorsements, influencers, event sponsorship deals, and brand collaborations, bottled water companies have spent millions on convincing us that it’s a superior option to the water we have free from our taps! While the real cost is environmental damage.  

That’s why we teamed up with our friends at BRITA. We published a whitepaper outlining the environmental and economic case against the packaging, labelling and marketing of the bottled water industry. 


The figures around the industry were staggering – annual industry sales of bottled water in the UK are around £1.6bn or 2.5 billion litres, meaning 10 million PET bottles of plastic water are being sold per day, using 1 million pieces of flexible plastic wrap. Laid end-to-end, this would circle the world at the equator ten times every year. 

The research provided insight into the reasoning behind the enormous sales, with consumers buying bottled water just as much for the convenience and availability, as for the taste and the quality of the water itself.  

But what do they think should be done? Over three quarters of consumers (77%) thought that bottled water companies should do more to raise awareness about plastic pollution when advertising, and two thirds also agree that labelling on bottles should draw attention to the carbon cost of consumption.  

Key stats


of bottled water sold in supermarkets is sold in a non-recyclable multi-pack format, with 80% being single-serve portions of 500ml or even less.  

440 billion 

grams of carbon emissions are created by the bottled water industry – the same as 262,000 cars on the road a year 


 of all bottled water is consumed at home, at work or out at dinner. All places where tap water could have been consumed instead.

280 million

bottles of water are predicted to be sold between 2022-2026 if no action is taken 


additional bottles of water were purchased every day in 2022 due to marketing tricks 


Based on the findings of the report, we back all of these recommendations to bring real lasting change:  

  • A complete ban on the plastic wrap encasing multi-pack bottled water or, at the least, a tax at 10p per item under the existing Single Use Carrier Bag Charges (England) Order. 
  • A review and tighter regulation of the labelling of bottled water and its advertising practices as a matter of priority.  
  • The introduction of carbon labelling to inform consumers about the relative carbon footprint associated with bottled water versus tap water to allow them to make a more informed decision.  
  • A review of the necessary legislation on bottled mineral and spring water (some of which dates back more than a century). 

what can be done right now?


The top two reasons cited by consumers in the research for choosing tap over bottled water were taste (28%) and availability (29%), followed by convenience (26%) and quality (22%). For those who drink bottled water for taste preference, a solution is on hand – or on tap! BRITA water filters can improve the taste of tap water without the plastic water bottle waste. Having a BRITA water filter at home or at work instead of spending money on bottled water means you can enjoy the taste without all the plastic pollution – better for your pallet, your wallet, and the planet!

For those buying bottled water for its availability and convenience, the Refill campaign offers the solution. With over 330,000 locations listed on the app where people can refill, the campaign is helping millions of people around the world eat, drink and shop without plastic. In fact, 86% of Brits report that they are more likely to carry a reusable water bottle and refill on the go as a direct result of knowing about the Refill campaign and app.

So now you don’t need to worry about having to buy bottled water whilst out and about, instead download the Refill app to find your nearest Refill Station where you can refill your reusable water bottle for free.