History of Bottled Water Focus of New Book

The cover of the book Plastic Water featuring a clear plastic water bottle which has been crushed in the middle, and has the image of snowy mountains and a river in the bottle.

A book co-authored by cultural researcher Professor Gay Hawkins from the Institute for Culture and Society takes a new look at bottled water to investigate how markets for the product were developed, and how the new habit of constant sipping actually emerged.

Plastic Water (opens in a new window) is being launched at Gleebooks in Glebe on November 25, at 6pm.

"This landmark study is the outcome of an ARC project, and is of major interest to all those concerned about the future of water, the global plastics waste crisis and the rise of markets for essential resources that should be shared," says Professor Hawkins.

She says the book goes beyond the usual political and environmental critiques of bottled water to investigate its simultaneous existence as a personal health resource, an object of boycotts, and part of accumulating waste matter.

"Plastic Water focuses on the ontological dimensions of drinking bottled water—the ways in which this habit enacts new relations and meanings that may interfere with other drinking water practices," says Professor Hawkins.

"The book considers the assemblage and emergence of a mass market for water, from the invention of the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle in 1973 to the development of "hydration science" that accompanied the rise of jogging in the United States."

"It also looks at what bottles do in the world, tracing drinking and disposal practices in three Asian cities with unreliable access to safe water: Bangkok, Chennai, and Hanoi."

"And it considers the possibility of ethical drinking, examining campaigns to "say no" to the bottle and promote the consumption of tap water in Canada, the United States, and Australia."

Plastic Water will be launched on November 25 at 6pm at Gleebooks.

Interview with Gay Hawkins

Professor Gay Hawkins discusses Plastic Water with Professor Tony Bennett.

Posted: 23 September 2015.