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July 08, 2021

Can marketing tap water solve plastic trash problems? Venice thinks so

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Venice, you likely noticed a few things.

Yeah, there’s no roads, but you probably also saw the place is completely littered with water bottles, which sit atop packed trash cans and float along the canal edges.

Most of this has to do with the uncomfortable number of tourists there year-round, yet according to the New York Times, Italians just happen to be the leading consumers of bottled water in the world, as well.

So it’s with that caveat Venice has found itself with, what the Italians call, il dilemmo. (Alright, I don’t speak any Italian). For decades the Venetians have been drinking bottled water at a clip not even North Americans can touch, but what to do about all that trash, which can be costly to recycle?

Well, thought Venetian officials, why not try and change the culture of bottled water instead?

Apparently, the Venetian government has taken a page from the advertising world and created a stylish brand name for the city’s tap water, going so far as to fashion up a sleek logo and plaster a picture of Venice’s mayor pouring the “new” product on billboards across town.

They’ve called it Acqua Veritas which, you have to admit, sounds pretty cool. And you have to hand it to them: rather than fall on back on the tired ‘Trust us, municipal water is tested way more than bottled water!’ argument, the Italian city saw a problem, got creative and tried to solve it.

If this sounds preposterous to you, you’re right. Maybe it is. But what’s perhaps more odd is that the strategy has begun to work.

The amount of plastic trash has seen a modest dip of about 27 tons a month since Acqua Veritas became a brand name and, says the Times, locals admit the campaign has actually made them change their minds about drinking tap water.

The huge remaining problem, of course, is the tourism industry. It’s said that tourists outnumber permanent residents in Venice 100-to-1, and that means a million restaurants that still profit big time from continuing to mass-sell bottled water.

How that can transform remains to be seen. Some prying legislation could always work – limiting the number of bottled water a café can sell – but perhaps that’s a bit extreme.

Maybe enough tourists asking for “that Acqua Veritas stuff everyone’s been talking about” can help change the guard. After all, the mayor drinks it.



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About the Authors

Gordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo), canoe.ca, AOL.ca, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...