June 22, 2011 / 9:23 AM / 8 years ago

Aussie chef catches flak for treated tap water

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian chef has received a chilly reception for charging diners for treated tap water and ditching boutique bottled water, which he termed wasteful, for an eco-friendly option.

Mark Best, chef and owner of Marque Restaurant in Sydney, turned years of environmental consciousness into action by splashing out on a $6,000 Italian-made water system that filters, chills and carbonates tap water, the first of its kind in an Australian restaurant.

He now charges A$5 ($5.3) for water — but this includes unlimited refills. He previously charged A$10 for 500 ml of boutique bottled water.

Not only did the move lighten his carbon impact by cutting down on refrigeration and transport needs for the bottled water, it also helps reduce the amount of plastic bottles clogging up landfills, he said.

“I’m not highly political but I want to make people aware and this is just one initiative,” Best said.

But while the environmentally-friendly move has drawn praise in some quarters, many are outraged at having to pay for what they see as basic tap water, however fancied up it may be.

“If you’re willing to pay $5 for a glass of water then you’ve more money than sense. Give it to charity,” said one commenter on a local newspaper website.

Best said he has also received abusive emails.

“A guy said that I was pathetic and he hoped the lawyers took me to pieces...I’m not sure for what.”

Local law states that if tap water is treated it is not illegal to sell it on licensed premises, but licensed premises must supply free tap water when required by a customer. Best said authorities gave him a green light.

Though he could have buried the charge in the bill, Best said he wanted to make the charge clear and raise awareness of the need for restaurants to be socially responsible and reduce plastic waste.

He added that in the past, some customers would pay up to $40 a meal for bottled water with no complaint.

“They can drink 40 liters for A$5 if they want and suddenly it’s seen as charging for tap water!” he said.

“It’s quite interesting, it means the marketing of the mineral water has been very effective.” ($1 = 0.944 Australian Dollars)

Reporting by Pauline Askin

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