Fiji Water, Oh Fiji Water

by Liz Colville

Fiji Water has been the butt of a lot of water jokes (?) since it was found to have not-so-green practices a few years ago, around the time famous people started really, really loving it and drinking it. A particularly good article came out last year in Mother Jones, discussing at length what a ridiculously powerful source of revenue this fancy bottled water is for the island nation from which it gets its name, how painfully ironic it is that Fijians themselves don’t have access to quality water, how laughable it is, given the water’s eco-friendly reputation, that the bottles are made in China and shipped all over the world, and most of all, that the water has helped give a friendly, diplomatic sheen to a nation ruled, since 2006, by a military junta. Fiji doesn’t seem to have its Aung San Suu Kyi, but upper-crust bottled water touted by American celebrities will do!

The relations between Fiji and Fiji Water took a dramatic turn last week when it was announced the company would receive a business tax increase from F$0.003 per liter to F$0.15 per liter. If you’ve been paying — what is that, three haypennies? — per liter, yes, that’s going to seem like a hike (annually, a jump from $500,000 to $22 million), but instead of complying, Fiji Water — which, by the way, has been exempt from paying tax on its corporate income since 1995 — closed its plant and fired 400 workers.

Evidently, this was the first time Stewart and Lynda Resnick, who also own POM (which has received plenty of flak of its own — from the FTC, no less), came face-to-face with the regime, since they are used to walking alongside it, hand-in-hand. But a business tax is not an acceptable reason to leave Fiji. There were plenty of great reasons available before. The Resnicks were pretty angry about the tax, but once they realized the government wasn’t going to budge, they turned around and reopened the factory. So, sorry (or, for Paris Hilton types, yay), Fiji Water is here to stay. For now.

Here’s the thing: beyond the Resnicks’ questionable relationship with the Fijian government, drinking water out of plastic bottles is idiotic, yes? We do it in a pinch, but plastic is purported to cause all kinds of health problems, plastic bottles are one of the largest sources of waste, and they’re an expensive item to make and recycle, so what is the point again? This is a costly habit — environmentally, financially, medically. Fiji Water is one of the worst of the bunch, but you know, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to swear off the dastardly plastic bevvy business entirely.