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The biggest impact comes from overfilling the kettle. The new study highlights the need for eco-design regulations.

No one loves a good cup of tea more than the British, but a new study coming out of the University of Manchester shows that our tendency to overfill electronic kettles is a huge environmental problem. The study found that overfilling the kettle (and therefore not using all of the boiled water) could be wasting as much as 2.5 times the carbon emissions of the entire country of Malta (which has a population of half a million), and wasting as much water as the 2 million people that live in Slovenia.

“There are currently no EU regulations for kettles,” explained the study’s lead author, Alejandro Gallego-Schmid of The University of Manchester, in an interview with Project Earth. “There are eco-kettles which help boil the amount you need and gauge the temperature; we are asking the EU to promote these.”

The study, which attempted to evaluate Europe’s 145 million electronic kettles, examines the carbon dioxide emissions at every stage of the life cycle – from raw material extraction to the end of life and disposal. The study found that one of the largest sources of wasted emissions was simple boiling more water than was needed.

“People tend to boil 50% more water than they need, that’s 50% more electricity, and then you throw the water away which again is wasted,” said Gallego-Schmid. “If everyone in the EU boiled the right amount of water, with regards to the reduction in consumption of electricity, the emissions of CO2 would be reduced by 2.5 times the emissions of the entire country of Malta…just by putting the right amount of water into a kettle.”

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In addition to advising tea drinkers to think before they fill their kettles, Gallego-Schmid has recommended the introduction of EU eco-design regulations for electric kettles. The Eco-kettles “innovation” is having separate reservoirs to help control the amount of water you boil, one chamber remains full while releasing the desired amount of water into a second boiling chamber. Not only can you control the amount you boil, you can also control the temperature – saving electricity, time and even water. The study found that eco-kettles reduce the energy required to boil water by up to 30%.

“We are not trying to demonize household appliances,” said Gallego-Schmid. “We were trying to grab the attention of people and highlight the fact that there are devices that we have at home and we are not aware of their impacts.”