Bottled water companies continue to be concerned about the environment and are working to increase consumer recycling, the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) said today.
“IBWA once again commends the Friends of Little Hunting Creek, Friends of Accotink Creek, and other groups for their efforts to reduce litter in Fairfax County, Virginia,” said Jill Culora, IBWA’s vice president of communications. “The bottled water industry has been working hard to educate consumers about the importance of recycling empty bottled water containers. All bottled water containers are 100 percent recyclable – even the cap. Post-consumer PET plastic is easy to recycle and is in high demand by PET reclaimers.”
IBWA and the organizations mentioned above share some important common goals, including promoting recycling and reducing the number of beverage containers (e.g., bottled water, soft drinks, fruit juices, etc.) and other items that end up in the waste stream. However, we have very different views on the best way to approach this issue. Any actions to address the packaging waste problem must focus on all consumer products and not target just one industry.
Americans are making greater efforts to live a better lifestyle by choosing healthier foods and beverages. Drinking water – tap, bottled, or filtered – should therefore be encouraged. With the high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in our on-the-go society, bottled water provides a safe, healthy, convenient product choice. Moreover, bottled water has a smaller environmental footprint than other less healthy sugary beverages, which use more water to make, are packaged in heavier plastic containers, are not calorie-free, and have flavorings, caffeine, and other additives that people often want to avoid consuming. Any actions that discourage people from drinking bottled water are not in the public interest.
IBWA is active in helping improve access to curbside recycling bins through its involvement with The Recycling Partnership -- a national recycling nonprofit organization comprised of industries and municipalities -- with a goal of making a measurable impact on recycling in the United States. IBWA is also a member of three regional recycling groups: the Florida Recycling Partnership, the Michigan Recycling Partnership and the Northeast Recycling Council.
“IBWA has met with several Virginia state legislators to provide information about the bottled water industry’s efforts on recycling, environmental stewardship, water usage, and sustainability,” Culora said. “We have offered to work with them to enact comprehensive legislation that would help reduce packaging waste from all consumer products.” “IBWA has also been working with the Fairfax County Waste Management Office to support their efforts to increase resident’s knowledge and understanding of recycling and provide unique resources to the community served by that office. We are also working with the Fairfax County Public Schools’ Get2Green program to promote recycling education and increase recycling rates.”
The Friends of Little Hunting Creek and Friends of Accotink Creek support legislation in Virginia that would impose a 25-cent per container bottle deposit on all beverage products as the solution to the litter problem. However, bottle deposits are not the answer and have several major drawbacks, including:
- They would negatively impact consumers, particularly those who could least afford it, such as the elderly and others on fixed incomes, by increasing the cost of a 24-pack case of bottled water or other beverage by $6.00. This would make it a lot more difficult for people to drink healthy.
- They create a loss of income for businesses due to increased out-of-state cross-border sales, which would impact state estimates on expected revenue gains.
- They place an extra burden on consumers to return the empty containers to a retail store or redemption center.
- They lead to fraud and over redemption, which would further drive up the cost of bottled water for manufacturers and consumers.
- They do nothing to educate consumers about the importance of recycling.
Bottled water has the smallest environmental footprint among all packaged beverages and the industry is continually looking for ways to reduce its environmental impact. Some actions include:
- Lightweighting PET plastic container packaging to reduce overall plastic use. The average weight of a single-serve bottled water PET container has decreased 51 percent since 2000, saving 6.2 billion pounds of PET resin. With an average weight of just 9.25 grams, bottled water containers use 1/3 the amount of PET used for soda and other packaging, which requires thicker plastic due to carbonation and other manufacturing processes.
- Producing communications materials to encourage people to recycle and to understand the importance of recycling. These efforts include numerous YouTube videos (www.youtube.com/user/BottledWaterMatters) – a collection that includes a hilarious “Recycle Kitty” video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KGjMkHA8D4) and infographics (http://www.bottledwater.org/public/images2/Reaching Our Recycling Potential Apr5.jpg).
- Developing a Material Recovery Program, aimed at increasing the recycling rates for all consumer products.
In addition, many IBWA members have extensive volunteer programs, which involve employees helping with recycling and litter cleanup. These efforts include:
- Supplying recycle bins in Georgia and Florida
- Public school children recycling education in Ohio, California and Georgia
- Outdoor recycling education (signage) in Indiana
- Community assistance for recycling (household recycling) in Illinois
“Bottled water is the number one beverage in the US (by volume), and it’s therefore easy to use this product to attract peoples’ attention. But it’s important to understand that empty bottled water containers are among hundreds of consumer products that can be mismanaged at the disposal stage. According to Keep America Beautiful, all plastic (which includes all drink packaging including lids and straws, personal care items and toys) make up 19.3 percent of all litter in the U.S. (www.kab.org/sites/default/files/EndLittering_ForAffiliates-Teachers-Businesses_LitterinAmerica_FactSheet_LitterOverview.pdf)
Littering is a human behavior issue, and we certainly support efforts to help educate consumers about the importance of recycling and respecting their environments,” Culora said.