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The bottled water industry is focused on helping people lead healthier lives and enjoy environmentally friendly communities.
“In keeping with this year’s Earth Day theme of ‘Green Cities,’ the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) demonstrates a sustainable community focus through its numerous environmental impact-reduction efforts, which are built on a foundation of solid science and smart decisions,” says Chris Hogan, vice president of communications for IBWA. “From resource management to investing in new LEED certified facilities, the bottled water industry is taking a broad-based approach to being good stewards of the environment.”
A 2013 water use benchmarking study shows that the amount of water used to produce bottled water products is less than all other types of packaged beverages; on average, only 1.39 liters per liter of finished bottled water (including the liter of water consumed).
The bottled water industry’s dedication to protecting the environment and natural resources is also demonstrated by:
- Using less PET plastic to make single-serve bottled water containers. PET plastic bottled water bottles use less plastic than any other packaged beverage. And, data from the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) shows that between 2000 and 2011, the average weight of a 16.9-ounce (half-liter) PET plastic bottled water container declined 47.8%. This resulted in a savings of 3.3 billion pounds of PET resin.
- Increasing the use of recycled PET (rPET) to make bottled water containers. While bottled water is just one of thousands of consumer items packaged in plastic, many bottled water companies already use bottles made from 50, 75, and in some cases, 100% rPET. The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) states that a total of 1.5 billion pounds of PET were recycled in 2010, including products other than bottled water, and producing new products from rPET uses two-thirds less energy than what is required to make products from raw virgin materials. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
- Reinforcing the importance of recycling. The bottled water industry supports strong community recycling programs. All bottled water containers are 100% recyclable, and of all the plastics produced in the United States, PET plastic bottled water packaging makes up only 0.91%; less than one percent. And, data derived from EPA figures demonstrates that plastic water bottles make up less than one-third of one percent of the entire U.S. waste stream. Plastic 3- and 5-gallon bottled water containers are reused between 30-50 times before being recycled.
From an environmental standpoint, when people choose bottled water instead of any other canned or bottled beverage, they are choosing less packaging, less energy consumption, and less use of natural resources. What’s more, recycling the bottle can cut that impact by an additional 50%, if it is re-used to replace virgin PET plastic.
A life cycle inventory (LCI) conducted to determine the environmental footprint of the United States bottled water industry shows that the PET plastic small pack and home and office delivery (HOD) bottled water industries combined represent only 0.08% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The total energy consumption required for bottled water production, packaging, and transportation is 0.07% of total U.S. energy consumption. The total weight of discarded bottled water packaging materials is also very low; accounting for just 0.64% of the 169 million tons of total U.S. municipal solid waste discards in 2007.
To encourage a comprehensive approach to effective recycling, IBWA developed its Material Recovery Program (MRP), a collaborative joint venture between businesses and government. The MRP supports the development of new, comprehensive solutions to help manage solid waste in U.S. communities by having all consumer product companies, including bottled water, work together with state and local governments to improve recycling and waste education and collection efforts for all packaged goods.
IBWA is a sponsor of the Curbside Value Partnership (CVP), a not-for-profit organization formed to help communities grow and sustain their curbside recycling programs. CVP helps communities increase recycling participation and increase the tonnage collected in their programs, and helps them measure this growth in order to make better decisions.
“IBWA is dedicated to the responsible management of groundwater resources,” says Hogan. “As an industry, we support comprehensive water resource management that regulates both the quality and quantity of groundwater, treats all users equitably, provides for the sustainability of the resource, and balances the interests and rights of those using this natural resource today and in the future.”
The bottled water industry’s water footprint is very small. In fact, bottled water production from groundwater sources accounts for less than 0.02% of the total groundwater withdrawn in the United States each year. Environmental stewardship is part of the bottled water industry’s history, and protecting, maintaining, and preserving water resources for future generations is something we take very seriously.