• Transform magazine
  • September 22, 2019

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Water brands work towards sustainable future

Water Bottle Recycling.JPG

Environmental sustainability has become a raising issue in the recent years, with the bottled water industry especially becoming a topic of discussion. Plastic, the primary material used in water bottles, does not only pollute the environment, but also affects negatively people’s health according to the latest research by State University of New York in Fredonia.

From the tested 259 individual bottles from across 11 brands, 93% showed some sign of micro-plastic contamination with an average of 325 micro-plastic particles per liter of bottled water. And since plastic bottle tops are not recyclable, they usually end up in the stomachs of animals in the bottom of the ocean that mistake them for food. The bottles themselves can take up to 450 years to biodegrade.

In the UK, 38.5m plastic bottles are used each day, with only around half of them being recycled. In order to combat environmental pollution caused by plastic water bottles and following the example of the UK cities of Bristol and Bath, the Mayor of London has taken the initiative of offering people free tap water refills. 

As part of the plan to reduce purchases of single-use plastic bottles, ‘Refill London’ will have taps installed in 65 outlets in five areas of London with organisations such as the National Theatre and Tate Modern and companies such as Costa Coffee and Leon taking part.

Commenting on the initiative, mayor of London Sadiq Khan, says, “A free tap water scheme is long overdue in London and I welcome all of the retailers and business who have shown their strong commitment to reducing unnecessary plastic waste by joining the scheme.”

In the same context of environmental sustainability, Europe’s first plastic-free supermarket isle has been introduced in the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam. Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, the group behind the campaign, said the opening represented “A landmark moment for the global fight against plastic pollution.”

Initiatives like these highlight the problem bottled water companies have to face. With more and more people swapping bottled for tap water or reusable tumblers, bottled water companies have to adapt to the new circumstances in order to survive.

Responding to publication of the Government’s Environment Plan, Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts, says, "Water companies believe passionately in a healthier, greener nation and the positive contribution we make to that. We strongly endorse the plan's emphasis on a more holistic approach to tackling the big environmental challenges we all face. From tackling plastics pollution to encouraging more efficient use of water, we look forward to working with government and others to make the plan a reality."

An example of PR management and damage control strategy is the initiative taken by Britain’s top bottled water brands Volvic and Evian to go plastic-neutral in the country’s first ever true ‘closed loop’ plastics recycling campaign.

This campaign, supported by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) can save up to 5,000 tons of PET plastic from landfill in just its first year, while it can also cut CO2 production.

This UK-based initiative is part of a bigger plan for Evian and Volvic to become completely carbon-neutral by 2011. The closed loop plan means that for every Evian and Volvic bottle sold here in the UK, one bottle will be recycled and the plastic reused.

Even though recovering every Volvic and Evian bottle used in the UK is utopic, Danone will assure the purchase of an equal tonnage of used PET bottles and will return that plastic for processing.

It can be argued that bottled water companies will never put environmental awareness above their profit and that the environmental-friendly approach is part of a marketing scheme designed to improve their image. However, despite the reasons behind the initiatives taken, every step toward environmental sustainability is an important one. It is clear the bottled water companies are aware of the problem and are working towards an economically viable solution.

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