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TetraPak + Bottled Water Still Equals Greenwashed Nonsense

| Tuesday June 8th, 2010 | 7 Comments

More articles on the controversy surrounding bottled water can be found here!

Every time the Sustainable Brands conference rolls around I’m thrilled by the authenticity and openness of the conference participants. But there are always one or two who slip through the cracks. This year’s culprit? h2O Natural Spring Water. The product was given out this week to conference participants.

h2O is “natural spring water” from a place in Canada called the Niagara Escarpment. The difference between h2O and other bottled water products is that h2O comes in a Tetra Pak box instead of a plastic bottle. Tetra Pak is a “mostly paper” carton which also contains aluminum, and various plastics which make recycling it difficult – though not technically impossible. The primary environmental advantages of Tetra Paks is that they weigh a great deal less than a glass bottle, and, being rectangular, are capable of being packed very efficiently on a truck or shelf.

Tetra Paks happen to work well as transportation vessels for things like milk or wine, though there’s some debate as to whether TetraPak is a “greener” solution for these purposes. When it comes to wine, shipped from far flung vineyards to a final destination, Tetra Pak boxes almost certainly save significant amounts of CO2 as well as fuel. When it comes to other products like milk or soup, Tetra Pak offers the added advantage of being airtight, allowing such products to sit for a long time unrefrigerated, adding to energy savings and consumer safety.

We’ve talked before about Tetra Pak’s commitment to sustainability and the fact that the difficulties in recycling their products are more a matter of municipal policy than the fault of Tetra Pak.

But – to get the point: Wine requires packaging and shipping and can’t be produced everywhere. Milk is perishable. Water is neither perishable nor does it require packaging of any kind. Furthermore, plastic bottles are not any heavier than Tetra Paks and are readily recyclable. Not only that, but bio plastics are not especially hard to come by these days, and a bottled water company that uses them might actually have a smidgen of legitimacy on their side in claiming to be “green”. Not so for h2O.

The final straw in my spur of the moment analysis is this message on the side of the box: “Save the planet one drink at a time“. Exactly how does buying this product lead to “saving the planet” in any way? It’s simply water in a package that will not be recycled, shipped a long distance, with a silly message on the side.

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Is bottled water bad? Read more here.


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Categorized: Green Marketing|

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  • http://myzerowaste.com Mrs Green at myzerowaste

    Thanks, Nick for highlighting this issue and raising awareness of greenwashing scams. thanks also for the link to my zero waste. Over here, recycling tetra pak cartons is much easier than in other parts of the world, but I'm still not a great fan of composite materials as they are much harder to reprocess.

  • Yannis Zabetakis
  • http://nickpalmer.blogspot.com Nick Palmer

    Much as I don't like to plug Tetrapak, there is new research out that shows that BPA (Bisphenol-A), an ingredient in some plastic bottles that can escape into the contents, also can freely cross the placenta from pregnant mother to the foetus. BPA is one of the hormone mimicking plastic additives that are increasingly in the news. This is a worrying development because exposing developing embryos to artificial hormone mimickers is likely to have profound, and probably largely unpredictable, results on the eventual person in the long run

    http://www.inhabitots.com/2010/06/08/new-studie

    • http://www.H2Ox2.com Julia Girdler

      Which is exactly why you should be drinking tap or filtered water from a non leaching water bottle!!!

  • neiltwaterguy

    Hi Nick,
    Both Mrs.Green and Nick Palmer make valid points and sadly the bio-plastics we can access here in Europe seem to have GM roots…
    I won't comment on the specifics of the apparently crass marketing messages on the package you looked at, but please don't throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. As the original branded carton water producer, we researched this area thoroughly before embarking on our market disruption strategy.
    We launched our brand 'aquapax' in 2006 as superior quality natural mineral water in a fundamentally more sustainable package. We've carbon balanced our business (Just Drinking Water Ltd) to mitigate the inevitable food mile arguments and impact of running any consumer beverage business and we consistently strive to market without the greenwash messages you so rightly reject. Carton recycling rates are catching up across the UK and more so in mainland Europe; even without recycling, a majority renewable (and reusable for at least a week at a time) carton versus a package made of oil with warnings to discard after a single use, was and continues to be our way of showing people they have choice as consumers. The more copycat products we see – like the one you found – the sooner the mainstream brands will adopt more sustainable package types and this in turn will bring about real change. Our registered trademark is 'a pure thirst for the environment' – this is a genuine quest and it sustains us in our mission. There's revolution in the air (to quote Mr Bob Dylan)…
    Warm wishes to you and yours.
    Neil T

  • neiltwaterguy

    Hi Nick,
    Both Mrs.Green and Nick Palmer make valid points and sadly the bio-plastics we can access here in Europe seem to have GM roots…
    I won't comment on the specifics of the apparently crass marketing messages on the package you looked at, but please don't throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. As the original branded carton water producer, we researched this area thoroughly before embarking on our market disruption strategy.
    We launched our brand 'aquapax' in 2006 as superior quality natural mineral water in a fundamentally more sustainable package. We've carbon balanced our business (Just Drinking Water Ltd) to mitigate the inevitable food mile arguments and impact of running any consumer beverage business and we consistently strive to market without the greenwash messages you so rightly reject. Carton recycling rates are catching up across the UK and more so in mainland Europe; even without recycling, a majority renewable (and reusable for at least a week at a time) carton versus a package made of oil with warnings to discard after a single use, was and continues to be our way of showing people they have choice as consumers. The more copycat products we see – like the one you found – the sooner the mainstream brands will adopt more sustainable package types and this in turn will bring about real change. Our registered trademark is 'a pure thirst for the environment' – this is a genuine quest and it sustains us in our mission. There's revolution in the air (to quote Mr Bob Dylan)…
    Warm wishes to you and yours.
    Neil T

    • Haywood Jablome

      If you actually give a damn about the environment, you would be drinking (or filtering your own) tap water, not buying it off a shelf. Buying it out of a cutesy box does not benefit (“save”) the planet in any way whatsoever.

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