Bottled Water Industry Trying to Remake Its Image

Nestle just announced this month that it has installed two wind turbines at the Nestle Waters North America bottling plant in California. These are designed to provide wind power for 30% of the facility, eventually saving 7,320 tons of carbon emissions as a result. This may be due in part to the consumer backlash against bottled water. Bottled water has experienced a decline in sales and has been banned outright on many college campuses and within environmentally-friendly organizations. Critics point to the waste caused by the bottled water industry worldwide as a reason to stick to tap water and home water coolers. This action by Nestle shows that big bottled water is fighting back.  But is it enough?

The argument against bottled water

There are numerous reasons why more consumers than ever are ditching plastic water bottles in favour of home taps and filters. The bottled water industry produces up to 1.3 million tons of waste per year, and uses non-renewable energy sources like petroleum and natural gas. It takes 1.5 million barrels of crude oil to manufacture the plastic bottles consumed by Americans each year. In many cases, consumers are paying a high mark-up price for what is essentially repackaged tap water, as nearly half of all bottled water brands use municipal water supplies. For the bottled water industry to get back on top, they’ll have to address these issues and reduce energy consumption.

New trends in the industry

The installation of wind turbines at the Nestle bottling plant is part of a larger renewable energy plan that the corporation has put into place. They’ve also committed to reducing transportation requirements by producing more of their bottles on-site, and have 10 LEED-certified facilities. In addition to looking for new forms of energy such as solar and wind power, bottled water companies are also trying to promote recycling. The International Bottled Water Association announced this week that new data shows that almost 38% of single-serve PET plastic bottled water containers are now recycled, which has jumped at a rate of 20% from just last year. In addition to promoting recycling, bottled water companies are also trying to reduce the size of their plastic bottles. The average weight of a single-serve plastic water container has dropped 47.8% over the past decade to 9.9 grams.

With an eye towards alternative energy, an increase in the recycling rate of plastic water bottles, and a decrease in container weight, the bottled water industry is certainly making strides in the right direction.

Tap vs. bottle

These new trends are promising, but it seems for many consumers the damage to bottled water’s image has already been done. In nations with access to clean, fresh municipal water supplies, tap water is often just as healthy and clean as what you would spend far more for in a bottle. Home filtration systems that provide instant access to a cold and hot water tap make it extremely convenient to ditch the bottle for premium water at home. What was once seen as a luxury item is now seen as wasteful, and eco-friendly portable water containers are the new Evian bottles. If the bottled water industry is going to bring back the customers it has lost, it will need to take even further steps towards reducing energy use and promoting recycling initiatives.