16 April 2010 10:59
Commemoration of Earth Day on 22 April 2010 includes positive news for those concerned about recycling empty plastic water bottles.
photo by ricardo / zone41.net
A recent analysis performed by the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) for the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) shows that over the past eight years, the average gram weight of the 16.9oz single-serve bottled water container has dropped by 32.6%.
The average PET bottled water container weighed 18.9g in 2000, and by 2008 the average amount of PET resin in each bottle has declined to 12.7g. BMC estimated that during this time span, more than 1.3bn pounds of PET resin has been saved by the bottled water industry through container lightweighting. In 2008 alone, the bottled water industry saved 445m pounds of PET plastic by reducing the weight of its plastic bottles.
IBWA also recently commissioned a Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) study to determine the environmental footprint of the US bottled water industry. Franklin Associates, a division of ERG, produced the LCI and prepared a report that quantified the energy requirements, solid waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions for the production, packaging, transport and end-of- life management for bottled water consumed in the US in 2007.
The results indicate that bottled water has a very small environmental footprint.
The study found:
- Measurement based on British Thermal Units (BTUs) indicates that the energy consumed to produce small-pack water bottled water containers (containers from 8oz to 2.5 gallons) amounted to only 0.067% of the total energy use in the US in 2007. Home and Office Delivery (HOD) bottled water (reusable bottles from 2.5 to 5 gallons) energy consumption only amounted to 0.003% of the total energy used in the US in 2007.
- The small-pack and HOD bottled water industries’ combined greenhouse gas/CO2 emissions amounted to only 0.08% of total US greenhouse gas emissions.
- Bottled water packaging discards accounted for only 0.64% of the 169m tonnes of total US Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) discards in 2007.
- The process and transportation BTU energy use for the bottled water industry was only 0.07% of total US BTU primary energy consumption.
- Greenhouse gas emissions per half gallon of single-serve bottled water came to 426.4g CO2 equivalent, which is 75% less CO2 eq per half gallon than orange juice.
- Small-pack bottled water generates 46% less CO2 eq when compared to soft drinks also packaged in PET plastic.
In November 2009, IBWA reported the national recycling rate for PET plastic bottled water containers (0.5-litre or 16.9oz size) now stands at a record 30.9% for 2008, a year-over-year improvement of 32% over 2007 rates, according to new data from two new studies: 2008 Post Consumer PET Bottle Bale Composition Analysis and 2008 Report on PET Water Bottle Recycling, both produced by the National Association for PET Container Resources (Napcor) for IBWA.
Previously, the 2007 Napcor study on water bottle recycling determined that the recycling rate for water bottles was 23.4%, representing a sizeable 16.42% increase over the 2006 recycling rate of 20.1%.
The bottled water industry’s momentum towards more recycling and container lightweighting “can be seen as quickly going in the right direction,” says Tom Lauria. “These are sure signs of improvement, but Earth Day is no time to rest on our laurels. Far more needs to be done with all plastic products and containers. “Empty water bottles comprise only a third of 1% of the waste stream. So even if bottled water containers were to hit a 100% recycle rate, there would still be far too many plastic containers of all kinds in the landfills. Let’s hope Earth Day inspires a more comprehensive approach to recycling all product containers, rather than the current activists’ focus, which seems to be only on empty water bottles.”