Environmental Footprint

When it comes to bottled water’s environmental footprint, we have a strong and positive story to tell. 

All bottled water containers are 100% recyclable and, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), at 38.04% recycling rates for single-serve PET plastic bottled water containers have more than doubled in the last eight years. When you do the math, it turns out that of all the plastics produced in the U.S., PET plastic bottled water packaging makes up only 0.92% -- less than one percent.  Moreover, plastic bottled water containers make up only one-third of one percent of the U.S. waste stream, according to the EPA. 

Bottled Water's Water Usage

The results of a 2014 IBWA water use benchmarking study show that the amount of water used to produce bottled water products is less than all other types of packaged beverages.  On average, only 1.32 liters of water is used to produce every one liter of finished bottled water, including the liter of water consumed.

You can download the IBWA Water Use Benchmarking study here.

The study’s findings are also consistent with a 2012 annual industry benchmarking report released by the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER), that finds on average about 1.47 liters of water is used in the production of one liter of bottled water.  In fact, BIER found the bottled water industry’s water use ratio to be the smallest of all beverage production operations they track, which includes beer, bottled water, carbonated soft drinks, distilled spirits, and wine.

You can download the BIER report, "Water Use Benchmarking in the Beverage Industry" here.

Life Cycle Inventory Study

IBWA commissioned a Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) study to determine the environmental footprint of the United States bottled water industry.

The results indicate that bottled water has a very small environmental footprint. Key findings of this study show that water is the least environmentally impactful beverage option and that bottled water is the most environmentally responsible packaged drink choice.

The LCI study also found that:

  • Tap water has lightest footprint, followed by tap water consumed in reusable bottles (if used more than 10 times), and then by bottled water
  • Sports drinks, enhanced waters and soda produce nearly 50% more carbon dioxide emissions per serving than bottled water
  • Juice, beer and milk produce nearly three times as many carbon dioxide emissions per serving than bottled water
  • Milk, coffee, beer, wine and juice together comprise 28% of a consumer’s total beverage consumption but represent 58% of climate change impact

You can download the bottled water LCI study's executive summary here.