Bottled Water Industry Endorses Senate Recycling Resolution

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) applauds Senator Thomas R. Carper (D) of Delaware and Senator Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine, co-Chairs of the Senate Recycling Caucus and others, for their introduction of U.S. Senate Resolution 251, which expresses support for "the improvement of collection, processing and consumption of recyclable materials throughout the United States” and "policies in the United States that establish the equitable treatment of recycled materials."

“The bottled water industry supports effective recycling and environmental conservation policies. We are pleased to see this effort to help build upon the growing public momentum to increase recycling rates nationwide by spelling-out its many economic and energy saving benefits,” said Joe Doss, IBWA’s President and CEO. “Any efforts to increase recycling while reducing the environmental impact of packaging must be broad-based and focus on all consumer goods, as this resolution does, and not target any one industry,” Doss continued.

Recycling analyses by the National Association for PET Container (NAPCOR) and others show bottled water is just one of thousands of food and beverage products packaged in plastic containers and make up an extremely small percentage of potentially recyclable material. According to U.S. EPA data, bottled water containers make up only 1/3 of 1 percent (0.33%) of the U.S. waste stream. Nonetheless, research data (below) shows plastic water bottles to be the single most common item found in curbside recycling bins.

Overview of Bottled Water Industry Recycling and Sustainability Efforts

IBWA supports comprehensive, multi-industry approaches to recycling and solid waste management, and is dedicated to the comprehensive management of bottled water packaging to provide the highest quality, cost effective and environmentally responsible containers possible. IBWA and its members approach packaging issues in a manner emphasizing the most effective and efficient solutions to reduce the impact on the environment while taking into account the equal responsibility of all solid waste generators. Consideration must also be given to behavioral solutions, such as public education and enforcement of existing recycling and litter control laws.

The national recycling rate for PET plastic bottled water containers (.5 liter or 16.9 ounce size and 3 and 5 gallon PET water cooler bottles for Home and Office Delivery) stands at 31% for 2009, according to data from two studies: “2009 Post Consumer PET Bottle Bale Composition Analysis” and “2009 Report on PET Water Bottle Recycling,” both produced by NAPCOR for IBWA. We realize that more needs to be done, but the 31% recycling rate is a welcome continuation of steady annual increases in the recycling trend line since this analysis commenced in 2004, when the recycling rate for PET plastic bottled water containers stood at only 16.62%. The data indicate that the recycling rate for PET plastic bottled water containers has nearly doubled in six years.

The bottled water industry has also reduced the average weight of PET Plastic bottled water containers. Analysis performed by the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) for IBWA shows that over the past eight years the gram weight of the 16.9 ounce “single serve” bottled water container has dropped by 32.6%. The average PET bottled water container weighed 18.9 grams in 2000 and by 2009, the average amount of PET resin in each bottle has declined to 12.7 grams. BMC estimates that during this time span, more than 1.3 billion pounds of PET resin has been saved by the bottled water industry through container light-weighting.

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 United States using final data from calendar year 2007.

In 2010, IBWA’s Board of Directors endorsed an innovative framework for a Material Recovery Program that can serve as the blueprint for local communities to increase recycling through the support and participation of all stakeholders, including product manufacturers. The Material Recovery Program framework will assist in developing new, comprehensive solutions to help manage solid waste in communities throughout in the United States by having all consumer product companies work together with state and local governments to improve recycling and waste collection efforts.

IBWA’s Material Recovery Program framework supports state-authorized public/private corporations that:

  • Establish in each community specific recycling goals to increase recycling access and rates.
  • Generate revenue for grants from annual consumer product company producer responsibility fees and local/state government contributions.
  • Fund local government recycling infrastructure improvements and consumer education programs.
  • Dissolve when local recycling goals have been met.

Improving recycling rates and lighter-weight containers are only part of the bottled water industry commitment to maintaining a lighter environmental footprint. In 2009, 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. 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 8 ounces to 2.5 gallons) amounted to only 0.067 percent of the total energy use in the United States in 2007. Home and Office Delivery (HOD) bottled water (reusable bottles from 2.5 to 5 gallons) energy consumption only amounted to 0.003 percent of the total energy used in the United States in 2007.
  • The small pack and HOD bottled water industries’ combined greenhouse gas/ CO2 emissions amounted to only 0.08 percent of total United States greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Bottled water packaging discards accounted for only 0.64 percent of the 169 million tons of total U.S. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) discards in 2007.
  • The process and transportation BTU energy use for the bottled water industry was only 0.07 percent of total U.S. BTU primary energy consumption.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions per half gallon of single serve bottled water came to 426.4 grams CO2 equivalent (eq.), which is 75 percent less CO2 eq. per half gallon than orange juice.
  • Small pack bottled water generates 46 percent less CO2 eq. when compared to soft drinks also packaged in PET plastic.

IBWA believes that increasing the recycling rates for all consumer products and packaging should be a top priority for all companies whose product or packaging is ultimately discarded. Locally run, comprehensive recycling programs are the best method of cost-effectively diverting solid waste from landfills and increasing recycling of consumer products and packaging.


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Contact: Tom Lauria
703-647-4609 or 703-887-4056 (cell)

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters. Founded in 1958, IBWA's membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. IBWA is committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, and state governments to set stringent standards for safe, high quality bottled water products. In addition to FDA and state regulations, the Association requires member bottlers to adhere to the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which mandates additional standards and practices that in some cases are more stringent than federal and state regulations. A key feature of the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is an annual plant inspection by an independent, third party organization. Consumers can contact IBWA at 1-800-WATER-11 or log onto IBWA's web site (www.bottledwater.org) for more information about bottled water and a list of members' brands. Media inquiries can be directed to VP of Communications Tom Lauria at 703-647-4609 or tlauria@bottledwater.org.