Billions of Calories, Tons of Plastic Saved As Consumers Choose Water Over Other Drinks
International Bottled Water Association
May 21, 2019
Alexandria, VA – Americans are increasingly choosing healthy bottled water instead of packaged sugary drinks, saving approximately 470 billion calories and 73 million pounds of recyclable PET plastic last year, said the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA).
Bottled water is America’s favorite packaged drink for the third year in a row (by volume), and new figures from the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) show 69 percent of the growth in bottled water consumption has come from people shifting away from carbonated soft drinks and fruit drinks.
BMC data shows Americans consumed 13.8 billion gallons of bottled water in 2018, up 4.9 percent from 2017. Bottled water’s wholesale dollar sales also grew in 2018, up 7.3 percent reaching $18.4 billion. And per capita consumption rose 4.3 percent to 42.3 gallons. Soda and fruit drink consumption both declined in 2018 from 2017 (see attached chart).
“People are choosing to drink fewer calories and making that healthy choice has the added benefit of helping the environment because not only are bottled water containers 100 percent recyclable (including the cap) but they also contain much less plastic than soda and other packaged beverages,” said Jill Culora, IBWA’s vice president of communications.
Bottled water containers, on average, use 59 percent less PET plastic than other beverages (9.89 grams vs. 23.9 grams for 16.9-ounce containers). Soft drinks and other sugary beverages need thicker plastic containers due to their carbonation and/or bottling processes.
“We are hearing from PET plastic recyclers that because of the consumption shift from soda to bottled water, their facilities need to recycle twice as many water bottles to get the same amount of resin they would have from soda bottles,” said Culora.
Bottled water containers are 100 percent recyclable – even the caps. And bottled water is the most recycled product in curbside recycling systems; in fact, bottled water containers make up 54.6 percent of the PET plastic collected in curbside systems throughout the United States. Soda bottles make up only 14.7 percent of the PET plastic collected in curbside programs, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources' (NAPCOR) 2018 Postconsumer PET Bottle Bale Composition Analysis.
Calorie savings are enormous for people making the switch to water.
“Given . . . the fact that roughly 30% of US adults drink one or more servings of SSB [sugar-sweetened beverages]/day, swapping water for SSB could reduce an estimated 3.9 billion calories from U.S. adult diets daily,” Kiyah J. Duffey, PhD, reports in the journal Nutrients.
“It’s incorrect to think that most people drink bottled water instead of tap water. In reality, most bottled water drinkers (76 percent) drink both tap water and bottled water,” said Culora, citing a Harris Poll on bottled water consumption conducted for IBWA in November 2018.
Those results demonstrate that bottled water isn’t in competition with tap water; instead, it competes with other less-healthy packaged drinks, such as soft drinks, juices, and teas.
Nearly all Americans (93 percent) say bottled water should be available wherever other drinks are sold, with 89 percent saying they drink bottled water while they travel, 82 percent of employed Americans drink it at work, and 75 percent of all people drink it at home. Just 16 percent of those surveyed said they drink only bottled water.
“We’re seeing a significant shift to healthy hydration, which is really good news for public health,” said Culora. This is particularly important as the nation continues to experience high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. “And the bottled water industry is using much less plastic resin in its packaging, which is good for the environment. But taking it a step further by recapturing this plastic for use in new bottles requires improving recycling rates.”
PET plastic bottles are 100 percent recyclable and can be easily recycled over and over again. For many years, bottled water companies have been increasing recycled PET (rPET) in their containers. Many bottled water companies have embraced using rPET packaging, offering their products in containers that are made of 50, 75, or even 100 percent rPET. BMC reports that, for those bottled water companies that use rPET, the average rPET content went from 3.3 to 18.2 percent between 2008 and 2017–a 452 percent increase.
But a sufficient amount of rPET needs to be available for bottled water companies to use it. Consumer access to—and participation in—convenient recycling programs help determine the supply of rPET. If more people recycle, then the availability of rPET will increase as well.
The bottled water industry is continuously working to reduce its impact on the environment. The industry has a strong record of conservation and environmental stewardship, including smart management of water sources, using less plastic in packaging, encouraging recycling, and reducing water use in production.
Bottled water is an ideal healthy hydration option, and it is stringently regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food product. By law, FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water must be as protective of the public health as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards for tap water. In some cases, such as lead, bottled water regulations are more stringent.
The bottled water industry supports a strong public water system, which is responsible for providing citizens with clean and safe drinking water. However, in some instances, tap water can become compromised during boil alerts or natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. If tap water is unavailable, bottled water plays a vital role by providing the clean drinking water that people need.
“The bottled water industry is committed to helping people make healthier choices,” said Culora. “The demand for water is evident, as bottled water continues to be America’s most popular packaged beverage, by volume.”
Whether it’s at home, in the office, or on-the-go, IBWA encourages all consumers to make healthy hydration a part of their lifestyle and select bottled water as their beverage of choice and always recycle empty containers—with caps on.
For more information about bottled water, visit IBWA’s website: www.bottledwater.org.
The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters, including spring, mineral, purified, artesian, and sparkling. 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, to set comprehensive and stringent standards for safe, high-quality bottled water products.
In addition to FDA regulations, IBWA member bottlers must 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 a mandatory annual plant inspection by an independent, third-party organization.
IBWA is proud to be a partner with Keep America Beautiful and a supporter of Drink Up, an initiative of former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which encourages Americans to drink more water more often – whether from the tap, a filter, or in a bottle. Choosing water is always the healthy choice.