Earth Day 2010 Finds Weight of Plastic Water Bottles Reduced by 32%, while Maintaining a Very Small Environmental Footprint

April 15, 2010

Tom Lauria
International Bottled Water Association
(703) 647-4609

ALEXANDRIA, VA - Commemoration of Earth Day on April 22, 2010 includes positive news for those concerned about recycling empty plastic water bottles.

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 16.9 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 2008, the average amount of PET resin in each bottle has declined to 12.7 grams. BMC estimated 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. In 2008 alone, the bottled water industry saved 445 million 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 United States 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 United States 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 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.

In November 2009, IBWA reported the national recycling rate for PET plastic bottled water containers (.5 liter or 16.9 ounce 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 sizable 16.42% increase over the 2006 recycling rate of 20.1%.

Over the last several years, the bottled water industry has demonstrated solid environmental leadership when it comes to water conservation and efficiency. Bottled water companies work hard to utilize and manage water resources in a responsible manner by 1) investing in the best science and technology to improve water quality, 2) strengthening water conservation practices, and 3) bottling and disposing of packaged water products in ways that best serve the environment.

The bottled water industry uses minimal amounts of groundwater to produce an important, healthy and calorie-free consumer product—and does so with great efficiency In the United States, bottled water production accounts for less than 2/100 of a percent (0.02%) of the total ground water withdrawn each year. Even though it is a minimal groundwater user and is only one of among thousands of food, beverage and commercial water users, bottled water companies actively support comprehensive ground water management policies that are science-based, multi-jurisdictional, treat all users equitably, and provide for future needs of this important resource. The bottled water industry also supports a strong and adequately funded municipal water infrastructure. Nearly all U.S. consumers and industries rely on tap water, and every taxpayer and every industry must help ensure that supplies of water from municipal systems are safe and plentiful in the years ahead.

The bottled water industry’s momentum toward 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 our laurels. Far more needs to be done with all plastic products and containers,” said Tom Lauria. “Empty water bottles comprise only 1/3 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.”

Background on Earth Day:

Earth Day was founded on April 22, 1970 to foster environmental awareness and year-long ecological action worldwide. Through its founding organization, the Earth Day Network, citizens concerned about the environment connect with each to affect change in local, national, and global policies. According to its website, the Earth Day Network include over 17,000 International organizations in 174 countries, while the domestic program engages 5,000 groups and over 25,000 educators.

Background on IBWA:

Dating back to the early 1800s, the bottled water industry in the United States is a long-standing environmental steward in protecting and preserving both surface water and groundwater resources. As a leader in water resource manaqement, the bottled water industry, through its trade association, the International Bottled Water Association, 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 ( for more information about bottled water and a list of members' brands. Media inquiries can be directed to IBWA Vice President of Communications Tom Lauria at 703-647-4609 or [email protected].