Statement Regarding Washington State Senate Bill 6278
International Bottled Water Association
February 20, 2020
Washington State Senate Bill 6278 is based on the false premise that the bottled water industry is harming the environment. The proponents of anti-bottled water efforts such as this one, use emotionally charged arguments that are not based on facts or sound science.
The bottled water industry’s position is that it is important to make decisions based on facts, which are summarized below:
• Bottled water is the healthiest packaged beverage and any actions to discourage people from drinking this safe, healthy, and convenient product are not in the public interest. This is particularly important as the United States is faced with increased rates of obesity and diabetes.
• Bottled water is just one of thousands of packaged beverages sold in plastic containers in the United States that has water as its main ingredient.
• Bottled water has the smallest environmental footprint of all packaged beverages (www.bottledwater.org/public/Packaging%20infographic%20WEB%20sm.pdf). Even with continuing growth and increased consumption, bottled water still has the smallest water and energy use footprint of any packaged beverage. On average, only 1.39 liters of water and 0.21 mega joules of energy are used to produce 1 liter of finished bottled water (this includes the 1 liter of water consumed).
• Bottled water is a small and efficient water user, accounting for less than 0.01 percent of all the water used in the United States each year and less than 0.02 percent of all groundwater used.
• The bottled water industry has been a strong and vocal supporter of comprehensive state water resource management legislation. However, these laws and regulations must be comprehensive, science-based, multi-jurisdictional, and not target just one industry.
• Because a long-term sustainable supply of high-quality water is literally the foundation and “lifeblood” of bottled water companies, the bottled water industry recognizes the critical importance of environmental conservation and stewardship of all water resources.
• All IBWA members are good stewards of the environment, including the company mentioned in your email. When a bottled water company decides to build a plant, it looks for a long-term, sustainable source of water and the ability to protect the land and environment around the source and bottling facility. Sustainability of the source is very important to area stakeholders—and to the bottled water company—due to the long-term business investment that is required to build the plant. Once the plant is built, the company closely monitors and measures water use/withdrawals and continuously looks for ways to reduce the amount of water used in production.
• Bottled water helps people reduce their consumption of less healthy packaged drinks, which may contain calories, sugar, caffeine, artificial colors/flavors, and other ingredients. In fact, a recent Harris Poll found that 74 percent of Americans say they’ll drink a different, less healthy packaged drink if bottled water is not available.
• Bottled water plays a vital role in disaster relief. And importantly, bottled water can only be available in times of emergencies if the industry is strong and viable throughout the year. SB 6278 has an illusory exemption for a “public health emergency,” which fails to understand that bottled water plants can’t be built in a matter days to meet the safe drinking water needs of Washington residents during an emergency situation (e.g., boil alert) or natural disaster (e.g., floods, fires).
• Most bottled water is consumed in the region that it is produced. Trucking or shipping water great distances is very expensive and isn’t part of most bottled water companies’ business models.
• Like all commercial water users, bottled water companies follow all government mandates to decrease water use when conditions require it. In addition, as good environmental stewards, many bottled water companies voluntarily cut back on their water use during droughts and other water shortages.
From the perspective of water management programs, the bottled water industry should be treated no differently than other beverage, food processing, and manufacturing operations. The key factor to keep in mind when determining public policy is that bottled water is a beverage product intended for human consumption – just like soft drinks, juice, milk products, beer, and other beverages. All such beverage products fundamentally have a high-water content. Any attempt to manage groundwater resources must focus on all users and not target just one industry, especially one with such a miniscule impact. Many industries extract groundwater for a variety of uses: industrial, mining, agriculture and recreational irrigation (see: https://www.usgs.gov/mission-areas/water-resources/science/total-water-use?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects).The sustainability of aquifers and other water resources is not determined by who uses the water, but by how much is being withdrawn.
In addition to the above facts, the bottled water industry has a proven environmental track record.
• All bottled water containers are 100 percent recyclable (even the caps), and, as an industry, we support strong community recycling initiatives and recognize that a continued focus on increased recycling is important for everyone.
• PET bottled water containers are the most recognized and most recycled containers in curbside programs, making up nearly 55 percent of the PET plastic collected.
• Even when bottled water is not properly recycled, bottled water containers make up only 3.3 percent of all drink packaging in U.S. landfills. Soda PET plastic containers make up 13.3 percent.
• Continual light-weighting of PET bottled water plastic packaging has seen the average weight drop to 9.25 grams per 16.9 ounce individual-size container. That is almost one-third less than the amount of PET it takes to make soda and other drink containers, which need to be thicker due to carbonation and manufacturing processes and weigh, on average, 23.9 grams.
• According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, between 2000 and 2014, the average weight of a 16.9-ounce (half-liter) PET plastic bottled water container declined 51 percent. This resulted in a savings of 6.2 billion pounds of PET resin during that time period.
• The industry is always looking for ways to strengthen existing recycling programs and help to expand recycling efforts ever further.
The bottled water industry has always been mindful of its impact on the environment and has been working tirelessly for the past two decades to reduce its environmental footprint, which includes reducing water and energy use, reducing plastic resin used in packaging, using more recycled materials, and improving recycling efforts.
Even with continuing growth and increased consumption, bottled water still has the smallest water and energy use footprint of any packaged beverage. In addition, a recent report from the American Chemistry Council (plastics.americanchemistry.com/Reports-and-Publications/LCA-of-Plastic-Packaging-Compared-to-Substitutes.pdf) looked at the entire life cycle of plastic packaging versus the alternatives of cans, glass bottles, and paperboard containers. The conclusion was that plastic leaves a much smaller footprint than the alternatives. For example, a significant finding was that alternatives to plastic beverage containers would produce about 60 percent more greenhouse gas emissions.
In recent years, IBWA members have had much success in building new plants and permitting throughout the country, although these positive stories rarely make the news. For more information on this issue, see our plant siting and permitting toolkit, which we created to help educate consumers about the bottled water industry’s impact on the environment: https://www.bottledwater.org/plant-siting-and-permitting-toolkit.
Vice President of Communications
International Bottled Water Association
1700 Diagonal Road | Alexandria, VA 22314
Office: 703.647.4609 | Mobile: 703.683.4378 | Fax: 703.683.4074
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.