With beverage companies becoming much more aware of their ‘carbon’ footprint, and in a race to be the ‘most green’ many companies are in a hurry to green up their bottles. While Arrowhead Spring water has had the claim that they have the ‘greenest’ water bottle among bottled water companies with their Ecoshape bottles, the soda companies are now getting in on the action. Coca-Cola recently introduced their new PlantBottle and detail their steps toward a more sustainable bottle.
This new PlantBottle is produced using a blend of petroleum-based materials and up to 30 percent plant-based materials. Coca-Cola is using sugar cane and molasses, a by-product of sugar production, to turn into a key component for PET plastic in the PlantBottle. This allows the bottles to be fully recycled without contaminating the traditional PET plastic recycling process, and reduces carbon emissions by up to 25 percent, compared with petroleum-based PET.
Arrowhead Ecoshapes bottles are noticeably much thinner than most and claim that they are easier to recycle, but does that all of a sudden make them eco-friendly?
These solutions are a step in the right direction environmentally, however, I would argue that we need to shift our mindset. Essentially, we are just impacting the environment less, but are still responsible (maybe just a little less so) for one of the most destructive waste products on the planet. Petroleum based plastic is responsible for the deaths of millions of sea creatures a year and has created a plastic garbage island twice the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
I can see their attempt to ‘green’ their bottles as a way to remain in a very profitable, and very convenient disposable packaging industry, but alas their business model is far from environmentally friendly. In a world (at least where these bottled waters are marketed) where you can just turn a knob and get high quality drinking water just about anywhere, and with the abundance of re-usable durable water containers in all shapes, styles and materials – these bottles should be obsolete. The fact that they are not is due to convenience, and for bottled water, a widely held belief that therein contains a higher quality water or exotic product.
Tap water is monitored very carefully for pesticides, heavy metals, chemicals and organic materials with strict thresholds for each while bottled water is self regulated. This is not to say bottled water is dangerous, but studies have proven, time and time again, that the tap water in many cities is higher quality (less contaminants and higher mineral content) than those in the bottles from glaciers, springs, aquifers or mystery locations. It is not a secret many bottled water brands even bottle that very same tap water, however, this information doesn’t seem to play in the minds of consumers. As a product, bottled water has no real advantage over the plentiful and also convenient (with re-usable bottles) tap water.
Product aside, the real issue here is the proliferation of disposable packaging. Our solution to this is to recycle, however, recycling is highly overrated and should be a step towards a better solution, not THE solution. You are programmed to think recycling solves our over-packaged and ‘bottled for your convenience’ society. Everybody feels good when they recycle. You feel like you are doing your part to help the planet, be green, save the earth and all, but this is a half-truth. Recycling is an energy intensive process that uses resources, pollutes and tends to produce a lower grade product in the end especially in the case of plastic recycling. Recycling should be the last resort of the 3Rs- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
I propose we do away with plastic bottles, much as we are attempting to do away with plastic shopping bags. They are unnecessary and have become a modern day convenience turned hindrance. We should take the so called ‘third-world solution’, and return to the pre-disposable days of re-use and ingenuity in packaging.
I challenge you- go out and purchase a reusable bottle of your choice (here is a nice selection to choose from) and substitute it for your bottled water, your bottled soda (find a 7-eleven or a store with a soda fountain for your bubbly refills), even your daily iced-mocha. If you keep track of all of the plastic bottles and disposable plastic cups you have kept out of landfills, ocean islands and recycling plants, it will shock you. Plus I bet you will actually like it.