The members of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) are proud to support World Water Day 2012 and recognize the importance of a safe and sustainable water supply. The theme for this year’s World Water Day, celebrated annually on March 22, is “The World is Thirsty Because We are Hungry.” This United Nations sponsored event is held every year to focus attention on the importance of fresh water, and to advocate the sustainable management of fresh water resources.
Water – whether from the tap or bottle – is essential to life. And bottled water is a clean, safe, convenient, and healthy product that consumers find refreshing and use to stay hydrated. “IBWA supports the smart and responsible management of the world’s water resources. Our industry fully recognizes the importance of protecting the quantity and quality of the world’s water,” says Chris Hogan, IBWAs’ vice president of communications. “Governments, businesses, communities and individuals must work together to help protect, preserve and provide a clean, safe and sustainable water supply,” he adds.
Bottled water companies that produce groundwater products (e.g. spring water, artisanal water) are entirely dependent upon a safe, fresh supply of constantly recharged and replenished water for their livelihood. In addition, IBWA supports strong municipal water systems since bottled water companies that produce purified water often use municipal water sources. Once the municipal source water enters the bottled water plant, several processes, including reverse osmosis, deionization and filtration, are employed to ensure that it meets the purified water standard established by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (23rd Revision). Bottled water companies responsibly manage and monitor their source waters and oversee bottled water production in an environmentally focused process.
A Small Environmental Footprint
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 utilize and manage water resources in a highly efficient and responsible manner by investing in broadly accepted science and technology to improve water quality, and strengthening water conservation practices.
In many parts of the world, clean safe water is unavailable or only available in limited quantities, even in stable periods without an over-arching natural disaster. While governments and the private sector work to find permanent solutions to provide clean drinking water in underserved communities around the world, bottled water, combined with other solutions such as filtration and bulk filling stations, is an efficient and effective means of delivering clean, sanitary drinking water where insufficient or non-existent water delivery infrastructure poses life-threatening problems. In addition, a growing number of bottled water companies are designating a portion of their income to support global programs, which help create long term solutions for the provision of water for drinking, sanitation and hygiene in underserved and developing communities.
The bottled water industry uses minimal amounts of water 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 0.02 percent 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.
Consumers across the United States choose bottled water because it is a healthy, refreshing beverage. As a manufactured food product, bottled water is similar to thousands of other beverage and food products that are comprehensively regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food product. Bottled water has its own stringent FDA manufacturing standards governing its safety, purity and labeling. And by law, FDA standards for bottled water must be as protective of public health as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s tap water regulations.
Bottled Water’s Effective Environmental Focus
IBWA has long been an advocate for recycling programs and is working to build partnerships to help improve the recovery of recyclable materials, primarily through the expansion of single-stream curbside recycling collection programs. IBWA’s Material Recovery Program framework assists in developing new, comprehensive solutions to help manage solid waste in communities by having all consumer product companies work together with state and local governments to improve recycling and waste collection efforts.
The bottled water industry has made significant inroads in reducing the amount of plastic used to make bottled water containers by light-weighting its packaging. Over the past eight years, the total weight of 16.9 ounce (half-liter) PET plastic bottled water containers has been reduced by 32.6 percent. This has saved over 1.3 billion pounds of PET plastic resin. Other innovative ways to improve recycling includes expanding the use of recycled PET (rPET) and exploring new compostable and bio-degradable plastics. Many bottled water companies are already using up to 50 percent recycled material in their plastic bottles.
All bottled water containers – whether plastic or glass – are 100 percent recyclable. Recycling rates for single serve bottled water containers are on the rise, doubling in the last five years. A recent National Association of PET Container Resources’ recycling report found that at 32.25 percent, empty plastic water bottles are the most highly recycled items in curbside recycling programs. In addition, 3 and 5 gallon plastic bottled containers are reused between 30-50 times before being recycled.