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Bottled water industry celebrates improvements in recycling rates

April 19, 2011
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PET plastic bottled water containers are again the single most recycled item in nationwide curbside collection programs, and its recycled rate has grown to 31 percent.
 
“We are really proud to have expanded bottled water’s PET plastic recycling leadership position, and want to recognize the millions of thoughtful bottled water consumers for taking an extra second or two to put their empty plastic bottles in the recycle bin,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Doss of the Alexandria, Va.-based International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), in a statement.
 
The news about PET plastic bottle recycling comes from the National Association for PET Container Resources, which completed a major bale study last year at 15 locations in 14 states. The 31 percent recycling rate is up only slightly since last year, which was 30.9 percent, but a welcome continuation of steady annual increases in the recycling trend line since the analysis commenced in 2004, when the recycling rate for PET plastic bottled water containers stood at 16.62 percent, the association said. The latest data indicates that the recycling rate for PET plastic bottled water containers has nearly doubled in six years.
 
As for making plastic bottles lighter, analysis performed by Beverage Marketing Corp. (BMC) for IBWA shows that during the past eight years the gram weight of the 16.9 ounce single-serve bottled water container has dropped by 32.6 percent. The average PET bottled water container weighed 18.9 grams in 2000 and by 2009 the average amount of PET resin in each bottle 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.
 
Last year, IBWA also commissioned a Life Cycle Inventory, astudy to determine the environmental footprint of the U.S. bottled water industry. The study found the following:
 
• 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 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 U.S. 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 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.
 
The bottled water industry’s momentum toward more recycling and container lightweighting “can be seen as quickly going in the right direction,” Doss said. “These are clear signs of improvement but far more needs to be done with all plastic products and containers.”

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