PepsiCo Inc.’s Aquafina bottles are completely recyclable (cap and label, too). Aquafina is supporting various recycling programs by partnering with organizations such as Keep American Beautiful, the National Recycling Coalition and Return the Warmth, which transformed recycled Aquafina bottles into 100,000 fleece jackets for children.
The most popular Aquafina size, a half liter, is made with 35 percent less plastic than in 2000, saving over 45 million pounds of plastic per year, the company noted.
Perceived water contamination in bottled water is another consumer issue the industry faces.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)’s water Website makes the following statement about bottled water: “In 1999, NRDC conducted 1,000 separate tests of more than 100 brands of bottled water and concluded that bottled water is not necessarily any purer or any safer than city tap water. Some bottled water is of very high quality and is very pure; other brands of bottled water contain elevated levels of arsenic, bacteria, or other contaminants.” Currently, the NRDC does not oppose bottled water, but rather is fighting for cleaner tap water.
Consumer advocates also question the integrity of government regulation to ensure the safety of bottled water.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates municipal water. The Sierra Club claims the FDA and state agencies don’t do as good of a job regulating water quality as the EPA. (Bottled water definitions revised in April of 2007 can be found at the FDA Website – 21 C.F.R. §165.110.)
Joe Doss, International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) president and CEO, argued the FDA oversight is sufficient. In addition, IBWA members have to agree to unannounced inspections of their water to make sure it meets FDA regulations as well as the IBWA model code. In 1982, the IBWA model code was created due to the limited scope of the FDA’s regulations for bottled water. Since then, the FDA has promulgated the regulations, but the IBWA has also raised the standards in order to distinguish IBWA bottlers from others in the industry.
In addition, member companies can hire United Laboratories (UL) or NSF International to certify a product. “Those two marks (UL and NSF) have come to mean quality,” said Doss.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recently announced a new certification program for bottled water to ensure consumers the bottled water they are drinking has been validated by UL to meet the FDA and IBWA requirements for quality and safety.
“The introduction of this new mark for bottled water is a natural extension of UL’s commitment to public safety,” said Jeff Smith, general manager, UL global water business, in a prepared statement. “Consumers can feel confident that when they see the UL Certified Water Quality Mark on bottled water, that the global leader in product safety certification, with more than 100 years of service, has independently tested the safety and quality of the water.”
THE CLEANER ISSUE
Still another issue is the quality of bottled water. Some activists accuse the bottled water industry of falsely advertising its products are more purified than municipal water when in fact the bottler gets the water from a municipal source.
The IBWA’s Doss claims the municipal source bottled water takes tap water and runs it through a variety of filters such as reverse osmosis, granulated carbon filtration, or a 1 micron absolute filters. Coca-Cola Co.’s Dasani, for example, is purified water. The filtration removes organic matter, impurities, total dissolved solids (solids in the water invisible to the human eye), etc. To enhance the taste of the purified water, Dasani adds minerals back into the water. This type of filtration would also remove any pharmaceuticals, said Doss, which have recently been found in drinking water.
Aquafina’s Website includes information on its seven-step process, HydRO-7™, to purify its municipality-sourced water.
WATER EXTRACTION AND PROTECTION
Nestlé Waters North America is one of the largest suppliers of bottled water, offering spring, mineral and purified bottled water. Jane Lazgin, director of corporate communications, explained the company sources water in three ways. There are regional spring brands including Ice Mountain in the Midwest, Arrowhead in the West, and Deer Park in the East. These waters are from regional underground springs, said Lazgin. They conform to the FDA requirement for spring waters.