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.
Consumers should be aware that bottled water containers are fully recyclable and should be properly recycled through whatever system their local municipality has in place. In fact, all bottled water containers - whether plastic, glass or aluminum -- are recyclable. IBWA actively supports comprehensive curbside recycling programs, partners with other beverage and food companies, municipalities, and the recycling industry, as we seek to educate consumers about recycling, and work to increase all recycling to reduce litter. Currently, 31 percent of all bottled water containers are recycled - a record high result for any PET plastic container.
By using recycled materials, alternative packaging (recycled PET, PLA, biodegradable and compostable materials), and increasing the fuel efficiency in the transportation of their products to market, the bottled water industry is working to reduce its environmental footprint. By developing and using lighter-weight plastics for its containers, in eight years, the average weight of single-serve bottled water has decreased by over 32 percent. Recent Life Cycle Inventory studies have verified that bottled water products have a very small environmental footprint.
Bottled water containers make up a very small part of the waste stream, accounting for less than one-third of one percent all waste produced in the U.S. Any efforts to reduce the environmental impact of packaging must be comprehensive and focus on all consumer goods.
The larger bottles found on many home and office bottled water coolers can be sanitized and re-used an average of 40 times before the bottled water company removes them from the marketplace and recycles them. That is why the bottled water industry is considered one of the "original recyclers."
Unforeseen natural disasters, such as the recent earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan, show how vulnerable l water systems can be. Days after the earthquake struck, Japanese officials were overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis, with millions of people facing days and nights without electricity, water, food or heat in near-freezing temperatures, according to the Associated Press of Japan. British news sources reported 1.5 million people in Japan - mostly in urban areas - were without water. U.S. bottlers immediately provided several million dollars in cash and product donations, joining in a huge international effort to provided bottled water.
In times of emergency, bottled water is a staple and always there when you need it. Floods, wildfires, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, boil alerts and other events often compromise municipal water systems. Domestically, IBWA members contribute millions of gallons of water each year to the affected victims and work closely with federal, state and local agencies on a year-round basis to prepare for emergency distribution of water. IBWA's broad-ranging expertise can help government officials better understand the issues involved as they attempt to create a more workable system.
Bottled water companies are often the first responders to these emergency situations, acting as a backup for compromised public water systems. However, for bottled water to be available in emergency situations there must also be a viable commercial marketplace that supports its production. Reducing the commercial viability of bottled water could seriously threaten its availability during emergency situations, and laws and actions which negatively target bottled water are an ironic disservice to, and poor public policy for, an industry that is called upon every year to provide crucial drinking water throughout the U.S. and the world.