As bottled water surpasses carbonated soft drinks as the beverage of choice for most Americans, it has raised serious questions about the environmental impact of consuming something readily available from the tap. This has put consumers in an unenviable position — we hear every day about the health benefits of ditching sugary sodas, but we want to do the right thing for the earth as well.
While it is possible to reuse plastic almost indefinitely, more than 38 billion bottles are wasted each year.
Nestlé Steps Up
In August 2017, Nestlé became the first bottler to include the How2Recycle instruction label on all its water brands. Additionally, the company made a $6 million investment in the Closed Loop Fund, a social impact investment fund that aims to find national solutions to the American recycling gap.
One of the persistent challenges in waste reduction is that most consumers aren’t aware of what can and can’t be recycled. This leads to more recyclable items ending up in landfills. Conversely, it also means that too many items that can’t be recycled end up in recycling facilities, costing time and money and making systems less effective overall.
How2Recycle aims to fix this by putting easy-to-understand labels on all consumer products. The program, launched in 2012, now has partnerships with several major manufacturers and brands. In 2017, it won a DuPont Packaging Silver Award for innovation.
About the Closed Loop Fund
The Closed Loop Fund is an ongoing initiative that invests in sustainable manufacturing technology and finances projects that scale up recycling infrastructure. In the past, the project has purchased single stream boxes for the City of Memphis, helping it implement a municipal recycling program.
The fund has also worked with both public and private recycling facilities to upgrade technology, increase diversion rates and expand capacity.
Preventing Recycling Waste
Ultimately, limiting waste and improving recycling will depend on three things. First, people need to be informed about the scope of the problem and want to create change. Second, consumers need to have the right information to translate goodwill into effective action. Third, corporations that want to be good stewards of the environment must invest in equipment and infrastructure that will process recycled materials in an efficient, cost-effective manner.
As the largest bottled water producer in the world, Nestlé does have some pull when it comes to influencing industry standards. Adopting even more forward-thinking labeling and partnering with organizations such as the Closed Loop Fund are steps in the right direction — ones that will hopefully encourage other manufacturers to address the growing problem of bottled water waste.