Waste: The Slimming of the Bottles

In the bottled water industry, they call the new bottles “water balloons.” A recent analysis of plastic bottles by the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) for the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) shows that between 2000 and 2008, the gram weight of the 16.9-ounce single-serve bottled water container dropped by nearly one third.

“Most people can tell the difference,”” says Tom Lauria, IBWA spokesperson. “They squeeze easily, but they are droppable, shippable and strong.”

In 2000, the average polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottled water container weighed 18.9 grams. By 2008, that number had dropped to 12.7 grams, according to IBWA. The BMC estimated that during those eight years more than 1.3 billion pounds of PET resin was eliminated.

IBWA President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph K. Doss says his association gives credit to the plastic resin manufacturers who worked hard to find new ways to strengthen PET plastic resin so that less plastic goes further in maintaining the structural integrity of the thinner bottle. “Less can be used with equal results,”” says Lauria.

In 2008, the bottled water industry saved 445 million pounds of PET plastic, according to the IBWA. “And we are already projecting improvement in the years ahead. There are bottles introduced in 2009 and 2010 that are 10 grams,”” Lauria says. “We are already seeing a big drop since the time the study was finished.”

Bottle caps are lighter, too. “We are also reducing the weight and density of the water bottle caps,”” says Lauria. “They are very, very small, like wafers.”

Although PET plastic bottled water containers make up just one-third of 1% of waste material going into landfills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the lighter bottles lessen the amount of plastic that is not recycled.

“Even though we are in a push for improved curbside recycling programs, we feel that another way to avoid needless waste is by downsizing the bottles wherever possible,”” says Lauria.

CONTACTS: Beverage Marketing Corporation; International Bottled Water Association.