Aquafina’s New Eco-Fina Bottle: Greenwash or Progress?

פורסם: 16 במרץ 2011, 13:01 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 16 במרץ 2011, 13:04 ]
By Chris Baskind
Originally posted 25. Mar, 2009

Aquafina's new Eco-Fina packaging

We’ve always been hard on bottled water here at Lighter Footstep. With good reason: Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. Worse yet, over 80 percent of plastic bottles are simply thrown away. Most of these end up in landfills, but a distressing number find their way into the environment.

And then there’s the cost. At a dollar or more for a half liter container, bottled water at least three times more expensive than gasoline. That’s not very good value for a product which is usually drawn from municipal water systems. Depending on where you live, the dollar you spend on a single bottle of water would buy about 500 gallons straight from the tap.

Bottled water has its place. In a relief situation, such as after a hurricane or other natural disaster, bottled water can literally be a lifesaver. There’s also no doubt that it’s a healthier choice than the corn syrup and artificial sweetener-filled drinks you’ll find in most vending machines. But earth-friendly? No so much.

A surprising email

Which is why we were caught off-guard a few weeks ago when we were contacted by a public relations firm representing Aquafina, Pepsi’s bottled water brand. They asked if we’d be interested in receiving something about an upcoming product launch. The PR rep was very polite, so we thought it only fair to warn them that Lighter Footstep is the source of Five Reasons Not to Drink Bottled Water, one of the web’s most commonly cited articles critical of bottled water. Whatever Aquafina was sending wasn’t likely to get a warm reception.

To the agency’s credit, they took our shipping info and told us to watch for a delivery. Today, it came: a sample of Aquafina’s new Eco-Fina bottle.

What’s an “eco-friendly” plastic bottle?

Pepsi is apparently paying attention to consumer demands. The new Eco-Fina bottles are designed to reduce their environmental impact, using 50 percent less plastic than bottles produced seven years ago. They’re actually a pretty snazzy bit of industrial design. The plastic is paper-thin through the body of the bottle. It would crush in your hand if it weren’t for a cleverly designed system of decorative ridges. These add enough strength to the container that it performs like a conventional bottle. The whole thing weighs a bit less than 11 grams.

So — does this make Aquafina’s new bottle eco-friendly? While no disposable plastic product will ever be truly sustainable, we’d be less than honest if we didn’t admit that the new Aquafina bottles are a step in the right direction.

Aquafina and recycling truck

If every manufacturer of bottled water adopted similar technology, the industry would save more plastic each year than is currently being conserved through recycling. Given the economic slowdown and reduction in demand for recycled materials, this seems like a pretty good deal. Sure, you’d be a lot better off filtering your own water and carrying it in a reusable, BPA-free container. But less plastic is less plastic.

Behind the scenes

PepsiCo may not be saving any whales with their new Aquafina bottle, but they’ll certainly be saving some money. As part of the new initiative, most Aquafina will now be bottled directly at the point of manufacture. This will substantially shorten the distribution chain, cutting back on transportation costs and carbon dioxide emissions. These are all good things.

On the other hand …

… Whoever put together the Eco-Fina launch campaign needs to rethink how to present packages in a more environmentally friendly way. Here’s we received:

Aquafina promo package

Three bottles. One would have been enough — empty, even. This box weighed five pounds. It was shipped FedEx priority overnight. The internal packaging is pretty, but doesn’t appear to be made from recycled materials and is too heavily coated to compost.

But they’re trying. Even baby steps move you forward.