Embedded Sustainability Blog

Taking 185,000 cars off the roads every year...

In my yard today reading a magazine, I came across a two-page advertisement for Deer Park bottled water. Not surprisingly the ‘goodness’ of the product is described not only in terms of its “extremely selective… spring sources” but also its specially designed bottles: recyclable PET plastic, BPA-free, which now contain 38% less plastic than they did in 2006. Deer Park goes on to say that only 27% of PET plastic bottles get recycled yet, “if we simply doubled the recycling rate to 54%, the CO2 emissions saved would be equal to taking 185,000 cars off the road every year.”

Sounds fantastic, right? 38% less plastic? Doubling the recycling rate? But consider what the benchmark used really means. Since there are 700 million cars on the road today, 185,000 cars are only 0.0003 of the total. Doubling the recycling rate would really be the proverbial pin in a haystack. The comparison is even worse when you consider that the total number of cars (and water bottles) is expected to grow rapidly in the years ahead.

Which brings us to a question: are oil-based plastic water bottles, even if they use less plastic and are recycled more often, the appropriate answer? It’s a question not only of environmental responsibility but also about the size of the business opportunity to innovate profitable solutions.