I was pleased to note that the recent introduction of the one-way, 4-gallon PET bottle for retailer use is already creating so much discussion about recycling (“1-way bottle leads to dead end,” Perspective, Dec. 5, Page 6).
All responsible members of our industry should be interested in any innovation that affects consumers' recycling habits for the better. The current state of recycling results — particularly regarding small PET bottles — can and should be improved. Not only are we coming under increasing external pressure from regulators and consumer groups to produce better results, I believe the vast majority of us share a personal desire to act as good custodians.
The one-way, 4-gallon bottle contains several innovations that will lead to more efficient use of resources as well as more sustainable recycling behavior. Here are the facts:
* There is far less plastic used to produce a 4-gallon, one-way bottle than is used in a case of one-half-liter bottled water (310 grams vs. 480 grams). This, despite the fact that there are 512 ounces of water in a 4-gallon bottle vs. only 405 ounces of water in a case of one-half liters.
* The 4-gallon, one-way bottle produced by Veriplas Containers contains recycled PET content. The use of, and demand for, recycled content by producers are absolutely essential prerequisites to continued PET recycling.
* The 4-gallon bottle is much more likely to be recycled than are other beverage containers. We are simply not going to see a consumer buy one of these packages at a convenience store, consume the contents, and toss it from the car window afterward! Remember that the 4-gallon package requires the use of a water cooler or other dispenser.
* The PET material in the 4-gallon bottle has tremendous recycled value. A single one-way, 4-gallon bottle has recoverable PET material value that equates to 20 small one-way water bottles — with less handling and lower contamination (less label and closure weight)!
In addition, the 4-gallon, one-way package is easy on the current recycling infrastructure. Not only does the package work well with existing PET recycling programs, due to its size it will be among the most easily identified in the sorting process.
Taken together, the facts behind the 4-gallon bottle (rather than any doomsday scenario) lead to a clear conclusion: We have the technology to substantially improve our use of scarce resources while at the same time improving consumers' recycling behaviors and protecting their health. That is the type of industry innovation to embrace.
Breck Speed is chairman and chief executive officer of Mountain Valley Spring Co. of Hot Springs National Park, Ark., whose Veriplas Containers division manufactures a 4-gallon one-way PET bottle.