With bans on the use of bisphenol A in baby bottles and food and drink containers looming in Washington state and Wisconsin and public concern continuing over its use in polycarbonate bottles the matter is creeping closer to the 5-gallon water-bottle market segment.
Packaging manufacturer Greif Inc. of Delaware, Ohio, on Jan. 29 announced the development of a BPA-free copolyester water bottle for the home and office markets. The new bottles, which Greif said have similar characteristics to its PC bottles, come in 3- and 5-gallon round and handled sizes.
Copolyester bottles match the transparent and glossy look of polycarbonate bottles and drop tests confirm that they meet the requirements set within the industry, said Rock Volker, Greif sales and marketing manager for water bottles, in a news release.
Spokeswoman Debra Strohmaier clarified that Grief is not discontinuing its line of PC bottles, though she would not comment on what effect the debate over BPA, a synthetic estrogen used in plastics production, has had on Greif's marketing efforts.
In a similar move, stretch blow molding machinery maker Siapi srl of San Vendemiano, Italy, is exhibiting at Nova-Pack being held Feb. 9-10 in Orlando, Fla. its lines of machinery that, in the words of its marketing materials, make Siapi the ideal partner for all new challenging projects to convert from [high density polyethylene] and PC to PET.
Siapi officials could not be reached for comment on whether the BPA controversy is causing significant industry changeover from 5-gallon PC water bottles to containers of different resins. Officials from the International Bottled Water Association in Alexandria, Va., also did not return a request for comment.
But Joel Tickner, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and project director of the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, said BPA is very much a factor in the decisions bottle manufacturers are making in order to stay in business.
If there is a material that could be problematic and is leaching out of water bottles, do you wait? he asked.
The center's green chemistry and commerce council in December released a report on best practices in product chemicals management in the retail industry. Researchers said retailers that pay attention to consumer fears, media reports and government regulatory pressures are likely to fare well in an era of enhanced public concern over chemical additives in consumer products.
Tickner said production costs, more than threats of legislation, probably will drive the future of BPA in the water-bottle industry.
[Processors] can use polyolefins in certain applications. Polycarbonate is three to four times more expensive than the other commodity polymers, he said. As for public outcry over the use of BPA affecting corporate materials decisions: It's going to depend on where you are on the supply chain [and on] what customers are saying.
In the past year, North American retailers such as Babies R Us, Safeway, Target, Toys R Us, CVS/pharmacy and Wal-Mart have mostly phased out selling baby bottles with BPA.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.