Nestlé Waters North America Inc. is now committing to using recycled plastic for half of the company's bottle needs by the middle of next decade.
The Stamford, Conn.-based company, which has been making incremental increases in its use of recycled PET over time, also has set an interim target of 25 percent recycled plastic use by 2021.
The increase is part of an overall trend for the company, said John Caturano, senior manager of recycling and packaging programs, at Nestlé Waters North America.
“We've really been doing this for a very long time. We started putting [recycled] rPET in our packaging in 2011. Smaller amounts than what we are doing today, obviously,” he said.
Recycled PET currently represents about 7 to 8 percent of bottle plastic being used, so the interim goal will more than triple that amount.
“When you look at the 25 percent, that's a very pragmatic, grounded strategy. We have contracts in place to achieve that, so we're extremely confident about that,” Caturano said.
“The 50 percent is something that is more about developing and cultivating a pipeline of suppliers and also looking at emerging technologies. To get to 100 percent, that's quite a path, but we're very up for the challenge and excited to try and achieve that,” he said.
Nestlé Waters North America includes well-known brands such as Arrowhead, Poland Spring, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Ozarka, Zephyrhills, and Pure Life.
Nestlé Waters already uses more than 42 percent recycled plastic in all company brands sold in California. That includes a 50 percent recycled PET usage rate for all single-serve Arrowhead and Pure Life bottles sold there.
But the new set of goals will substantially increase recycled PET use for the company across America.
California's bottle bill helps keep the supply of recycled PET available in that state, and the company has been working to secure additional supply in other parts of the country. That includes an increasing relationship with CarbonLite Industries LLC, which has announced plans for a new recycling facility in eastern Pennsylvania to join existing sites in Riverside, Calif., and Dallas.
Leo Farahnik, founder of CarbonLite, has said his company's growth can be directly tied to Nestlé Waters' increased use of recycled PET in its packaging. The Pennsylvania facility is expected to open late next year.
Even without that site, CarbonLite calls itself “one of the largest producers of food-grade post-consumer recycled PET in the world.”
Nestlé Waters also indicates the company is expanding a relationship with Plastrec Inc. of Joliette, Quebec, and working with other suppliers to “nearly quadruple” use of food-grade recycled PET in less than three years.
“PET plastic is a valuable resource that, if recycled properly, can be used to create new bottles again and again. We're proving that it can be done by making bottles out of other bottles, not 10 years from now, but today,” said Fernando Mercé, CEO of Nestlé Waters North America, in a statement.
“We want to take the ‘single' out of ‘single-use' bottles,” he continued.
Earlier this year, the company started selling 700-milliliter bottles of its Pure Life brand made from 100 percent recycled PET.
Caturano said a key to increasing recycled content in water bottles is capturing more of the material that's not finding its way into recycling containers. People just need to recycle more. “We want to see the bottles get back into the blue bin,” he said.
And while he loves to see more bottle recycling plants come on line, he said capacity exists to handle more material.
He would also like to see more bottle-to-bottle recycling. “If you look at that material, only about 20 to 25 percent of the material that's recovered is going back into bottles. A lot of that is going into the fiber industry,” he said.
“There's just this dynamic around the bottle. I get a little bit passionate about this so I hope I don't get too crazy here. But the bottles were never intended to go into the landfill in the first place,” Caturano said. “We have a tremendous amount of emphasis on design for recyclability.”