A well-known brand within a well-known bottled water company is committing to use 100 percent recycled PET bottles in the next few years.
Poland Spring, one of a handful of regional brands in the Nestlé Waters North America portfolio, confirmed its commitment June 3 and said one bottle size already is using all recycled content.
Poland Spring says the company will be the first major brand in the United states to convert its portfolio to recycled plastic.
The move is part of a larger push by Nestlé Waters North America to have its entire portfolio use 25 percent recycled PET by 2021 and 50 percent by 2025.
Poland Spring, in its corner of the business, is committing to 100 percent recycled content for its still water bottles by 2022.
"The impact comes from consumers being able to really see the contribution they are making. Every time they recycle their bottle, we can say it works. Here [are] the bottles consumers recycle made into a new bottle. We want to close the loop," said David Tulauskas, chief sustainability officer for Nestlé Waters North America. "The PET we use is really valuable. It's high-quality, food-grade PET."
Poland Spring already is making incremental steps to achieve the goal with plans to convert 1-liter bottles to 100 percent recycled PET in June. And a premium offering called Poland Spring Origin started using 100 percent recycled PET in 900 milliliter bottles in April.
Nestlé Waters North America includes other brands such as Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Ozarka, Zephyrhills and Pure Life.
Nestlé Waters has previously said it 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.
Now comes the work to increase the recycled content with Poland Spring, which is bottled in Maine and primarily solid in the Northeast.
"The impact comes from it being our most iconic brand, our largest regional spring water brand that actually has a nationwide following," Tulauskas said.
The company, overall, is using about 7 percent recycled content when considering its entire portfolio.
"We are very confident that we are well down the road for using rPET. We've got a lot of lessons learned, and we're in a really good position to hit our 25 percent by 2021," he said. "It's important that a major bottled water company not only makes the commitment, but now proves it out. ... We can get to a circular economy."
The 100 percent commitment is for the company's bottles, but not caps and labels at this point.
"Ultimately we envision a future that is waste free. We've got to get to a circular economy. It's not just a value chain. It's a value web of communities, collectors, sorters, processors, brands and consumers.
"We want to take the single out of single use and in order to achieve that there's a lot of different players in this to make it happen," Tulauskas said.
PET is one of the most reused plastics in the United States with a recycling rate of 29.2 percent, according to the Association of Plastic Recyclers and the National Association for PET Container Resources.
But compared to other commodities such as metal and paper, plastics are far below in the percentage of material collected for recycling.