Bottled water giant BlueTriton admits recycling and sustainability claims are wrong "chubby"

In an ongoing lawsuit Bottled water company BlueTriton has made an eloquent argument for the sustainability of plastic recycling: its sustainability claims are not against the law because they are “desirable.”

BlueTriton, which owns Poland Spring, Pure Life, Splash, Ozarka and Arrowhead, among many other brands, is estimated to dump hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic into US landfills every year. BlueTriton was formerly known as Nestlé Waters North America, which was bought by private equity firm One Rock Capital Partners in March 2021. drainage of aquifers To get the water he encapsulates in polluting plastic, he owns about a third of bottled water brands in the US. However, with sleek, green and blue PR materials, BlueTriton is positioning itself as a solution to plastic waste and water issues.

“Water is at the heart of our sustainable efforts to meet the needs of future generations,” BlueTriton states on its website. Web site, explaining its promise of sustainable image management of pine trees, pristine water and clouds. The company’s Instagram account is also nature-focused and wholesome, filled with images of people with a green tint. hiking and increase in local trout population.

The claims were a bridge too far for the environmental group Earth Island Institute, which sued BlueTriton in August, alleging that its misleading sustainability claims violated Washington, D.C.’s local law known as the Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which is designed to prevent “fraudulent trade practices.” In response, the company defended its green self-promotion, explaining that everyone should understand that claims are nonsense.

“Many of the claims in question are unsubstantiated bluster,” BlueTriton’s lawyers wrote in their letter. petition for dismissal The case went to court in the District of Columbia in March. “BlueTriton’s presentation of itself as a ‘custodian of sustainable resources’ and ‘a company that cares about water at its core’ is vague and exaggerated,” the attorneys continued. “Because these statements are ‘worded in inspirational terms’, they cannot form the basis of Plaintiff’s claim against the CPPA.”

Dirty Business

When BlueTriton chose a new logo in April 2021, they explained their choice on Instagram as a tribute to his commitment to nature and environmental protection. “Triton is the god of the sea in classical Greek mythology,” the company wrote. “Combined with blue representing water, the new name and logo reflect our role as a custodian of sustainable resources and a provider of fresh water.”

Some of its brands go even further, suggesting that they help solve the plastic problem, as bottles are basically recyclable. Brands BlueTriton Poland Spring, Ozarka and Zephyrhills Water advertise: “We use #1 PET plastic that can be used over and over again!” Pure Life Water boasts that all of its bottles are “100% recyclable… and can be used to make new bottles and all sorts of new reusables.” Deer Park claims that its recyclable bottles help “keep plastic out of landfills” and that the company “takes care of[s] about you and our planet.”

In truth, there is overwhelming evidence that recycling cannot solve the plastic problem. Since the 1950s, only 9 percent of the plastic produced has been recycled, while the vast majority of plastic waste is either landfilled or incinerated. Six times The United States burns more plastic waste than it recycles. Packaging, including PET bottles, which BlueTriton brands describe as recyclable, accounts for more than half of the plastic that ends up in landfills.

As the complaint notes, plastic pollution is now so widespread that the average person drinks more than 1,700 tiny pieces of plastic per week of drinking water — the equivalent of an entire credit card. Microplastics are found in 94.4% of US tap water samples and can be an even bigger problem in bottled water despite bottled water companies touting their product as environmentally friendly. One BlueTriton brand, Pure Life, contained twice as many plastic fibers as tap water.

Meanwhile, as BlueTriton positions itself as the solution to America’s water problems, caught extracting water from the national forest without authorization. The practice of using natural water sources has been shown to dry up aquifers and rivers, take water from plants and animals, and from public drinking water supplies.

Graphics: outside plastic

empty promises

With increasing public awareness of the role bottled water companies are playing in the plastic pollution crisis, companies have publicly pledged to do better. In 2008, Nestlé Waters North America made a commitment to recycle 60 percent of PET bottles by 2018. proudly announced their intentions in their first corporate social responsibility report (which is no longer available online). But when the deadline approached, and the recycling rate was still less than half of what was planned – only 28.9%, according to the 2020 report. report Changing Markets Fund – the company has just released another promise instead of dwelling on his inability to satisfy the earlier one.

The loud announcement of lofty goals for plastic recycling, followed by a silent failure to achieve them, is part of a larger plan. sample. Because at least 1990Coca Cola did repeated plastic promises, including commitments to use more recycled plastic, recycle and refill more bottles, and use more plant-based materials. The company that fought against efforts to reduce plastic waste and recently hired Bill Nye to help clean up his image, regularly proclaims these goals with great fanfare and rarely, if ever, achieves them. Coca-Cola did not respond to a request for this story.

The distance between advertising and reality is particularly marked with promises of increasing reliance on recycled plastic, which is much more expensive to use than new plastic. According to Beyond Plastics, 10 major corporations, including L’Oréal, Unilever, Nestlé and PepsiCo, have pledged to significantly reduce their reliance on virgin plastic while continuing to rely on new plastic. The EPA based its findings on the most recent data available for 2019.

BlueTriton, which does not publish contacts with the media and does not provide journalists with the opportunity to ask questions, did not respond to Olx Praca’s request for this article (which was transmitted via a message left in the sales team). But in a statement asking the court to dismiss the greenwashing lawsuit, the company claims that some of its brands have taken several steps that show they are indeed sustainable. It says Pure Life, for example, has converted cooling towers at its bottling plants to reuse water that was previously discarded. And this company is also “reducing[ing] by more than 40% of the amount of plastic in our 0.5 liter bottles” and “improving our manufacturing processes to reduce the amount of water needed to produce one liter of Pure Life® purified water.” One Rock Capital Partners, the private equity firm that bought Nestlé Waters North America, also did not respond to Olx Praca’s request.

“They admit they are only using these sustainability commitments as marketing tools.”

Sumona Majumdar, general counsel for the Earth Island Institute, denied these claims. “You cannot claim to be a sustainable company by using plastic as the primary packaging,” Majumdar said. “Perhaps there was a time when you, as a company, thought that our plastic was being recycled and turned back into plastic. But at the moment everyone knows that this is not true.”

Majumdar considers the company’s executives to be among those who clearly understand that they are contributing to the plastic waste crisis, even if their statements suggest otherwise.

“When you look at their Instagram feeds and their sustainability statements, it seems like a fait accompli. But in this brief they submitted, they acknowledge that they are only using these sustainability commitments as marketing tools,” Majumdar said. “It’s just to get consumers to buy their products, not because they really intend to deliver on their promises.”