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The European bottled water industry unites to make four pledges for the circular economy

bottle on the grass

The European bottled water industry has pledged that by 2025 90% of PET bottles will be collected and new bottles will contain at least 25% recycled PET as an average in Europe. The EFBW’s pledges, intended to accelerate the shift to a circular economy, are fully in line with Nestlé Waters’ commitments.

As a member of the EFBW (European Federation of Bottled Waters), we are proud to support the recent announcement of four industry-wide pledges intended to increase both the collection of PET bottles and the use of recycled PET in the production of new bottles across the EU.

What is a circular economy?

The principle of a circular economy is that previously viewed ‘waste’ materials and end-of-life products are treated as a resource or a raw material in their own right.

At Nestlé Waters, we have been dedicated to the principles of the circular economy and sustainable resource management for many years. That is why in April 2018, as part of the Nestlé Group’s commitments on all its packaging materials, we made the commitment that by 2025, 100% of our bottles will be recyclable (our global level is already at least 90%) and that all our PET bottles in Europe will include at least 25% recycled plastic (we are also well on target to achieve this aim).

A responsible industry

The drink containers used by the industry, be it PET, glass or aluminium, are recyclable. PET is in many ways the ideal material to preserve the taste and purity enjoyed by consumers of natural mineral and spring waters: not only recyclable, it is lightweight, robust and safe for consumers.

PET plastic is also already the highest recycled plastic material in the EU. However, the level of collection of PET drink bottles varies substantially across the Member States, with some collecting more than 90% of PET bottles, while others collect less than 20%. Meaning our packaging today is part of the unacceptable phenomenon of littering alongside other discarded items. Something the industry is keen to address.

male kid holding bottles

Taking joint action

Nestlé Waters does not stand alone in its determination to achieve progress. We are delighted that the four pledges taken by the entire European bottled waters industry are perfectly in line with our position. Across Europe, the industry is committed to playing its part in protecting the environment from plastic pollution.

The answer lies in greater collaboration between all stakeholders in the chain; from producers and recyclers, to authorities and consumers. With these four pledges, the EFBW is bringing the bottled water producers together to work with all these stakeholders to ensure that empty PET bottles are a valuable resource, and not waste.

A four-point strategy

Collect, collaborate, innovate and engage: the pledges constitute a four-point strategy designed to accelerate circularity by ensuring that Europe’s PET bottles find a second life as a raw material.

The starting point is significantly improving the collection and sorting of used PET bottles. It can only be achieved if other key stakeholders play their part, too, but the bottled water industry will be a driving force in ensuring 90% of all PET bottles are collected in Europe by 2025 (as an EU average).

Ecological progress depends on a sound economic basis, of course. The recycling stream will only function effectively if there are reliable markets for high-quality recycled PET (rPET). So in line with the principles of the circular economy, the bottled water industry is pledging to encourage use of recycled PET, by using it in producing new bottles, setting a target of including at least 25% rPET by 2025*.

Two other key elements of any sustainability strategy are innovation and education. EFBW members are pledging to invest in eco-design and in R&D on innovative plastic materials produced from renewable, non fossil-based organic resources. They will also will engage with consumers who play a key role in preventing littering to support them in understanding the optimal disposal of packaging.

*As an EU average

The European bottled water industry's 4 pledges on the circular economy:

- COLLECT: Collect 90% of all PET bottles in Europe by 2025, as an EU average.

- COLLABORATE: with the recycling industry to use at least 25% recycled PET (rPET) in its water bottles in Europe by 2025, as an EU average.

- INNOVATE: The industry will invest in eco-design and research on non fossil-based materials.

- ENGAGE: The industry will support consumers with initiatives which encourage the proper sorting and disposal of packaging.

Nestlé Waters initiatives outside Europe

Nestlé Waters is involved in initiatives to promote PET recycling and sustainable resource management not only through the EFBW in Europe, but all around the world. In the United States, it joined forces last year with Danone and a Californian start-up, Origin Materials, to form the NaturALL Bottle Alliance, which aims to develop a PET bottle using only bio-based material. Meanwhile, a new 700 ml Nestlé Pure Life® bottle made of 100% recycled PET was launched in North America in February 2018.