Driving pet bottle recycling

Reduce recycle reuse sign

PET plastic bottles are 100% recyclable, yet today more than half of all PET bottles worldwide are not collected. Nestlé Waters supports programs that develop bottle collection and sorting infrastructures, and that raise consumer awareness on proper disposal practices.

Improving recycling efficiency

Plastic bottles go through the recycling process to be reused for new products. PET is first cut into little pieces and then cleaned. The pieces are transformed into little pellets that are used to manufacture new products.

Recycling process picture

As a 100% recyclable material that can be reused in many applications, including bottle-to-bottle, PET has the potential to achieve a circular economy model. However, the collection of PET bottles remains a collective challenge for the beverage industry, involving all stakeholders across the recycling chain. At Nestlé Waters, we support and fund public and trade association campaigns designed to encourage and expand bottle collection. As a member of the EFBW (European Federation of Bottled Waters), we are proud of its pledge that by 2025, 90% of all PET bottles will be collected.

The United States has one of the lowest recycling rates of any industrialized country. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 75 percent of the waste stream in the U.S. is recyclable, but only 30 percent actually gets recycled. In May 2017, Nestlé Waters North America announced it is investing $6 million in Closed Loop Fund as part of a shared effort among business, government and community partners to fund comprehensive recycling infrastructure and programs in cities across the United States.

We have also joined global alliances, such as the Trash Free Seas Alliance through The Consumer Goods Forum and through our parent company, Nestlé, and the New Plastics Economy managed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, to align on a common plastic waste management framework. For example, in France, reverse vending machines are currently being tested as a means to complement existing waste management systems. Our commitment to promoting sorting and recycling is also built around creative initiatives such as Lemon-Tri, and RECO, an innovative plastic bottle recycling program using special bottle bins positioned on retailer parking lots. Each time a customer inserts a bottle in the bin, they receive a 2-centime discount coupon, a nice incentive to get everyone recycling!

Growing recycling awareness

Consumers have a crucial role to play in the recycling effort through disposing of plastic waste properly. We have contributed to raising their awareness through various brand platforms and corporate educational programs such as R-Generation, implemented in Italy, Argentina, the United Kingdom and Thailand. To disseminate educational messages, we leverage all our direct communication channels, including labeling, advertising, the internet and sponsored events.

For example, Nestlé Waters North America began adding How2Recyle instructions to the labels on half-liter bottles sold by its purified water brand Nestlé Pure Life and its regional spring water brands Poland Spring, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Zephyrhills, Ozarka and Arrowhead. It thus becomes the first beverage manufacturer in North America to add this label to all its major U.S. bottled water brands. The hope is that the entire industry and other manufacturers will adopt the How2Recycle labeling standard.

Plastic bottles can be recycled into new products or materials, such as clothing, carpeting, industrial products and, of course, new plastic bottles.

What can be made of recycled bottles

A matter of perception

Nestlé Waters educational programs largely revolve around changing the perception that empty PET bottles are a waste, by demonstrating that they are a resource.

  • In Argentina, our Eco de los Andes bottled water brand participates in a primary school program that promotes PET bottle collection. Since the campaign was launched in 2014, more than 6,500 kg of PET (the equivalent of 180,000 bottles) have been collected and sold for recycling. The money is used to buy school materials such as paper, pencils, and furniture.
  • In Thailand,“I am Doing It” campaign supported by Nestlé Waters has been promoting PET recycling among children, employees and the general public since 2011.