The Plastic Problem
Plastic, this age’s symbol of unabashed convenience and frivolous modernity, has been causing problems for some time now.
The situation is dire. Humans buy approximately one million plastic bottles per minute, globally. At this rate, over half a trillion bottles will be sold when 2020 comes rolling in. Considering the fact that ninety percent of all the manufactured plastic in the world do not get recycled, landfills are getting filled to the brim with useless and wasteful plastic trash.
It’s easy to demonize bottled water in the midst of the overwhelming plastic problem, but the data shows otherwise. Bottled water only takes up about a third of one percent of the US waste stream, while bottles from carbonated beverages take up four percent. Sweetened drinks like sodas, sports drinks, and vitamin-enhanced “flavored” water also produce fifty percent more carbon dioxide per serving than regular bottled water.
Going Above and Beyond
In response, drinks manufacturers are now more inclined to use PET (polyethylene terephthalate) instead of virgin plastic for their bottles. While it takes 400 years to fully decompose (which is relatively short when seen from a geologic standpoint), PET is highly recyclable.
Other bottled drink manufacturers like Waiakea (the Hawaii-based, environmentally-conscious bottled water brand that we’ve talked about before) take the plastic conservation thing one step further and use 100% rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate) for their bottles.
RPET is not inexpensive, and it is almost certainly not the final and definite solution to the plastic problem. However, adopting it and using it instead of virgin plastic (and even PET) can be a huge step for sustainable and coo-friendly consumption. For one, rPET uses a whole lot less water and energy resources to manufacture. Two, it produces less carbon emissions to. Three, the material is fully recyclable, and once discarded, can be turned and transformed into construction materials, apparel, household items, containers, and all sorts of objects.
It’s important to note that Waiakea is not only among the first beverages in the world to use extremely high grade rPET for their bottles, it is also the first premium bottled water brand to do so. Currently, the company is working on the development and implementation of the first fully degradable plastic bottle. This is in keeping with the Hawaiian tradition and practice of “Malama I Ka ‘Aina” which means to take care of and respect the land- a philosophy that Waiakea Water fully espouses through their business practices and charitable works.
Carbon Neutrality, Exemplified
The use of rPET bottles instead of new plastic that takes up considerable resources to manufacture can help reduce greenhouse emissions- which is one of the aggravating factors of climate change. When businesses make the decision to go carbon neutral, they are taking responsibility for the carbon emissions that they produce and making steps to rectify the problem. This is done through earning credits for emission reduction initiatives through projects like solar panel installations and wind farms.
In 2012, Waiakea became the first domestic bottled water brand in the United States to achieve a CarbonNeutral certification. Its business practices aim to work with as little environmental impact as possible: Waiakea water is sourced and treated through natural means (the water is naturally alkaline on its own due to the environment it is sourced from). Add to this is the company’s overwhelming support for carbon reduction projects and sustainable environmental activities.
More Than Bottles
Aside from climate change, pollution also has a significant negative effect on the world’s potable water supply. According to a 2014 study, there are nearly 700 million people living today who do not have access to clean drinking water. For children, this can be a huge setback to their health and physical development. It has been estimated that a child dies every 20 seconds due to water-borne diseases and poor sanitation.
Through its charity partner Pump Aid, an international organization dedicated to giving disenfranchised communities access to clean water and improving their hygiene/sanitation practices, Waiakea aims to incite positive environmental and societal change. For every customer purchase of 1L Waiakea water, the company will donate a week’s supply- approximately 650L- of clean water through Pump Aid.
Six hundred fifty liters might seem a lot, but it’s still barely enough for the people in Malawi, which, at 15 to 20 liters per daily capita consumption, has one of the lowest water consumption rates in the whole world. Contrast this with the figure for the United States: on average, Americans use 666 liters or 176 gallons per day.
Pump Aid is particularly focused on giving Malawi and other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa access to clean water as well as functional sanitation. Despite being rich in water resources, Malawi is beset with issues that negatively affect the country’s potable water supply. A rapidly growing population as well as an increasing number of non-functional or problematic water points further exacerbate the problem.
Currently, Pump Aid is focusing most of their efforts on the districts of Kasungu and Mchinji. These are among the most severely underfunded districts in the region when it comes to water and sanitation; they are also the districts with lowest access to safe, potable water in the whole country (only 64% for Kasungu and 67% for Mchinji). Water access in these areas are literally life-and-death situations for a lot of residents.
Not Just a Drink, But a Way of Life
Waiakea water is a prime example of what clean water can look and taste like in its most pure and natural form. The area surrounding this water source is clean, isolated, and free from impurities and pollution brought about by modern development. As a volcanic water, it is filtered naturally through hundreds and thousands of feet of porous volcanic rock on the Mauna Loa volcano This process enriches the water with minerals (e.g. potassium, sodium, chloride, and magnesium) and gives it a pleasant taste profile that is drastically different from lab-treated water.
With Waiakea’s and Pump Aid’s efforts and charitable initiatives for universal water access, it is a great thought to ponder on that this kind of clean potable water can be shared not only to consumers, but also to underprivileged and disenfranchised people who need them the most.
Read more about Waiakea’s upcoming degradable bottle here!