The figures are overwhelming: consumers are taking to bottled water in ever-increasing numbers. According to the Container Recycling Institute, sales of non-sparkling bottled water doubled between 2002 and 2005, to 29.8 billion units. For plastic water bottles of one liter or less, the increase was more than 115 percent. Yet more than 80 percent of petroleum-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles used for non-carbonated beverages were not recycled in 2005, instead ending up in landfills, the institute said. Environmental activists are using such statistics to argue for a boycott, if not a ban, on the sale of plastic water bottles. And producers are waking up to the challenge. Speaking at a recent Green Transportation and Logistics Summit in San Francisco, sponsored by eyefortransport, representatives of Nestle Waters North America discussed how the company is addressing the environmental issues associated with bottled-water supply chains.
With $3.5bn in sales last year, Nestle Waters markets some of the most nation's popular brands, including Arrowhead, Ozarka, Perrier and San Pellegrino. National transportation manager Al Fortunato said the company expects to sell 750 million cases of bottled water this year on the retail side alone. (It also runs a thriving home and office delivery operation.) To reduce the environmental impact of that business, Nestle has cut down on the resin content of its bottles, from 21 grams in 1992 to 12.5 grams now. The size of paper labels has shrunk by 30 percent.
Shrink-wrap used on half-liter cases has been reduced by 14 percent over the last three years. In addition, increased recycling at the factory has eliminated 53 million pounds of material from landfills. On the transportation side, Nestle produces 98 percent of its bottles at the plants, saving 160,000 trailerloads of empty-bottle moves a year, Fortunato said. Payloads of outbound product have been boosted by one additional pallet per truckload, cutting out some 25,000 trips and 7 million miles. In partnership with Wal-Mart Stores and other major retailers, Nestle is working to reduce empty miles within private fleets and contracted carriers. The company is also asking customers to consolidate their orders and reduce the total number of shipments-a move made possible by lighter, higher-capacity transportation equipment. Other moves under consideration include membership in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay Transport Partnership, and the use of one-way, recyclable pallets.
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