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Circular Economy 2019

Water Bottles Fuel the Plastic Pollution Crisis

Carolyn Hungate

Marketing Manager, Brita

Just a quick glance at the latest news headlines and the situation is clear: plastic pollution is reaching critical levels and destroying the environment at an alarming pace. It’s one of the most urgent issues the world faces, and the statistics are grim. 

Challenging beliefs about recycling

Many Canadians think they’re being environmentally-conscious by sorting their plastics into blue bins, but the truth is less than 10% of plastics are recycled. 50% of single-use plastic water bottles, even recyclable ones, go to landfills, where each bottle takes 450 years to decompose. All the while, they release toxic fumes as they degrade. Even if single-use plastic water bottles manage to avoid landfills, they may be shipped to other countries, burned for fuel, or dumped. 

A better option for both health and environmental reasons is the reusable Brita water pitcher with a Longlast filter, which lasts for up to six months and replaces 900 single-use plastic water bottles. In a year, that potential reaches up to 1,800 bottles (standard 500 ml bottles) with just one standard Brita filter. Those who say they prefer bottled water for its taste will appreciate a Brita filter for its ability to remove the taste and odour of chlorine. Brita also makes tap water healthier by removing contaminants such as cadmium, mercury, lead, and copper.

Shining the spotlight on a critical issue

Brita is proudly at the forefront of boosting consumer awareness about the single-use plastic crisis and pushing for change in buying behaviour. “Our brand’s purpose is to make water better for people and the planet by replacing single-use plastic water bottles,” says Carolyn Hungate, Marketing Manager at Brita, which is one of the brands under The Clorox Company umbrella.

To paint a clearer picture of the issue for consumers, Brita partnered with National Geographic explorer Asher Jay and created a one-of-a-kind exhibit at Toronto’s Union Station in April, 2019, in recognition of Earth Day. Jay created a 12-foot-tall installation entitled “Niagara Now” that recreated the world-famous waterfall out of 900 salvaged plastic water bottles. That number represents the amount consumed and discarded every five minutes in Toronto, and the number of bottles that can be replaced with one Brita Longlast filter. 

The exhibit went beyond helping people visualize the sheer number of bottles used in the city — it also highlighted some intriguing statistics. To showcase the fact that 69% of Canadian households prefer tap water to bottled water, there were 621 painted bottles. Another 108 bottles were partially painted to represent the 12% of households that drink both tap and bottled water, and 171 unpainted bottles demonstrated the small percentage of households that drink only bottled water. The “Niagara Now” exhibit proved to be a popular spot for selfies, but the message was clear: together, we can change the narrative.

Brita has also reached out to consumers with its new ad, “The Beauty Beneath” (catch it on YouTube). “We focused on one single statistic: that it takes 450 years for a single-use plastic water bottle to break down,” notes Hungate. “This really hits home as you see the single-use plastic water bottles falling to the bottom of the lake and collecting there. With Brita, you can replace those plastic bottles in your daily life.”

Some people may wonder what happens to the Brita filters and pitchers when their life cycle has expired. The company works with TerraCycle so that the filters and pitchers can be recycled into items like cutting boards, toothbrushes, and cups. Consumers can drop off their used filters at London Drugs locations in the western provinces, or mail them back (a minimum of three) to Brita for upcycling.

Consumers can make choices when they’re making purchase decisions on whether they’ll choose the environment over the convenience factor. To make a real difference, we all need to collectively start making better choices.

Carolyn Hungate, Brita

Better alternatives to bottled water

Although about 60% of bottled water is consumed at home, there are some users of single-use bottled water who cite portability and convenience as their reasons for buying it. To meet that need, Brita introduced a new premium filtering water bottle that removes the unpleasant odour and taste of chlorine from tap water. It saves money and of course, it also keeps single-use plastic water bottles out of landfills and reduces waste. 

Changes in behaviour can have a significant impact. The Canadian government is playing a role too, having recently announced a ban of single-use plastics that could take effect as early as 2021. Consumers can do their part too, by not buying single-use plastic water bottles and switching to more sustainable options.

As Hungate explains, “Consumers can make choices when they’re making purchase decisions on whether they’ll choose the environment over the convenience factor. To make a real difference, we all need to collectively start making better choices.”

This article was made possible with support from The Clorox Company of Canada.

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