Are We Ready for a Biodegradable Water Bottle?

by on October 19, 2020 · 4 comments

in Environment

By Ronald D. White / Los Angeles Times / Oct 6, 2020

Does the world really need another brand of bottled water?

Alex Totterman believes it does, if the packaging is completely odegradable.

And his Culver City, Calif., start-up has the backing of some environmentally woke celebrities and business leaders, including Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff and former News Corp. executive James Murdoch, who has invested a tiny but undisclosed portion of the approximately $2 billion he netted when his family sold most of 21st Century Fox to the Walt Disney Co.

Cove’s new water bottle, which is scheduled to get a small pilot launch in December and hit store shelves more broadly in January, is the first to be made entirely from biodegradable materials, the company contends, including the bottle cap, label and adhesive.

The path toward a fully biodegradable product hasn’t been easy, Totterman said, but is important given the abundance of plastic waste in every part of the environment, even in places where humans seldom tread. Cove is up against criticism that less chic options, such as tap water, are a better environmental choice than having your H2O shipped from some natural spring in another state or from halfway around the world.

“Plastic bottle beverages are the kind of single-use products that we should be moving away from most aggressively,” said Alex Truelove, director of the Zero Waste Campaign for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “The metaphor I’ve used most often is, ‘if your bathtub is overflowing, the first thing you do is turn off the tap.'”

But no one is turning off the tap, said Totterman, who founded Cove in 2017 to address the expanding plastic problem. Cove’s sustainable and biodegradable packaging is meant to provide a less dubious retail alternative, Totterman said, as recycling programs have failed to handle what the industry turns out.

“There’s been no sign of it slowing down,” he said. “In fact, it looks like the industry is going to be making more and more plastic bottles.”

Some of the world’s biggest brands have made voluntary pledges to reduce plastic packaging and to include an average of 25% recycled content in their plastic packaging by 2025, but progress has been slow, according to a report published last year by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the U.N. Environment Program.

Most brands are stuck in the low single digits, according to the Foundation, which famously forecast in 2016 that plastic would outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050. At the time of the report, L’Oreal reported that 5% of its plastic packaging was recycled material. PepsiCo said it was at 3%. Nestle was at 2%. The highest was the Coca-Cola Co., at 9%.

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12:43 PM, Oct. 06, 2020: An earlier version of this article identified actor LeonardoDiCaprio as being among the backers of Cove. DiCaprio is not an investor in the company.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar triggerfinger October 19, 2020 at 8:11 pm

What a joke. If you care about the environment then stop drinking bottled water that’s been shipped from hundreds of miles away by truck, regardless of how many resources the bottle consumed.

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Peter Peter from South O October 19, 2020 at 8:28 pm

Hundreds of miles? Pffft! I have MINE shipped halfway around the World from Fiji.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie October 20, 2020 at 9:20 am

Not sure what the joke is. Biodegradable containers sure aren’t.

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Avatar retired botanist October 21, 2020 at 6:03 am

Better yet, quit buying bottled water. Bottled water has a place in certain situations like disaster shelters, temporary water shut offs, etc. but otherwise there seems little excuse for buying 12-packs of pints of water encased in plastic (or biodegradable materials, but still mfg-wasteful), especially in 1st world America. Why not get a flask or a canteen and fill it from the tap? Besides which, you’re more than likely buying water from water thieves like Nestle who are stealing YOUR public water, pkg’ing it, and selling it back to you!
I gave up pkg’ed water about 10 years ago and I’m still alive and kicking! :-)

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