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Analysis says tap water has lowest environmental impact


SALEM, MASS. (Feb. 25, 11:15 a.m. ET) — The findings of a peer-reviewed study of tap water, bottled water and other beverages indicate tap water has the lowest environmental impact, based on a life-cycle analysis.

The study, released earlier this month, was conducted by life-cycle-analysis firm Quantis International of Salem, Mass., and commissioned by Nestle Waters North America in Greenwich, Conn., the leading bottled water company in North America.

“The climate impact of the single-use bottled beverages ranges between roughly two and five times that of the non-bottled options,” such as tap water, both filtered and unfiltered, said the report. But it also concluded that “sports drinks and vitamin-fortified water produce 50 percent more carbon dioxide per serving” than both the single-use EcoShape 500-milliliter (17-ounce) water bottle and the 3-liter water bottle from Nestle Waters.

“The EcoShape bottle and 3L bottle perform better than the generic bottled water [studied], which performs better than the vitamin waters and sports drinks,” said the study, in part because of its lower weight and the shorter distances that they travel in the distribution network.

The study also said its LCA indicated that 140 grams of greenhouse gas are produced to make a single-use EcoShape water bottle compared to 160 grams for other typical brands and between 250-260 grams for sports drinks and enhanced vitamin-enhanced waters.

The study also found that 70 percent of consumers said that if bottled water were not available as an option that they would another type of bottled beverage, not tap water.

“This report indicates that bottled water bans can be counterproductive from an environmental perspective,” said Alex McIntosh, director of corporate citizenship at Nestle Waters, as research shows that the more than two-thirds would drink “other packaged beverages like soft drinks and juices,” which he said, “often have more impact on the environment than bottled water.”

He also said that the study’s findings confirm that Nestle Waters’ “initiatives such as reducing plastic in our bottles, taking a regional approach to distribution and advocating for comprehensive recycling are the right strategies for our business and for the environment.”

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