A vast number of people embrace sustainable practices, which for me include using electric lawn mowers and multiple rain barrels seasonally and, on a daily basis, using refillable water bottles at work and while driving. One is made of glass and the other of plastic.
A regular check of newsfeeds uncovered a particular case study application story that piqued my interest not only because it involves reusable water bottles, but the conference where they were used was located inside a library—and my wife is a librarian. That seemed a novel venue for refillable bottles that replace bottled water or drinking glasses typically offered to attendees of such things.
And in another slight plot twist, it wasn’t a packaging industry conference or a sustainably-minded topic that was discussed, but rather a “Human Rights in Poland” event hosted at the Warsaw University Library in October. It was organized by the United Nations Information Centre with the student organizations ELSA Poland and AIESEC Poland and offered speakers from the UN, the Polish Government, non-government organizations, human rights activists and Polish celebrities. In addition to 350 participants, a further 35,000 viewed the conference via a livestream on Facebook where posts reached more than 265,000 people that cumulatively formed a large audience.
The 400 refillable plastic water bottles that were provided by RPC Group (Higham Ferrers, England) were also a useful takeaway keepsake for attendees.
“We are very grateful to RPC for supporting our conference and supplying such brilliant bottles, enabling us to make this valuable contribution to protecting our environment while discussing such an important topic,” said Karina Rathman of the United Nations Information Centre in Warsaw.
The 400mL water bottles were manufactured using Tritan, a specialty copolyester from Eastman (Kingsport, TN) that combines high glass-like clarity along with being nearly unbreakable. The dishwasher-safe bottles retain remain glossy even after hundreds of wash cycles, making them ideal as a long-term reusable solution for consumers wanting to drink while staying on the move.
Tritan is considered Eastman's flagship polymer and has long been used for applications like water bottles due to its inherent clarity, colorability, durability, ease of processing, and heat and chemical resistance. Other markets range from housewares, small appliances, medical packaging and devices to dual-wall tumblers and other beverage ware.
While the use of refillable water bottles at a conference seems rare, from a larger world view reusable bottles are a popular and growing market for environmentally- and cost-conscious consumers. Eastman’s Tritan expert weighs in on the movement toward refillable water bottles.
BPA, the recession, sippers and chuggers spur growth
Brad Moncla, Eastman’s Segment Market Manager, tells PlasticsToday that refillable bottles made using Tritan first surfaced in the United States in 2008 when concerns over bisphenol-A (BPA) in plastics became more widely understood.
“Tritan allows bottle producers to make products that are completely BPA-free,” Moncla says. “The recession that began that same year caused consumers to rethink the expense and waste produced by drinking bottled water. That is when Tritan-based sports bottles began a double-digit growth rate that lasted well into the current decade.”
The bottle packaging and details evolved over the years with consumer preferences.
“While the initial hydration products were mainly sports bottles focused on hiking and backpacking, the products evolved over time and were tailored to the specific needs and preferences of consumers,” Moncla points out. “Lids were developed to satisfy both the ‘sippers,’ who prefer straws, and the ‘chuggers,’ who want to [guzzle] half the bottle in a few seconds. Dual-wall insulated bottles and tumblers were also developed to keep coffee warm and soda ice-cold. In just the last couple of years, bottle filling stations at many locations throughout the U.S. have now made the reusable Tritan-based bottle a great solution while on-the-go.”
Besides faucets found everywhere, formal refill stations appear at places ranging from exhibition halls to school halls.
Next: 70+ million and $8+ billion yearly
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