Is Endlessly Recyclable Aluminum The Answer To The Global Recycling Crisis?

Food & Drink

As of August 20, San Francisco International Airport will no longer allow plastic water bottles in airport terminals of foodservice and retail locations. According to the airport’s website, this is “part of an effort to address plastic pollution and the recent collapse of the plastic recycling market.” 

China banned imports of foreign plastic for recycling in January 2018. Too much contaminated waste was coming into the country, creating environmental hazards. Before the ban, 95% of recycled plastics from the EU and 70% from the US were sent to China for processing. In the past six months, Americans have been struggling to continue recycling programs across the country, as processing prices have jumped, and many facilities have stopped accepting many types of plastics. Rural and small town recycling programs are the hardest hit, and many are closing simply closing their sorting plants and redirecting that would-be recycled material to landfills. That means there is no longer a system to help alleviate the effects of the 1 million plastic water bottles sold globally every minute, but consumers aren’t giving up the convenience of bottled water anytime soon. Bottled water sales increased 7%, from 12.8 billion gallons in 2016 to 13.7 billion gallons in 2017 (the most recent year on official record), according to the International Bottled Water Association. 

In response to this growing crisis, All Market Inc (AMI), the parent company of Vita Coco coconut water and RUNA energy drinks, launched a purified water packaged in eternally recyclable aluminum bottles in June, called Ever & Ever. 

Ever & Ever was conceived in collaboration between AMI and advocacy group Lonely Whale, as part of their Question How You Hydrate campaign, which advocates for the elimination of single-use plastic water bottles. Lonely Whale is known for their 2018 campaign Strawless in Seattle, which played a role in sparking the global backlash against plastic straws last year. 

These eternally recyclable water bottles moved from conception to launch in four months, an unprecedented speed for product development. According to Jane Prior, All Market’s CMO, “we have the luxury of being able to move this fast. When Mike likes an idea, he wants it in market yesterday.” They wanted to time the launch alongside Lonely Whale’s campaign, to aid the interests of both organizations. Lonely Whale needed a convenient option for consumers besides single use plastics, something that could fill the gap when reusable options aren’t available or consumers won’t make the extra effort. “We are proud to promote Ever & Ever as a new alternative to single-use plastic water bottles that allows everyone to answer one simple call: No matter how you hydrate, do it without single-use plastic,” says a representative from Lonely Whale.  All Market is working to expand into a portfolio company in the better for you beverage sector, recently acquiring Runa energy drinks and now launching Ever & Ever to expand their portfolio. 

“Ever & Ever came to be out of a combination of looking at our own business and looking at how we can do better creating healthier products for consumers, but how to be better for the environment,” says Mike Kirban, CEO of All Market. Shortly after the launch he shared with BevNet news, “based on volume alone, water is a segment of the better for you refreshment category we’ve wanted to play in. However, we knew, we’d never win on price and for us to go source a new water from some faraway place just didn’t feel right. Giving consumers who are concerned about the environment a new option from a packaging standpoint just makes so much sense.”

“The consumer response has been incredibly positive. Consumers do have an ambition to make a better choice, but they need an easy way to make this choice,” Prior shared. Lonely Whale’s campaign focuses on primarily reusable drinking options, but consumers, in America especially, are finding it challenging to fully convert to reusable water bottles. Traveller responses to SFO’s plastic water bottle ban were mixed, with some violent opposition from individuals unable or unwilling to give up their bottled water habits. Ever & Ever offers an intermediate step to those who are having trouble giving up the convenience of single-use water.

Aluminum is a very exciting alternative material for the single use beverage industry, because it is endlessly recyclable, unlike plastics which breakdown with each new iteration. A recycled aluminum product can be back up on shelves within 60 days, and nearly 60% of aluminum produced globally is still in use today. The material is considerably more expensive than traditional PET bottles, and large companies face manufacturing challenges that make a large scale switch to aluminum bottles unlikely for more single-use beverage retailers, but AMI is excited about the statement their Ever & Ever bottles are making.  

“A can of ever and ever could be 100 years old,” said Prior, when discussing their material sourcing. “Or it could be their bicycle!” Kirban chimed in. 

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