To get to the heart of the matter I spoke with an expert on sustainability in the bottled water industry which also includes the boxed water industry, Alex McIntosh, founder and CEO of Ecomundi Ventures. McIntosh told me that “business model and packaging innovation is importabt to sustainability improvement in the beverage industry. But I have a concern where the marketing story gets ahead of the facts.” In this case, “boxed water is better” might have a solid story–paper can be can be environmentally superior to plastic in some ways. McIntosh continues “but it depends on a number of elements, which “boxed water is better” unfortunately, doesn’t provide us.” McIntosh goes on to list a series of questions that he would ask of the “Boxed Water Is Better” company: Without being able to access the data, it is difficult to verify claims of environmental superiority.
We can, however, use proxy date to estimate the relative impact of their product offering when compared to the standard bottled water. Data is based on industry- or economy-wide averages–it is approximately right, but does not provide results that are specific to any one manufacturing process or value chain in particular. By far the most studied milk carton is known as the TetraPak. From an independently verified life cycle analysis available from TetraPak we are able to find that their cartons result in only 8 grams of greenhouse gas emissions (per liter container). From research that We have done in the bottled water industry I know that the average half liter PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) bottle is responsible for around 50 grams of greenhouse gas emissions.
What this means is that, even if the PET bottle is recycled and the carton goes to the landfill, the impact of the carton will be less in most cases. An additional point in favor of the carton is that the boxed water is better product comes in a half-gallon gable-top carton, equivalent to four 1/2-liter PET bottles. This makes the relative impact of the carton even less. Find out more at www.boxedwaterisbetter.net