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Spinning the Bottle

New Food & Water Watch Analysis Scrutinizes Bottled Water Industry’s Eco-Friendly Claims

WASHINGTON - As bottled water sales declined for the first time in twenty years, the bottled water industry accelerated its marketing efforts to “bluewash” bottled water, reveals a new report released today by the consumer advocacy organization Food & Water Watch. Bluewashing: Why the Bottled Water Industry’s EcoFriendly Claims Don’t Hold Water highlights the ways in which bottled water companies try to market their products as environmentally responsible, while they actually damage the environment.

“The bottled water industry is taking a page from the playbook of big tobacco in promotion of its product,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “As activists around the world today observe World Water Day, it is especially important to draw attention to these misleading tactics that are distracting consumers from the most responsible water source there is: the tap.”

Recent advertising campaigns by bottled water companies such as Nestle, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo have cited their respective contributions to water-related charities as evidence of their commitment to sustainability, yet the bottled water industry has financial incentive to sell as much water as possible. Some 8.7 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the U.S. in 2008, but their production used an estimated 26 billion gallons of water.

Furthermore, in 2007 Coca-Cola announced plans to go “water neutral” by offsetting its water use in one area by contributing to water conservation efforts in another. Yet reducing water taken from one watershed will not compensate for the loss of water in another.


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In 2007, bottled water production in the U.S. used the energy equivalent of 32 to 54 million barrels of oil. In 2006, only one out of every four water bottles in the U.S. was recycled. Responding to negative publicity on these and other environmental impacts, the International Bottle Water Association released information in February of this year highlighting the fact that the average weight of a plastic bottle used by the industry had recently decreased 32.6 percent. Similar public relations efforts have been made at Coca Cola, who recently developed a bottle whose plastic is partially derived from sugar cane rather than petroleum.

“At the end of the day, the bottled water industry’s efforts to reduce its use of water and petroleum still do not make its products environmentally-friendly. Improving our nation’s water infrastructure systems and safeguarding public access to clean, safe water is the green choice—not bottled water,” noted Hauter.

Bluewashing: Why the Bottled Water Industry’s EcoFriendly Claims Don’t Hold Water is available at:


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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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