Sorry, Ritz-Carlton, Plant Based Bottles For Water Are Not Green

New outlet PSFK, who should know better, titles its post "Ritz-Carlton Goes Green With Plant-Based Bottles" and points to a USA Today article which touts them as green bottles and says "Concerned about the waste, the luxury hotel chain is switching to a bottle made 100% from plants that can decompose in 30 days in a commercial composting facility, or can be reprocessed and remade 100% into new bottles."

This is wrong in so many ways. Where do we start?

1) Compostable bottles are rarely composted. The facilities exist in only a few places. Even Prima, the manufacturer of the Ritz-Carlton bottles, admits this in its FAQ:

We also recognize that not all consumers have access to recycling options that accept Ingeo™ natural plastic; in some cases consumers have no access to any plastics recycling. Through the development of the Bioplastics Recycling Consortium and involvement in many government and non government groups, Prima is working with leading waste management experts, retailers, brand owners, public policy experts and manufacturing engineers to work together to develop new long-term, effective and efficient processes for managing renewable bioplastics.

2) Where there is recycling of PET, the compostable bottles can ruin it. As we noted in an earlier post on the subject, it can contaminate the PET.

Paul Davidson, plastics technical manager at the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), explained: "You don't need too much PLA to mess PET up, especially if you want to recycle it back into a bottle. It will only take a few percent of PLA to make PET non-viable and that is just another concern for plastic reprocessors to deal with."

3. Compostable and "Biodegradable" Plastics Provide False Sense of Responsibility

Adam Lowry of Method wrote in a post:

Most biodegradable cups are made from PLA (polylactic acid) plastic. PLA is a polymer made from high levels of polylactic acid molecules. For PLA to biodegrade, you must break up the polymer by adding water to it (a process known as hydrolyzing). Heat and moisture are required for hydrolyzing to occur. So if you throw that PLA cup or fork in the trash, where it will not be exposed to the heat and moisture required to trigger biodegradation, it will sit there for decades or centuries, much like an ordinary plastic cup or fork....If the composting infrastructure is not in place to recover the bio-material from that corn-based cup, it's really no better than the ubiquitous red plastic keg cup.

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How corn plastics work

4. They are not being truthful about the amount of energy it takes to make it. It is made from corn, and as Jaymi wrote in her post How Corn Plastics Are Made, And Why We Still Aren't Thrilled:

Corn plastics are controversial for a few reasons, not the least of which are that they use a resource that is energy intensive to produce, and because they can really gum up the works of recycling centers when not sorted properly. PLA can be sorted and recycled, but it takes some energy intensive processes to do it. That means they're energy intensive, and carbon intensive, from the start all the way to the end.

5. It is still just tap water. Why bother? Prima says on their site:

Prima water is locally sourced in the U.S., from approved municipal water sources that are regulated under the guidelines of the FDA (which spring waters do not have to follow). Independent of the source, the water is carefully processed under the guidance of Primo Water Company.

They actually have the nerve to say that filling a bottle with tap water is better than spring water because tap water is regulated. They really have no shame.

In the end, if Ritz-Carleton wants to be green, they should put in some impressive water filters and give their customers refillable bottles, instead of this sham.


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