On the bottle – every little bit helps to balance travel and the environment

At all of CAPA – Centre for Aviation’s events there is an attempt to make sure host hotels provide drinking water in – shock horror – glasses, rather than plastic bottles. There are a million plastic bottles manufactured every minute and as much as three quarters of them end up in the waters around the world. The tourism and travel industry contributes enormously to thoughtless use of throwaway plastics.

While CAPA can’t make much of a dent in that million-a-minute itself, it is working on the belief that if it can spread the word among the thousands who attend its events each year, hopefully the (plastic-free) ripples spread. So it’s good to hear of any initiative that recognises the damage we’re doing to our environment by casual one-use drinks of water.

Car rental companies are often at the battlefront for tourists so when New Zealand car rental firm Apex Car Rentals announced this week that it has partnered with social enterprise recycling group For The Better Good to help attack the tourism industry’s plastic bottle epidemic, it offered a good model, reports NZ group, The Platform.

A global survey of over 16,000 travellers by One Poll found that nearly two in three (65%) admitted to consuming more plastic water bottles when abroad than when at home, citing ‘fear’ that tap water abroad is unsafe (70%) and convenience (19%) as the main determining factors.

Apex says the main item that’s left in rental cars on return is plastic bottles, so it is offering at all its outlets “Better Bottles” – plastic bottles that are reusable but also compostable at the end of their life.

For the Better Good offers the only waste-free, regenerative system for bottled water in New Zealand, taking responsibility for their product post-sale through their closed loop collection system; Better Collection, with collection points around the country.

The Better Bottles and labels are made from renewable materials and are part of an end to end system that aims to provide a waste-free alternative to traditional plastic products. Apex says the real advantage is the bottles have a carbon footprint that is a staggering 78% smaller than traditional plastic bottles and produce less than half the greenhouse gases.

“The bottles have been designed for reuse while you are travelling in New Zealand and the non-toxic bottles can be safely refilled and reused as many times as you like. This is the best form of ‘recycling’ you can do,” it says.

It is more than just reusing bottles though and the need to make sure the bottles still don’t end up in our oceans or environment. To achieve this, it has added Better Collection stations at all Apex Car Rental locations where customers can drop off  used bottles.

“Collected bottles are then either repurposed by For The Better Good (before ultimately being composted) or composted right away in an appropriate composting facility,” explains Apex.

The plastic caps are removed and For the Better Good are currently looking at different ways to purposefully recycle these into new products. Until then, Apex says: “Each person who buys a Better Bottle can help curve the tide of plastic waste by returning it back to us. No matter which way you’re travelling, this bottle stays circular.”

Sure, this is all good marketing – but this is what you could call a model of triple-good-marketing, especially if it does help the bottom line. Talking of which, all profits from sale of the bottles go to WELLfed, an organisation to empower and enable parents to learn how to feed their families well.