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No bottled water backlash seen in Aspen

John Colson
Vail, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen TimesA discarded Aspen Pure water bottle lies next to a large pile of recycled trash at the Pitkin County landfill.
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ASPEN ” An Aspen-based bottled water company reported last week that it has not seen a drop in sales as the result of controversy over the recycling of those little plastic bottles that are increasingly showing up in landfills across the nation.

“We have not felt any impact from it,” said Mark Friedland of Aspen Pure, “which is not to say there may not be an eventual backlash. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

But regardless of the controversy, Friedland said his company has been promoting recycling and has plans to do more.



And a spokesman for a national beverage trade association said his organization also is getting set for a new public relations push to increase consumer awareness of the need to dispose of water bottles properly.

There is an Aspen connection for two bottled water companies, although both get their water from distant locales and one has recently moved its operations to California.



Still, Fiji Water and Aspen Pure Water both have listed towns in the Roaring Fork Valley as their home bases ” Aspen for Aspen Pure, which locals Jerry Bovino and Friedland own; and Basalt for Fiji, owned by Stewart and Lynda Resnick, who split their time between Aspen and California but originally gave Fiji’s business address as Basalt.

Aspen Pure comes from an aquifer beneath the San Luis Valley to the east and south of Aspen, while Fiji Water comes from artesian wells in the Fiji Islands.

Efforts to inquire at Fiji Water about the effects of the recycling controversy, however, proved fruitless.



“We don’t like talking to the media, whether it’s positive, negative or indifferent,” said a woman who answered the phone at Fiji Water in California. A request to talk with a public relations or media liaison yielded no results.

Bottled water is the single-largest growth sector among all beverages, according to national news reports, and that includes alcohol, juices and soft drinks. An online story MSNBC published last spring reported that per-capita consumption has more than doubled over the last decade, from 10.5 gallons in 1993 to 27.6 in 2006, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp.

And the growth has been even more impressive in terms of water-bottle sales: from $3.3 billion in 1997 to $15 billion in 2002, according to reports. By 2003, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp., bottled water had become “the second largest commercial beverage category by volume in the United States.”

Add to that the fact that only about 12 percent of “custom” plastic bottles, a category dominated by water, were recycled in 2003, according to industry consultant R.W. Beck Inc. That’s 40 million bottles a day that went into the trash or became litter, one report said.

Joe Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association, said the key issue is not that so many plastic water bottles are selling, but that not enough are being recycled.

He said the industry as a whole has been moving toward thinner-gauge plastic in its bottles, which makes them lighter and which uses less of the oil-based ingredients to make the bottles, and reduced the pollutants emitted in the process.

“We are committed to increasing recycling rates in the United States,” he declared. “We are a strong proponent of curbside recycling.”

He also noted that bottle water packaging represents “only one-third of 1 percent of the total waste stream in the U.S.,” which he said points to a need for “a comprehensive waste management policy” and legislation in Congress to beef up the nation’s recycling effort.


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