Is boxed water really better for the environment? While boxed water brands such as Boxed Water is Better, Flow, and Just Water market themselves as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic and glass bottles, just how environmentally friendly is boxed water actually?
There definitely are some benefits to buying boxed water over plastic bottled water. For one, each Boxed Water carton is between 68 and 92% plant-based, this means 68- 92% of it is designed to biodegrade after a fairly short amount of time; plastic bottles, on the other hand, are made 100% of plastic, a non-biodegradable material that can last hundreds of years. While plastic bottles can and should be recycled, it is estimated that only 25-30% of the 50 billion plastic bottles purchased by Americans each year are actually recycled. The rest end up in landfills or as litter, eventually making their way to the ocean. So if a boxed water carton isn’t recycled or it ends up in the ocean like so much trash does, at least 68-92% of it is made from natural materials and will break down quickly.
Another big positive of boxed water is its reduced carbon footprint. For one truck’s worth of bottled water, boxed water can deliver 26 trucks of cartoned water. How? Boxed water ships its cartons to their water filling plants empty and flat-packed so that a single pallet can hold up to 35,000 boxed water cartons; only after they are shipped are they filled and require more space when packaged and shipped.
Lastly, some boxed water companies have helped lead environmental initiatives such as the largest boxed water company Boxed Water is Better which has planted 1 million trees, 2 for each Boxed Water social media post, and have partnered with Ocean Blue Project with the goal of cleaning-up 3000 miles of beaches.
However, boxed water definitely isn’t as “environmental” as it is made out to be. Similar to many soup and soy milk cartons, boxed water cartons contain multiple layers of plastic and aluminum lining their insides to prevent leakage. Because many recycling plants in the US do not contain the equipment to sort out and break down these materials, only about 68% of US households can actually throw their boxed water containers in the blue bin. Ironically, more recycling plants in the US will actually accept plastic and glass bottles than boxed water cartons, and plastic bottles have a higher recycling rate (35-30%) than do cartons (about 16%.)
“Ironically, more recycling plants in the US will actually accept plastic and glass bottles than boxed water cartons.”
My own conclusion? Ditch the plastic bottled water and the boxed water too and stick to good old-fashioned tap water and reusable water bottles. If you are worried about your tap water being contaminated, install a water filter like this APEC water systems one or use a brita.
Bird, Sophie. November 14, 2019. "Boxed Water Cartons are Less Recyclable than Plastic Bottles." Indiana Environmental Reporter. https://www.indianaenvironmentalreporter.org/posts/boxed-water-cartons-are-less-recyclable-than-plastic-bottles
Bertesteanu, Lidia. May 22, 2020. "Why is Bottled Water Bad for the Environment?" Water is a Right Not a Privelege. https://waterisaright.com/bottled-water-effect-environment/
Capps, Kriston. February 6, 2015. "Is Boxed Water Actually Better?" CITYLAB. https://www.citylab.com/life/2015/02/the-single-best-reason-that-boxed-water-is-better/385138/
"Our Packaging." JustWater. Accessed May 25, 2020. https://justwater.com/ourpackaging/
"Why Boxed Water is Better." Boxed Water. Accessed May 25, 2020. https://boxedwaterisbetter.com/pages/beach-cleanup
"Boxed Water isn't the environmental solution they want you to think it is." Fast Company. Accessed May 25, 2020. https://www.fastcompany.com/90421638/boxed-water-isnt-the-environmental-solution-they-want-you-to-think-it-is