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Use of PET Plastics May Hamper Global Bottled Water Market

Bottled water is regulated under the packaged food products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is one of the fastest selling liquid refreshment drinks globally.
Published 06 October 2015

If we consider the demand for bottled water in the U.S. alone, the market has expanded to become the second largest category of commercial beverages in the country. Considering the trends that govern demand and supply forces in the food and beverages industry, the market for bottled water is by far the most dynamic. Not only has bottled water emerged as the fastest growing consumer choice, but the market is also poised to grow exponentially in the forthcoming years. A new study by Transparency Market Research pegs the volume produced in the global bottled water market at 267.91.billion liters in 2013, which by 2020 is expected to reach 465.12 billion liters. If the figures hold true, the global bottled water market will exhibit a CAGR of 8.3% during the 2014-2020 period.

In the U.S., the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act considers bottled water as a packaged food, which is regulated by the FDA. However, at the global level, the ICBWA (International Council of Bottled Water Associations) monitors the quality of bottled water and acknowledges national regulatory agencies.

Commercialization of Bottled Water

The advent of modern bottled water production can be traced back to the 1960s, when the invention of plastic revolutionized the industrial world. However, the major growth phase of the plastic bottle industry didn’t occur until the 1990s, with the discovery of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is a lightweight yet strong plastic. Subsequently, worldwide bottled water production grew as a multibillion-dollar industry during the latter years of the 1990s. Now that we have forayed into the 21st century, bottled water has emerged as a major commercial product with exponential demand from around the world.

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The global bottled water industry, according to Transparency Market Research, reached US$157.27 bn in 2013 and it comprises a wide variety of operations ranging from modest local bottling operations to giant corporations such as PepsiCo Inc., Nestle Waters, Coca-Cola, and others.

The Technology behind Bottled Water

Bottled water technology primarily comprises two components, namely water treatment and bottle production. While there are a few companies that still produce glass bottles, a majority of bottled water production facilities use plastic bottle, since it is more cost-effective and easier to transport.

As mentioned earlier, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most common variant of plastic that goes in the production of bottles. PET is a polymer derived from petroleum hydrocarbon. It is a substance consisting of a chain of recurrent organic molecules with a significant molecular weight. Owing to its durability, PET is preferred for the manufacture of bottled water, however, PET materials do not decompose easily in the natural environment, which is creating bottlenecks in its future use in the industry, against the backdrop of environmental protection.

While the bottled water market is likely to sustain its global footprint, potential leaching of water and the environmental impact of the use of plastic bottle may hamper its growth to an extent.

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