AQUA, Indonesia’s largest bottled mineral water brand, is pledging to remove more plastic from the environment than it uses by 2025. AQUA, which has also committed to increasing the average amount of recycled plastic in its bottles to 50% by 2025, will directly use much of this recovered plastic.
In Indonesia, AQUA provides tens of millions of people with access to safe water. However, the country’s high usage of bottled water means that plastic waste poses a critical environmental challenge: every year some 200,000 tons of plastic makes its way from Indonesia’s rivers and streams into the ocean. Meeting this challenge head-on in Indonesia means a chance to reduce the annual amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean by as much as 17%!
As Indonesia’s largest bottled mineral water company and historical icon, Danone’s AQUA brand has a unique opportunity to help the Indonesian government reduce the amount of plastic that leaks into the ocean by 70% by 2025. By working with partners to take more plastic (by volume) out of the environment than it uses every year, and making greater use of recycled plastic, AQUA can drive overall demand for recycled plastic and help to bring a circular economy for plastics into being.
Collecting more used plastic
“AQUA delivers more than two thirds of our water in returnable, reusable jugs,” Corine Tap, General Manager of AQUA, said in a statement. She went on to note that while more than half of AQUA’s PET bottles already get collected and recycled into either new bottles or other materials, like textiles, AQUA has “decided the time is right to invest further and to do more.”
A crucial step towards making sure that more used plastic bottles get captured by the recycling stream is increasing recycling infrastructure and formalizing waste collection systems in the country. To this end, Danone is investing in Circulate Capital, a fund with a social mission to demonstrate the viability of investment into the waste management and recycling industries in South and Southeast Asia in order attract the billions of dollars required to scale up waste infrastructure in those regions.
AQUA is also aiming at direct engagement with consumers to increase recycling rates, through a new movement titled “#BijakBerplastik,” or “Be Plastic Wise.” AQUA will work with Alfamart, one of Indonesia’s largest convenience store chains, and the country’s largest cell network operator, Telekomsel, to roll out recycling drop boxes that will offer shoppers Telekomsel credit in exchange for returning used bottles. By placing these drop boxes at Alfamart locations nationwide, AQUA hopes to make the program available to 100 million people by 2025.
Ivan Hermawan, a spokesperson for Summer Alfaria, characterized the partnership as being based in a desire “to encourage and educate consumers to be more creative in collecting and recycling their plastic waste into something of better value.”
AQUA plans to work with local governments, NGOs, and private companies to launch a nationwide recycling education program and to promote consumer awareness around recycling in 20 Indonesian cities by 2020.
Using more recycled plastic
One prime area where AQUA plans to concentrate its efforts is increasing the amount of recycled plastic it uses in its bottles. At the 2018 Our Ocean Conference in Bali, AQUA unveiled Indonesia’s first bottle made from 100% recycled PET. The bottle will be available in Bali as of December 2018, and AQUA plans to roll it out to Indonesia consumers over the next year.
"For us, this project is also a lot about education and to bring awareness to Indonesian consumers,” Corine Tap said. “Here, they have an option to buy a product that actually uses 100 percent recycled plastic.”
AQUA currently averages around 11% recycled plastic content in each bottle. It plans to dramatically increase that amount—to 50% by 2025. This increase in recycled plastic use will also coincide with packaging redesigns to ensure that every bottle AQUA produces is itself 100% recyclable.
Experimentation and innovation
AQUA is launching several innovative pilot projects and initiatives aimed at reducing plastic waste and recovering used plastic. In 2019, the brand will experiment with introducing alternatives to plastic straws, which because of the recycling challenge they pose, are far more likely to end up in the natural environment.
The brand’s aim to take more plastic out of the environment that it uses every year means that not every recycled bottle will become a new AQUA bottle. In fact, AQUA is also partnering with H&M in the Bottle2Fashion initiative to turn used plastic into clothing, meaning that many of the bottles specifically collected in Indonesia’s Thousand Islands district will end up being worn by Indonesian consumers!
“We now have the technologies to design better and more sustainable packaging, using the circular supply chain of the plastics recycling industry,” said Rosalina Privita, AQUA’s VP for Research and Innovation.
Building a circular economy can't happen without public awareness and participation. As a major part of its #BijakBerplastik campaign, AQUA is partnering with Indonesian NGOs to introduce curriculum about sustainable recycling in the country's primary schools, and will push to have such courses added to the country’s national curriculum. To reach out even further, AQUA is also partnering with VICE Impact to create educational videos and documentary materials about plastic waste and recycling's potential.
Danone’s vision of 'One Planet. One Health' means that providing consumers with the safe water they need is just one half of the equation. With AQUA’s new commitments on collecting and reusing plastic waste, it is taking a new leap forward in making sure that Indonesian consumers’ health means a healthy ocean environment as well.