Should I order water in a plastic bottle or a glass? – I ask myself every time in a restaurant. In attempt to reduce my ecological footprint I pursued a little research on the subject. Typical plastic bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and sometimes PE. Knowing the fact that the waste from these packaging materials is a main source of ocean pollution, killing life under water, I always preferred glass containers. The idea behind is simple, glass can be easily reused or recycled into a new glass product.
One day I was visiting Carluccio restaurant in Ibn Batuta Mall and I saw a waiter serving water in a glass bottle from one of the local manufactures. I had a positive impression that restaurants and suppliers are gradually ditching plastic bottles and switching to more “reusable” and “recyclable” alternatives. Not until I found out that these glass bottles will be disposed by restaurants in general waste with the short way to landfill. I could hardly believe that glass is being wasted just like that.
In order to understand what is happening with F&B waste I run a recycling experiment . Most of the coffee shops and restaurants I approached were eager to participate in the project. During that time I interviewed several F&B executives, operational managers and chefs and even visited the kitchens. Mario, the operational manager of Omnom company, says that their company would be interested in some cooperation, but they were never approached by any recycling company. The group operates the Via Vita restaurant in JLT and the luxury restaurant Fume in Pier 7. “We don’t segregate waste in Via Vita because we don’t have recycling bins around here, but we do some segregation in Fume because Marina Mall management provides recycling facility for its tenants”. The Emaar company in collaboration with Bee’ah made it mandatory for all outlets in Marina Mall and Pier 7 to segregate their waste from the source and dispose in mini recycling center on the territory of Marina Mall.
“I understand that we dispose so much waste but we don’t do anything about it. The water suppliers do not come to collect their bottles so we dispose them all in general waste” says the “Coffee Club” coffee shop in charge, who shares similar ideas.
During 3 day campaign I was able to collect over 120 glass bottles from each restaurant. It turned out that every F&B outlet disposes on average 25-40 empty glass bottles. It was not difficult to find an organization that would take my waste for recycling. I met John, the owner of HomeCycle recycling company , who is passionately looking to solve environmental problems while driving his business forward. His mobile app allows any individual or a company to join the recycling campaigns and order waste collection for free. Users can select a mission from the range and register home or business address. The company accepts plastic, glass, aluminum cups, e-waste, detergent bottles and paper.
Glass, not as harmless as it seems, has the longest time for decomposition under the ground. While some plastics can take up to 1000 years, glass takes up to 1 million years to decompose, according to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services estimates that it takes . It is unforgivable practice to dispose glass that can be easily reused or recycled. (1) In fact, glass recycling uses less energy than manufacturing glass from sand, lime and soda. Every ton of waste glass recycled into new items saves 315 kilograms (694 lb) of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere during the creation of new glass. (2)
My attention was instantly drawn to local producers, involved in glass bottle manufacturing. Al Ain water is supplied in glass bottles to F&B outlets around Dubai. It turned out that the producer does not collect glass bottles for reusing or recycling purposes. Al Ain Water is the key product for Al Agthia, an Abu Dhabi based company, that has already acquired 25% of the market share in terms of volume (24.5%) and value (22.7%). It is essential for a local market leader and “hydration expert” that promotes healthy lifestyle to take more environmental approach and make a commitment to responsible production and recycling of its product package. Recycling used plastic bottles, as well reusing and upcycling used glass bottles should be must-do routine practices for leading water producer in UAE.
Will a “hydration expert” take a journey to sustainable future? Here is the call from a consumer like me: I won’t purchase Al Ain water until I see the company is taking serious initiatives in creating positive social and environmental impact. I intend to contact Al Agthia to shed some light on the situation with their glass and plastic reuse and recycling and keep you updated.
Interested to know about plastic recycling and what the biggest water producers do to reduce their environmental impact? Read my next blog..