British supermarket switches to dirty-looking plastic water bottles

Co-op Food recycled water bottle
© Co-Op Food

It comes from using recycled material, but unfortunately it's only temporary.

A British supermarket chain called Co-op Food has announced that all of its store-brand bottles of water will soon be packaged in 50 percent recycled plastic. While this may not seem like a significant announcement, the new bottles will appear darker and cloudier than traditional plastic water bottles. Indeed, a picture on Co-op's website (pictured above) reveals a bottle that looks almost yellowed and dirty compared to the pristine bottles next to it.

At first I thought it was a very clever anti-marketing strategy. The less appealing a bottle of water is, the less inclined a person will be to buy it. But then I read environment manager Iain Ferguson's comment in the Daily Mail:

"Suppliers are working hard to make the bottle clearer – and they already have. In the meantime, our bottles will wear this greyish colour which I see as a badge of honour – we are part of the market for recycled products and are proud of that."

I don't know why Co-op is having trouble coming up with a fully clear bottle, considering that other countries like Germany and Sweden have already done it, but the story got me thinking about how interesting it would be if retailers who were serious about plastic waste reduction took a page out of Co-op's book, and purposely made their single-use packaging as unattractive as possible. Imagine if all single-use plastics had to be tinged or dulled in a way that turned people off, in order to discourage use?

Given the option between a cloudy recycled bottle or a perfectly clear glass bottle that could be returned and refunded in a reverse vending machine in many locations around a city, which would you choose? I know I'd go for glass, without a doubt.

Co-op is calling the move a 'trial,' saying it will "enable us to see if our members and customers are ready to ditch aesthetically pleasing packaging for more environmentally friendly packaging." The wording makes it sound as if Co-op itself isn't yet certain it wants to make the transition to half-recycled plastic; but the chain is aware of the environmental benefits, estimating that it will save 350 tonnes of plastic annually.

Obviously a far better option would be simply to eliminate single-use plastics and implement reusables in every store, but until that happens, 'dirty' water bottles might be an interesting path to pursue.

British supermarket switches to dirty-looking plastic water bottles
It comes from using recycled material, but unfortunately it's only temporary.

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