From 1997 to 2005, sales of bottled water rose 700%. From 1999 to 2017, per capita bottled water consumption has risen from 16.2 gallons to 42.1 gallons. This insane increase has led to increased environmental degradation, landfill waste, and much more. This scares me, and it should scare you too. Campaigns to raise suspicion on tap water have succeeded, at least according to these numbers. However, there are many companies and practices coming into the limelight to counteract bottled water consumption, and Brita is a part of this movement.
With Brita’s water filters that bring greater trust and usage to tap water and with Brita’s recycling program of its filters, the company has achieved great success in reducing single-use plastic bottles while decreasing both its plastic and carbon footprint. However, Brita still has a ways to go. I would love to see a recycling and reuse program that puts a smaller burden on the consumer, as they have to ship filters to TerraCycle. If they develop filters with longer lifespans or biodegradable capabilities, Brita could drastically improve its plastic and carbon footprint.
Each Brita filter is made of a plastic case that is filled with an activated carbon and ion-exchange resin, which looks similar to beads. According to Brita, the activated carbon is produced from coconut shells. Unfortunately, there is little easily accessible information on the practices and resources that go into making each filter.
Brita offers a limited amount of information regarding how it sources its materials and the conditions its filters are made in. We know that its manufacturing facilities are in China, Switzerland, Italy, China, and the United Kingdom, and historically China has been spotlighted for mistreatment of workers through abuse and unfair wages. A plus from Brita is that 90% of its electricity comes from renewable resources. However, with little information from Brita on its factory worker conditions, how it gets its resources, and the sustainability of its third-party manufacturing facilities, it is difficult to give Brita a good and accurate rating solely on this.
Brita does an exceptional job on the lifetime value of its products by making its products durable. However, with water filters having to be replaced after a certain period of time, it is inherently an unsustainable product as it leads to waste from replacement. The degree of waste is diminished by having longer-lasting filters, which is a great feature Brita has developed. While this would usually be a huge issue of waste, Brita has implemented policies to eliminate unnecessary waste. Brita has partnered with TerraCycle, a global leader in recycling, to institute a program that recycles Brita filters for possible future reuse.
Here’s where Brita really shines. Brita props itself on four pillars of success: better water, better value, better world, and better health. Starting with Better Water, Brita’s filters are meant to remove odors, odd tastes, and other contaminants from the tap water that we drink—with certain filters being able to remove 99% of lead from tap water. Its standard filter removes chlorine’s taste and odor, mercury, cadmium, copper, and zinc. Purifying water of contaminants has many health benefits for consumers and Brita ensures the quality of its filters while also making sure its products are accessible and affordable. Having clean and healthy water for customers also allows Brita to fulfill its tenet of providing Better Health too.
Brita also says it provides better value to its customers, and it does. One of Brita’s purposes is to cut the use of single-use plastic bottles by providing plastic water bottles, filters, and pitchers. Keeping its pitchers at $26.99, Brita calculated that it saves customers an average of $320 each year while also reducing plastic water bottle usage by 1,800 bottles per person per year at a maximum. For those who can’t afford Britas, the company has donated its products to areas like Flint in the past.
Next, and most importantly (in my opinion), Brita claims to make the world better. Simply put, Brita reduces the amount of single-use plastic in the United States. Brita alleviates the plastic footprint by 1,800 bottles per person per year. Aggregating this across all customers, a whopping 10.5 billion single-use plastic bottles are saved. Moreover, the carbon footprint is reduced as Brita filters have a smaller carbon footprint than plastic bottles—four times less in fact. Having filters that need to be replaced is a glaring shortcoming of Brita; however, it addresses this inherent issue by partnering with organizations for filter recycling and reuse.
Overall, Brita does a lot to reduce both the plastic and carbon footprint of both US and international consumers. With programs on recycling and reuse as well as providing products that reduce the consumption of single-use plastic, Brita has situated itself as a company that can help the sustainability efforts across the globe.