The Swell water bottle is a fashionable reusable water bottle priced at a range between £18/ $25 US dollars and £31/$42 US dollars (sold in different sizes).
The CEO of Swell, Sarah Kauss, had a goal to ‘rid the world of single-use plastic.’ Kauss created the world’s first reusable hydration accessory with Swell and wanted to make products that promoted sustainable living as well as serving an aesthetic and stylish look. Swell sells products from reusable bottles to tumblers to mugs, all with many different designs.
Swell advertises themselves as an ‘eco-friendly’ company helping to pledge millions of dollars to organizations that help communities around the world, as well as replacing millions of plastic bottles. However, my analysis of this product helped me come to the conclusion that Swell is not a transparent company and convinces their customers that they are environmentally-friendly through green-washing (conveying a false impression about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound than they actually are).
The Swell water bottle is made mainly from high-grade 18/8 stainless steel. More than 80% of stainless-steel items are recycled at the end of their lives, as this type of material can be reused many times. This is a good sign that Swell uses a sustainable material for their water bottles. Furthermore, the water bottle is BPA-free (bisphenol A is an industrial chemical) which is good for the environment since BPA affects aquatic life by disrupting the ecosystem structure. Also, their website states how the company is compliant with California Prop 65, which requires businesses to provide warnings about exposures to chemicals that can cause cancer. This makes it seem like the company is transparent, but in a way, Swell is forced to tell their customers and are obliged to inform customers on the chemicals that their products contain.
When it comes to sustainable products, it is important that they last for a long period of time in order to reduce waste and reduce consumption. Swell products are all made of high quality 18/8 food-grade stainless steel. This material is highly resistant to rust, meaning that their products have a long-life span which reduces the number of products thrown as they can be used many times.
In terms of packaging, their website states that they launched packaging with minimal cardboard. Ironically, although the company’s goals are to reduce plastic waste, the bottle I purchased was wrapped in plastic. This is a prime example of green washing since Swell makes it sound like they are doing everything to reduce and minimise plastic waste, yet produce tons of plastic from their packaging.
The process of how the Swell bottle is made is not entirely sustainable. There are many stages of the manufacturing process that require a lot of energy and water. For example, water welling, a process used in the manufacturing process to shape water bottles, requires a lot of energy. It also requires electrolysis, which is when a substance is broken down into their constituent elements and is used in the manufacturing process to prevent corrosion (gradual destruction of a material) in water bottles. This process requires a lot of energy since electrolysis uses a lot of electricity.
Both these stages require lots of electricity and energy, suggesting that the manufacturing process for Swell water bottles is damaging to the environment. The large consumption of fossil fuels means that the company is not taking into consideration how much energy is used and how the impacts of using finite resources is unsustainable for the future.
There is a lack of information regarding who manufactures the Swell products. The only piece of information I could find on their website was that their bottles and containers are ‘responsibly made in China.’ The word ‘responsibly’ implies that the company follows all regulations regarding factory conditions and forced/child labour. However, this is not the case. There is no information telling customers about how regularly their manufacturing factories are audited, so customers are unable to tell if Swell products are responsibly or ethically made. Furthermore, all of the stainless-steel swell bottles are made in China, which means that the CO2 emissions are high in order for them to be sold in other countries such as the USA and UK. Swell is not very transparent to their customers about who makes their products because we do not know the sources of where their bottles come from and how their workers are treated. This shows that Swell is not an ethical responsible brand. In addition, Swell uses a lot of greenwashing to hide the fact that the company is not entirely sustainable since their main goal is to reduce plastic waste, yet they produce lots of plastic through their packaging.