Primo Plant Based Water Bottles and Denver Recycles Options

by Sean O'Hara on November 4, 2008


Our Denver office has recently switched to using Primo Water for our single serve bottle needs. The bottles are made from plant material (corn) but otherwise look and feel just like plastic water bottles. If you look at their website it tells you that you have three options for renewing the bottle. They can be recycled, they can be composted and they can be used as fuel.

We have recycling at the office and at my home, I also have composting at home so I wondered about what we should be doing with these bottles. I emailed Becky Wike Goyton who is the Recycling Program Administrator at Denver Recycles to find out.

Her response follows:

“Unfortunately, water bottles made from a corn base can’t be recycled in a typical residential recycling program. They actually contaminate the plastic supply if mixed in with traditional plastics that are meant for recycling, so please do not put them in your purple recycling cart.

It’s true that water bottles and other packaging made from a corn base can be composted, but currently most of those products are not manufactured in a way that clearly distinguishes them as compostable and makes them stand out at a large commercial composting facility. For example, some manufactures of compostable bags such as BioBag, make their bags green and clearly label them as compostable and BPI certified, so it’s easy for compost facilities to distinguish them from regular trash bags and not think they are a contaminant. However, Primo bottles are a clear water bottle, so in a residential composting collection program, the compostable water bottle just looks like a regular plastic bottle to the commercial composting facility and they end up having to remove it from the load to ensure the load doesn’t get contaminated.

With that being said, please don’t put Primo water bottles in your green compost cart.”

I found the response to be pretty interesting so I called her to follow up. Basically in Denver you don’t have a choice but to throw the Primo Water bottles in the trash. If Denver Recycles and Primo can work together on identifying these bottles as they move through the waste stream there would be more options. The final question is whether it is better to throw a corn based bottle in the trash or make a bottle out of petroleum that is later recycled.

I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts and yes the Primo bottles are sitting in the recycle bin while we debate…


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