Nestle Waters Canada Accused of Misleading Readers in Opinion Piece

This is rich stuff. Those familiar with Nestle’s desperate attempts to avert municipal bottled water bans in Canada will know of spokesperson’s John Challinor’s repeated assertions that 60% of Nestle’s plastic water bottles are recycled.

In a response to that assertion, a Guelph (Canada) resident points out that 60% of the bottles aren’t recycled – Nestle’s simply misleading readers.

Instead, he suggests the 60% figure tossed around by Nestle refers to the percentage of people who have access to recycling – not the percentage of bottles actually recycled.

If true, is shocked (shocked!) at the misinformation provided by Nestle’s spinmeisters.


Here’s the letter:

Dear Editor – Re: “Nestlé extensively tests its water supply” letter to the editor, Jan. 19.

John Challinor, Nestlé Waters Canada’s director of corporate affairs, conveniently attempts to dismiss the public’s concern over plastic water bottle pollution by merely tossing around misleading statistics.

First, please note that the 60 per cent figure reflecting access to recycling is not the same as a percentage figure showing the percentage of Nestlé water bottles sold that are actually recycled.

Second, note that the 60 per cent figure also reflects the fact that 40 per cent of Canadians do not even have access to recycling were they even inclined to do so.

Third, the Stewardship Ontario statistic used does not actually mean that very few Nestlé water bottles end up polluting the environment. Indeed, it could be taken as reflecting the fact that most of the bottles sold to the public actually do not end up back into the home where municipalities can deal with them, the bottles being tossed elsewhere in the environment.

My point is simply that if you walk the Canadian trails I walk, if you fish on Canadian rivers after spring runoff, if you visit the lake shores of Canada, or if you walk with me along the ditches that line some of our Canadian roadways, you will get the strong impression there are even more than 650 million water bottles to worry about, no matter what the Nestlé’s corporate affairs department says about their belief that their plastic water bottles are only a convenience, not a problem. I see them on the ground nearly everywhere I go.

If I were to defend Nestlé, I could go no further than to point out their use of plastic water bottles is only part of the problem. The fact that they sell them to people is also the problem. The plastic water bottle’s availability is the problem.

It just happens that the name Nestlé is showing up on our trails and shorelines and roadways like a bad billboard.

They are innocent. Or are they?

I am disappointed they are not helping us all find a solution to the problem.

2 thoughts on “Nestle Waters Canada Accused of Misleading Readers in Opinion Piece

  1. You will also often find that recycling numbers take into account only what is being consumed and recycled *at home*. Here in Quebec, Recyc-Quebec (the official organisation that handles recycling in the province) reports a recovery rate of 57% for water bottles (2005). However they specifically indicate that this number accounts only for what’s being used at home, which accounts for about 50% of the bottles sold. For the other 50%, which is consumed outside, there’s no reliable number available, although we all know recycling outside of home is much lower. One estimate published in a newspaper recently was that the overall recycling rate for the plastic water bottles was about 44%. The projection for 2008 was that 560 million bottles would go to the trash out of almost a billion to be sold in the province.

    The best way to increase the recovery rate would be a wider bottle bill program, but generally the industry is against it.
    Beer and soda bottles (for which there’s a deposit) get global recovery rates of 98% and 71% respectively. Knowing that bottled water gradually replaces soft drinks, we can only suppose the global container recovery rates will drop.

    The industry say they care, but in practice, that,s another thing. In Ontario for instance, some of the bottlers have introduced single-use containers to replace the 18 liters refillable jugs. Problem is that these new containers are too large to be handled by the recycling plant, so they have to be trashed. In Quebec fortunately these non-reusable containers have been banned.

    some links:
    Recyc-Quebec report (in french, see table 6)
    Newspaper story with 2008 projection (fr)
    Story about the new jugs (en)

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks for the clarification around the recycling issues. Nestle’s pitch still seems eerily close to “it’s better to recycle a plastic bottle than never make it in the first place” but the alternative doesn’t do much for their bottom line.

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