When working to reduce your environmental impact, swapping out single-use plastic water bottles for a reusable bottle is one of the simplest and most cost-effective choices a person can make. But a new company called Cove is hoping to make the single-use water bottle game a little easier on the environment with its 100 percent biodegradable water bottle. As reported by Fast Company, Cove will be launching soon — and the bottle is truly the first of its kind.
According to Cove's website, the Cove water bottle is the "first bottle of water made entirely of biodegradable material." The bottle is made of PHA, which is a "naturally occurring biopolymer," and the label is made of paper, non-toxic inks, and non-toxic glue. After drinking an entire bottle, Cove's website recommends reusing the bottle up until the use-by date, and then putting it in a compost bin. The website claims that the bottle will break down "in a compost or landfill, and even in soil, fresh water and the ocean." However, Cove says science is unable to predict exactly how long the bottle will take to biodegrade.
It's pretty unique that Cove can supposedly break down in settings besides a compost, because thus far, most bioplastics and other "eco-friendly" single-use water bottles actually have to be recycled or composted to reap the product's benefits. For example, Just Water is branded as a better alternative to plastic bottles, but because its packaging contains a combination of paper, bioplastic, aluminum, and plastic film, the only responsible way to dispose of the bottle is by recycling it.
Alex Totterman, founder of Cove, spoke with Fast Company about why the bottle he designed is different. “PHA is the only polymer that’s fully biodegradable in all conditions,” Totterman told Fast Company. “So it’s kind of sidestepping the need for the recycling system we have ... Most of all, this comes down to the very basic premise that we’re just trying to give people something real that they can do without seeming like it’s a big deal.”
If Totterman's claim that Cove can break down in a landfill is actually true, it would be pretty revolutionary, seeing as most biodegradable items do not degrade in landfills. As explained by ThoughtCo, landfills are typically extremely crowded, and most trash is not exposed to the proper elements to help them biodegrade. And while the items sit in a landfill not biodegrading, they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, as explained by Ensia.
And the need for an alternative to single-use plastic bottles is dire. According to a case study by Watershed, every second, Americans consume approximately 1,500 bottles of water. And every year, Americans consume about 50 billion bottles of water. Props on staying hydrated, y'all, but that's a lot. Not to mention, only 23 percent of plastic is recycled every year, meaning 38 billion water bottles become landfill trash or litter, Ban the Bottle added.
Additionally, Cove is working to keep its manufacturing process as local as possible. As explained on its website, the first shipment will only be available for order to those in California, and the water in those bottles will all be sourced from natural springs in California. As Cove expands, the company plans to continue sourcing water locally to make shipping distances as short as possible.
So while buying an option like Cove would probably be more eco-friendly than grabbing an Aquafina or Poland Spring, you just can't beat a reusable bottle in terms of environmental impact. It will be interesting to see what direction Cove goes in. Will Cove further promote America's tendency to rely on single-use items, and make people feel like it's OK to keep buying single-use waters when reusables are a better option? Or, will major drink retailers (such as companies that produce soda, plant milk, juice, and more) turn to Cove for its technology? That would be a welcome shift from the plastic and even non-recyclable packaging that many beverages are currently packaged in.