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The ePET Program Energizing the Plastic Beverage Bottle Industry

January 8th, 2010

The ePET Program

Energizing the Plastic Beverage Bottle Industry

14 December 2009

Henry Fingerhut

Brian Fochtman

Caroline Lee

Allison O’Rourke

Section 1.  Summary


With the growth of worldwide plastic use, public attention to and industry mitigation of the resources consumed in the production of plastic products is increasingly important. This necessary consciousness is especially true of plastic packaging, as approximately half of the plastic consumed annually is intended for single use. Specifically in the case of plastic bottles, plastic feedstock material and resin production processes command 7-8% of global petroleum use. While public campaigns to encourage conservation and recycling are prevalent in the United States, and many beverage producers advertise environmental attributes of their product, no credible and widely accepted standard exists to convey the energy intensity of plastic bottles over the life cycle. Ecolabeling programs worldwide vary in form and scope, and are critical tools in the effort to raise public awareness of environmental issues and drive industry toward more energy efficient practices. Successful U.S. certification programs, including Energy Star and LEED, tend only to address durables and industrial products. The establishment of an energy efficiency certification program for plastic bottles will more associate small-scale, single-use packaging with its cumulative energy effect in the public awareness.


We propose the establishment of a government certification program for the energy efficiency of plastic bottles. Qualifying bottles will earn a seal of energy efficiency, the ePET label, which will be awarded to market leaders who minimize energy costs of the Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle over the entire bottle life cycle.  The ePET label energy threshold is set at an aggressive 20 gigajoule (GJ)/metric tonne of plastic, which is currently 20% of the market average.  Such a revolutionary figure will require the industry to develop innovative methods.  There will be few limits placed on companies to encourage greater development.  Applications for the label will be made on a voluntary basis by those companies that seek to differentiate their product based on energy conservation.  To ensure the long-term success of the program and to drive further industry improvement, the energy threshold will be revisited every 5 years and adjusted to maintain its innovative nature.

Section 2.  Global Challenge


The ePET program addresses the energy crisis global challenge. The energy crisis can be considered from various angles, including the production of energy from natural resources, its procurement by consuming nations and industries, the consumption of energy by industrial and private sectors and the recycling and extraction of secondary energy after use.

ePET affects energy consumption by minimizing input resources in the plastic bottle industry. Energy consumption can be considered differently in the cases where a) energy is an intermediate good ancillary to the production of another and b) energy is the final good to be consumed privately, eg. as a utility or in transportation.

Two perspectives are equally integral to reduction efforts in energy consumption as an intermediate good. In the development of policy that is both broad enough to effect advancement but sufficiently focused to achieve practical success, these approaches should be taken independently. First, efficiency can be improved through process-constant policy, which considers a particular process across a series of affected industries, eg. by improving transportation systems for many products, the production of plastic resin to be used in many plastic products, or recycling processes. Or, industry-constant efficiency can be improved, addressing a single good over many processes within the life cycle. We chose this approach with hopes to attract attention to changes in plastic bottle production with effects across the life cycle to balance current public and industrial process-oriented awareness.
Section 3.  Particulars of the Problem

Global Energy Demand

The global demand for energy is increasing rapidly with increases in both global population and per capita energy consumption in developing nations.  The US Energy Information Administration estimates that from 2006-2030 the global energy demand will increase by 44%.[1] This increasing demand can only be met in two ways: attempting to curb it by increasing efficiency or by finding new sources of power.

Finding new sources of power is both problematic and costly.  Researchers at the University of Albany predict that the world is rapidly approaching peak oil production.[2] More sustainable sources of power are being adopted more slowly because of high infrastructure costs.[3] Secondary problems are associated with creating more energy to meet global demand.  Use of fossil fuels, which currently produce 87% of global energy, release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and ultimately contribute to global climate change.4 This problem is not predicted to be resolved in the near future.  By 2030 fossil fuels are expected to produce 80% of the global energy supply.[4] Given the problems, logistically and environmental in meeting unrestrained global energy demand it is in the greater interest to use energy more efficiently.  One area that can be targeted is disposable products, such as plastic beverage bottles.

Energy Costs of Bottled Beverages

Beverages bottled in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are both energy intensive and in high demand.  Both of these factors make this industry an urgent piece of the energy security puzzle.  According to the National Association of PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) 2.4  million metric tonnes of PET were used for bottles in 2006.[5] The energy cost of producing these bottles from virgin resin, according to the Hopewell et. al., averaged 100 GJ/tonne for a total energy cost of 2.4 billion GJ, the energy equivalent of 393 million barrels of oil, at 6.1 GJ per barrel of oil.[6],[7] An explanation of this figure will be given below.  This amount of energy is highly significant given that global oil output is roughly 30 billion barrels a year.2 The energy cost of PET beverage bottles is incurred over the entire life cycle of the bottle and depends on the methods and materials employed.

The life cycle of a beverage bottle may be divided into three bins- production, transportation and recycling.  The production bin summarizes two steps: the creation of PET resin and the creation of the bottle from this resin (see Figure 1).  PET resin may be created from virgin or recycled sources.  Hopewell et al. have determined that the creation of this resin costs 83 GJ/metric tonne for virgin resin and 8-55GJ/metric tonne for recycled resin.6 Use of recycled resin instead of virgin resin results in an energy savings of 90 – 44%.  The use of recycled resin however depends on availability and cost.  Hopewell has also estimated a cost of 20 GJ/metric tonne to form the resin into bottles.  Hence 100 GJ/metric tonne to make a bottle from virgin resin.


Figure 1.  Energy cost in Gigajoules / metric tonne for bottles created with PET vs recycled PET (rPET).6

The second life cycle bin of a bottle is transportation.  The energy total for this category is equal to the sum of several events depending on company practices.  This category accounts for the transportation of resin to the factory in which bottles are created, the transportation of the bottles to the bottler where they are filled, and the shipment of the filled bottles to the consumer.  The transportation energy costs for an average bottle are difficult to calculate given the great variety of distances companies may need to ship their products or its components and the mode of travel used.  Gleick and Cooley estimated these costs for five different modes of transportation.  This data is summarized in Table 1.[8] Depending on the distance traveled these energy costs can be significant.

Table 1. The average cost per ton per kilometer of five common modes of shipping.  Please note that this table uses tons, while this paper uses metric tonnes as the standard unit of weight.8

Cargo ship/ocean (MJ t–1 km–1) Air cargo (MJ t–1 km–1) Rail (MJ t–1 km–1) Heavy truck (MJ t–1 km–1) Medium truck (MJ t–1 km–1)
0.37 15.9 0.23 3.5 6.8

The third category of energy costs is recycling.  Once a bottle is used it must be disposed of.  PET from used bottles may be recycled, or left in a landfill.  The energy cost of recycling is 1.5GJ/tonne.6 The energy cost is broken down further in Figure 2.


Figure 2.  The total cost of recycling a PET bottle.6

As seen in Figure 2 the majority of these costs come from the collection of to be recycled goods.  The part of this number that varies throughout the industry is the materials recovery, the cost of recovering 100% of the bottle, labels, and dyes included as reusable products.

Increasing Global Demand

The problem of high energy investments in plastic beverage bottles is pressing because global beverage bottle use is on the rise.  NAPCOR posits a 6.9% increase in market size for PET bottles in 2006 alone.1 Figure 3 shows that such high levels of market growth are common.[9] This growth is being realized largely in the bottled water markets.  The Bottled Water – Global Market Guide claims that the bottled water market grew 8.1% by volume in 2006, with over 50% of these global sales in Europe.[10]


Figure 3. Per Capita PET Beverage Bottle Wasting and Recycling Data for 1990-2006 is used to show the increase in demand for PET Beverage Bottles. Taken from the Container Recycling Intitute.9

Furthermore much of this global growth has been caused by great increases in the developing world.  Figure 4 shows the percent increase in bottled water in various markets throughout the world.[11] Charting growth in the bottled water sector is a sufficient marker of market growth as increases in bottled water use is the driving force behind the PET bottle market growth.  In an unpublished study it is claimed that the bottled water market in India rows by 50% every year.[12] The rapid growth in demand for PET beverage bottles coupled with their high energy costs makes decreasing the energy cost of PET bottles a relevant and important part of curbing global energy needs.


Figure 4. Percent increase in bottled water consumption from 1999-2001 in 8 distinct global markets.  Strong growth in demand for PET bottles is seen in Pacific and Asian regions.  Taken from Ferrier.11

Section 4.  Particulars of the Solution

Labeling Program and Its Administration and Process

The goal of the ePET program is to certify plastic beverage bottles that meet a certain threshold for the energy invested in the production, transportation, and recycling of the bottle.  The ePET program will be run by a specific governmental department, as specified by Congress.  This department will run the daily processes of the program

Individual beverage bottle companies will independently apply to the program.  The program will have auditors that assess the energy invested in the bottle.  The energy value determined by the auditors must be at or below the threshold set by the department.  Once this level is reached, the bottle now can display the ePET symbol on its label to show that it is certified as an energy efficient beverage bottle.  A continual audit process of every five years will ensure that the certified bottle still meets the energy investment standard.  The ePET program’s energy investment number will be revisited every five years by the governing department.  Therefore, any changes to the energy investment threshold will apply to the previously certified bottle and determine continued or revoked certification.

The ePET label can be used as a marketing tool by the beverage company whose bottle has been certified.  The government department heading the program will also establish a public awareness campaign to inform the public of the requirements of the program and its effects, thereby preventing any false advertising by certified or non-certified bottles.

Life Cycle Analysis

In assessing the energy investment of an individual plastic bottle, the life cycle of a bottle was assessed.  It was imperative to define the boundaries of the life cycle of the bottle so that any life cycle analysis performed on a specific bottle would be comparable to the life cycle analysis of any other bottle.  The earliest energy investment cited in the life cycle analysis is the production of the feedstock into resin.  The source can include materials such as petroleum or corn.  Therefore, the energy used to obtain the oil or grow the corn, for example, is not taken into account.  The final energy investment cited in the life cycle analysis is the recycling of the bottle, including dyes and labels, into reusable resin.  At this point in the life cycle, the bottle is no longer in existence, and has been reduced to its component materials.  Finally, the entire bottle must be recyclable or biodegradable.

The life cycle of a plastic bottle, now defined by its boundaries, can be divided into three categories: production, transportation, and recycling.  The production of the resin from the source, the production of the bottle from the resin, and the filling of the bottle with the beverage are the components of the production category.  The transportation of the resin to the bottle-making plant, the transportation of the bottle to the beverage plant, and the distribution of the bottled beverage to locations for purchase by the consumer are the components of the transportation category.  The recycling of the bottle into reusable resin, the recycling of the label and cap, and the recycling of the dye are the components of the recycling category.

The life cycle energy investment for plastic beverage bottles in the current industry was determined for the three categories.  The energy unit used for the life cycle analysis is GJ/metric tonne of plastic.  This unit is practical for industry use, as manufacturers use large amounts of energy, and buy their plastic in measurable weight.  As discussed before, the total energy investment in the plastic beverage bottle life cycle using virgin PET resin is about 100 GJ/metric tonne.  For rPET resin, the life cycle energy investment is around 80 GJ/metric tonne.  However, the production of resin value for rPET was given as a range of 8-55 GJ/metric tonne.  Therefore the maximum energy investment is about 80 GJ/metric tonne, where the minimum energy investment is about 25 GJ/metric tonne.

Choosing An Energy Number

In choosing a threshold for the program, the limit could be evolutionary or revolutionary.  An evolutionary goal would set an achievable threshold for the energy investment number.  In this case, current bottled beverage producers could be certified for the ePET program today, as shown by the current rPET values.  The main purpose for setting an evolutionary goal would be to eliminate any beverage bottle producers who are on the periphery of energy efficiency.  As more bottles are certified under the evolutionarily-set energy threshold, those without the certification would be marginalized in the beverage bottle market.[13]

On the other hand, a revolutionary goal would incite the market to update current practices to more energy-efficient practices in order to achieve the certification.  This way, only a few if any beverage companies in the current market could achieve the certification today.  The certification of a bottle that achieves the threshold will create a distinction among products in the market.  As more beverages are bottled in the energy efficient bottles, the direction of the industry will be controlled by the competition induced by the ePET program.

Therefore, a revolutionary threshold was set for the energy investment in the life cycle of a plastic bottle.  As previously mentioned, the lowest energy investment at this time is 25 GJ/ metric tonne, compared to the average of the industry, 100 GJ/metric tonne.  Therefore, a revolutionary threshold number was set to 20 GJ/metric tonne.  At this point, there is no evidence it can be reached, but current practices show it is nearly possible.  This number provides a goal for producers to achieve.

Working With Industry
Though the ePET program emerges from a critique of inefficiencies within the plastic bottle industry, a central facet to the program is the willingness of industry leaders to engage with program administrators. The ePET seal will establish an additional means of product differentiation for those producers that achieve the threshold figure. As a result, the program is advantageous not just for the producers who can already achieve the threshold, but also as a motivator for other leading producers to negate this advantage by increasing efficiency.

The program depends on public outreach, awareness and demand for holistic energy efficiency information. This is achievable with minimal government outreach, because the product differentiation offered by the seal is a marketable factor for qualifying products. As a distinction occurs within the industry between those with and without the seal, more efficient practices become standard and the industry as a whole advances.

How Can Industry Work Within This Structure to Reduce Their Number?

The purpose of the threshold is not to discourage producers from the goal of energy investment reduction, but rather to give producers the ultimate flexibility and decision-making capabilities in achieving the threshold number.  The program also seeks to acknowledge the efforts of the industry leaders in developing and stream-lining energy efficient practices.

Within the production category, the producer has various options.  Virgin resin can be substituted with rPET or another lower-energy resin source.  Naked JuiceTM has started to switch to 100% rPET bottles as of 2009.  Naked JuiceTM estimates that when their entire product line is fully recycled material in 2010, their company “will reduce virgin plastic consumption by 8.1 million pounds per year and will save 57,000 barrels of oil every year—the equivalent of taking 3,460 cars off the road.”[14] Coca-Cola has introduced a fully recyclable beverage bottle that is 20% bioplastic.  The amount of plastic used in the bottle can be varied as well.  Low density plastic bottles are currently on the market.  Nestle Pure-Life water bottles are now made with 30% less plastic than other 0.5 L water and carbonated beverage bottles.  Nestle accomplished this by reducing the plastic in the cap and making the bottle lighter and more flexible.[15] A change in the shape of the bottle would also result in the reduction in the amount of plastic used in a beverage bottle. Walmart currently has a milk bottle that is cubic in shape.  Such a shape, as shown below, holds more milk, uses less plastic, and is more easily packed, thereby reducing shipping costs.  These benefits translate into a 10-20 cent reduction in the price of milk.[16]


Figure 5. Impact of change in shape of milk bottle sold at Walmart. [17]

Within the transportation category, the manufacturer must balance the energy efficiency of its fleet while maintaining a distribution necessary for company survival.  One immediate change a producer could make would be to change the radius of distribution for their product.  A smaller radius would in most cases reduce the energy needed to transport the bottles from the bottling plant to the point of purchase, usually a supermarket.  In the same vein, the beverage company can acquire their resin from local sources.  This effort would be beneficial if linked to a local recycling plant.  Besides changing the radii of acquisition and distributions, the beverage company can modify their fleet of vehicles and air planes to more fuel efficient models.  Coca-Cola has the largest fleet of diesel-electric trucks in the United States.[18] Finally, a change in the shape or density of a bottle can affect the number of products that can be transported at any given time.  A lower density bottle is less rigid and therefore can be packed into a tighter space.  Bottles that are designed in interlocking shapes or bottles that are cubic or rectangular in shape are easier to pack closer together.

Within the recycling category, producers can affect the market for recycled PET and reduce the number of plastic bottles in landfills.  Producers can invest in local recycling industries in order to receive rPET from a nearby source, thus reducing transportation, and to keep costs of rPET low.  Another option in the recycling category is biodegradable bottles.  Biodegradable bottles can enter the landfill and compost into the earth.  Therefore, the producer incurs no energy requirement for such a bottle.

Comparison to FTC Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims

The ePET program is inspired by the 1992 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims or “Green Guides”. These guidelines regulate the use of marketing statements or insignia that connote the environmental effect of a product or its packaging. The Green Guides “apply to any claim about the environmental attributes of a product, package or service in connection with the sale, offering for sale, or marketing of such product, package or service.” Though the holistic scope of the Green Guides covers any environmental claim marketed with respect to a given product, the guides fulfill the FTC responsibility to protect against “deceptive acts and practices” in marketing and commerce.[19] While the guides promote truth in environmental advertising and call attention to the accuracy of broad, qualitative claims, standardization of environmental claims to facilitate comparison between products are beyond the scope of the FTC program. Further, the FTC program is not designed to convey holistic information about a product’s environmental effect.  In fact in submitting the guidelines and their 1996 and 1998 revisions, the FTC “concluded that issuance of the Guides would not have a significant impact on the environment and that any such impact would be so uncertain that environmental analysis would be based on speculation.’”[20] The Green Guides are an International Organization for Standardization Type II label; though the Guides standardize certain terms, claims under the FTC Guides do not reference pre-determined criteria and address only single processes within the life cycle.[21] The International Standards Organization maintains template environmental labeling systems, ISO 14024 (Type I), 14021 (Type II), and 14025 (Type III) to represent information provided on an ecolabel to three distinct degrees. The Type I standard refers to a third-party label, certifying adherence to predefined criteria. Type II reflects first-party environmental claims. Type III governs the objective, third-party confirmed declaration of a standard set of environmental factors.[22][23]

The ePET program will expand upon the Green Guides to allow producers a holistic, objective standard against which to claim energy effect. Since the ePET standard reflects the life cycle energy investment of the bottle, qualifying producers that advertise their ePET compliance shift the energy marketing standard to more complete claims. Further, consumers who differentiate products based on environmental effect are provided a comprehensible and easily comparable governmental certification. This shift in marketing standard can minimize consumer dependence on process-oriented, often incomparable claims, including post-consumer material percentages or qualitative claims (such as “Eco-safe”, “Environmentally Friendly,” et al.), that may provide a false impression of overall environmental effect. ePET will be an ISO Type I label, offering “an indication of the overall environmental preferability” of comparable products throughout the life cycle.[24]

Public Engagement: Awareness Campaign, Industry Marketing, Degrees of Information, and Legitimization

Widespread public recognition and validation of a plastic bottle energy equivalence standard is essential to the program’s success in motivating industry efficiency improvement. In effect, the program works only to the extent that consumers demand objective information about these products, clearly understand its meaning and apply this information as a factor affecting consumption decisions. For this reason we propose a standardized and comprehensive system offering tiered degrees of information. This can take the form of a recognizable seal on the product label, certifying that the product reaches the efficiency threshold, comparisons between available products at the point of sale, and more detailed statistics underlying the certification, hosted on an agency website.

To affect the plastic bottle industry as a basis for consumers’ comparative decision-making, ePET fulfills requisite characteristics, set forth by Rotherham:

This information needs to be clearly presented (well defined terms, consistent format across a product category, logo or “ecomark” to summarize LCA-based approaches, simple figures for single-attributes), credible (criteria developed by credible authorities, third-party verification or government monitoring), and must address the particular environmental aspects that the consumer is most interested in (comprehensive information or single-attributes developed and defined in an open and inclusive process).[25]

As an ISO Type I, thresholded label with a supportive education program, ePET achieves Rotherham’s first criterion. The program is also dependent on consumers’ view of the government as a credible source of environmental information. To this end, the ePET program may benefit from partnership with leading non-governmental organizations, quickly increasing the program’s stake and credibility at low cost. Ecolabeling systems worldwide rely on “green consumerism,” and the education of consumers to differentiate products on specific environmental goals via the broad visibility of relevant labels.[26] This awareness is fostered first by sponsoring organizations and stakeholders to establish a consumer demand for reliable environmental information. Program success is then driven by producer competition, as producers communicate positive environmental attributes about their product.[27]

A common trend affecting ecolabel programs worldwide is that label recognition does not necessarily command consumer decisions. In a 1994 study in Singapore, for example, while 78% recognized the national GreenLabel, only 30% considered environmental attributes as a purchasing decision input.[28] However, in the ePET case, where it is expected that the incurred costs to achieve the ePET standard will not affect product retail price, the ePET label should positively affect purchase decisions for this market share. In this case, the resultant change in purchasing trends should be sufficient to drive a larger percentage of the market toward more efficient practices.

An exciting trend that potentially facilitates the ePET program is the rise of environmentally conscious retailers.[29] Partnership with this niche market can foster the promulgation of the ePET label as an arena in which environmentally preferable goods are standard. Especially in the program’s early stages, the opportunity for retailer ePET adoption and additional point of purchase information distribution offers an advantageous starting position for the program and immediate effect within at least a non-negligible market component.

Section 5.  Strengths and Weaknesses

An Evolutionary vs. Revolutionary Energy Requirement

To challenge the plastic bottle industry to substantially reduce energy use, the ePET label’s maximum energy investment will be set to 20 GJ/metric tonne. This value is 5 GJ/metric tonne lower than the industry minimum and represents an 80% reduction from the industry average of 100 GJ/metric tonne. This decision reflects a desire for an achievable yet rapid and significant change to the industry alongside an acknowledgment of the high upfront costs of acquiring energy reducing technology and capital. According to James Tansey, a chair in business ethics at the University of British Columbia: [30]

“In some cases, a strong business case exists for making the initial investment [in energy reduction technology]: an immediate savings on energy bills. In others, upgrades are much pricier and capital costs associated with those upgrades may only be recovered after five or ten years. Owners and developers may be unable or unwilling to assume this risk.”

Therefore, a revolutionary goal is advantageous because of the inherently high capital costs. To achieve the same effect through an evolutionary approach, participating companies incur substantial capital costs over the long term, adversely affecting involvement. Also, allowing for incremental change may not motivate substantive design innovation and thus can mitigate program effectiveness over the long term. However, caution must also be taken in establishing an energy goal that is too ambitious, as an overly aggressive energy threshold may require too much investment from the producer, and the potential benefits of the ePET label may be outweighed by its costs. Even in this scenario, the energy requirement for certification could potentially be revisited in order to establish an achievable goal.

Establishing a Mandate vs. Creating Incentives for Energy Reduction

Along with establishing a more challenging energy requirement, the ePET label is constructed as part of a voluntary, incentives-driven program, rather than a mandated energy cap that all bottlers must achieve. According to Tom Rotherham of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, “Sustainable development policies must, among other things, make caring for the environment a corporate priority. This can be achieved if profitability becomes more obviously linked to a company’s environmental performance.”[31] Working along with industry to make energy efficient products competitive in an incentives-based structure allows for technology and process innovation which can lead to an eventual improvement of the status quo. While a mandate is inherently designed to capture straggling bottlers, an incentives-based program does not compromise with a lower goal designed to encompass the whole industry. Rather, industry leaders with the initiative create an opportunity for themselves to distinguish their brand and set an example for the industry. Within this structure, the Environmental Protection Agency recognizes that “only a small percentage of products will qualify for the label, thus providing an incentive for all other product manufacturers to improve the environmental attributes of their products.”[32]

Additionally, a frequent criticism of a mandated labeling system is that such energy ceilings are of “protectionist intent.” With a compulsory energy value, potential barriers to entry of the market are created, particularly stifling foreign companies’ ability to compete within the domestic market.  However, by making the ePET program voluntary, the barriers are lowered and the label can be used as a distinguishing marketing tool.[33]

Potential Execution Issues

Alongside its virtues, obstacles in the execution of a life cycle assessment present themselves in evaluating the energy content of a plastic bottle. Labeling programs can be subject to weak oversight, lax auditing, and poorly defined practices, especially if the program expands in size or scope. These have the potential to debilitate necessary consumer confidence in the integrity of the label. Similar problems have recently plagued the Energy Star Program over some labeled products with dubious and unverifiable energy efficiencies.[34],[35] To prevent such occurrences, well-defined practices must be established; loopholes must be eliminated; and the oversight process must be rigorous and vigilant.

Despite these potential problems, a life cycle assessment is believed to be the most effective tool in determining an accurate and comprehensive measure of energy and bottle use. Measuring a bottle’s energy footprint based on petroleum content or energy used in production, transportation, or waste management alone provides an insufficient picture of bottle resource inputs, ruling out the effectiveness of a single or even multiple-attribute certification program, similar to the Energy Star Program.[36],[37] The success of other eco-labeling programs like Canada’s Eco-logo and the U.S.-based Green Seal in effectively evaluating its participants using a life cycle assessment lends confidence that careful administration and execution will allow the ePET label to become a reputable symbol of energy efficiency.[38]

Public Awareness and Willingness to Pay

The success of the ePET program is dependent on consumer awareness and recognition of the label as well as the premium that the public places on purchasing energy efficient items. While there is little evidence on whether similar programs have successfully been able to successfully penetrate the marketplace in the United States, it has been shown that the Nordic Swan label, similar to the proposed ePET label program, was able to increase the marginal willingness to pay for certified, environmentally friendly toilet paper by 13 to 18% of the price.[39] Thus, dissemination of information is key to the success of any labeling awareness campaign, and a government-sponsored program has the potential to establish significant legitimacy in the eyes of manufacturers and consumers.[40] Despite the limitations, there is substantial anecdotal evidence that with adequate marketing, prevalent brand acknowledgement is feasible: 68% of German households were familiar with the Blue Angel label in 1988; 78% of households recognized the GreenLabel in Singapore in a 1994 survey; and 54% of households in France were willing to pay up to 10% more for environmentally preferable products in 1996.[41] Thus, while common label recognition and support is possible, these are reliant on a well-educated public willing to pay for such items.

Simplification of Energy Content and Exclusion of Environmentally Beneficial Factors

One of the strengths and potential points of criticism of the ePET labeling program is its restrictively basic criteria of energy efficiency. Because this program focuses solely on energy reduction and not environmental impact, environmentally preferable technologies and practices used in bottle production, transportation, and recycling are not offered preference in the certification process. Such factors would include the use of bioplastics (although the energy invested to create bioplastic resin would be considered); the use of cleaner alternative energy sources (although the amount of energy used would be tallied in the energy content), or biodegradable bottles. It may be the case that adopting environmentally friendly technologies is both a cost and energy saving step for the bottler producer. However, with the contentious, complicated nature of evaluating other environmental effects like carbon footprint, excluding such considerations in defining a bottle’s energy content eliminates unnecessary processes and loopholes which could allow for the certification of non-energy efficient bottles, as was the case for some products under Energy Star.[42]

In the end, despite the significant liberties bottle makers are allowed under the ePET program, not all bottlers will be able to achieve the prescribed threshold. Such companies, particularly those whose bottled products have a fixed, energy intensive cost of transportation are inherently restricted marketing energy efficiency under the ePET program. However, the program will recognize those who do take the initiative to make significant cutbacks in the energy expended on producing bottles. This label allows the industry trendsetters who are leading the efforts to innovate bottle production and drive down the energy intensity of the industry a platform upon which they can build their brand.

Section 6.  Bill


To motivate increased energy investment efficiency of the plastic beverage bottle industry through the establishment of a voluntary audit and certification program.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

Section 1.  SHORT TITLE

This Act may be cited as the “ePET Program Act”.

Section 2.  FINDINGS

Congress finds the following:

(1)  Petroleum used in the production of PET bottles comprises 7-8% of national petroleum consumption.  Decreased energy investment in plastic bottles would reduce petroleum dependence while providing an economic benefit to manufacturers.

(2)  Over 4 million tons of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic is currently consumed in the production of plastic beverage bottles, comprising an annual energy investment of approximately 400 million gigajoules (GJ).

(3)  Recent industry efforts to conserve resources in production have been successful and well received; many companies have reduced their average bottle weight by one half from 38 g/L.

(4)  Established government and industry programs, including Energy Star and LEED, gauge, certify, and promulgate objective information about products’ energy efficiency and environmental impact. The widespread public adoption of these programs has positively influenced consumer behavior and drives their respective industries to more efficient practices.


(1)  Definitions- For the purposes of this section:

(a)   ePET BOTTLE- The term ‘ePET bottle’ means a beverage bottle produced with an overall energy investment not to exceed 20 GJ/tonne over the bottle life cycle.

(b)  BOTTLE LIFE-CYCLE – The bottle life cycle includes the production, transportation and recycling stages of the bottle.

(c)   PRODUCTION STAGE- The production stage shall include the manufacture of the plastic resin and composition of bottle from the plastic resin and all energy costs therein.

(d)  TRANSPORTATION STAGE- The transportation stage shall include movement of the plastic resin to the bottle manufacturing plant, the bottle to the beverage manufacturing plant, and filled bottles to the final point of purchase.

(e)   RECYCLING STAGE- The recycling state shall include processes necessary to convert the plastic beverage bottle and all constituent parts, including labels and dyes, to reusable plastic resin

(2)  Establishment- Congress shall initiate the ePET program to audit participating producers’ energy cost per bottle and certify qualifying plastic beverage bottles, beginning not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act.  Qualifying beverage bottles certified under the ePET program may display an ePET label upon date of certification.

(3)  Study- In creating the program under this section, the Secretary of Energy shall study and provide recommendations to –

(a)   Improve the certification process cost-efficiency and accuracy for international and national beverage bottling companies

(b)  Improve the infrastructure at all three points in the life cycle of the plastic bottle

(c)   Increase recycling program availability and participation

(d)  Link local recycling plants to bottle production plants

(4)  Program Design- The program under this section shall be designed –

(a)   To set and keep technologically current minimum energy efficiency standards and to motivate industry-wide adherence to and advancement of such practices.

(b)  To standardize and promulgate environmental marketing claims within an objective, holistic context

(c)   To effectively and prominently label certified plastic beverage bottles with a recognizable ePET label.

(d)  To foster public awareness and adoption of consumer products’ energy cost by providing objective, comprehensible information via accessible outlets

(5) Public Engagement and Review Dissemination- The ePET program administration shall provide for the dissemination of public awareness about the ePET program, to include point of purchase informative materials and educational outreach. In addition, a website shall be established and regularly updated to provide ePET program information and to comprehensibly disclose energy investment data for each certified bottle.

(6)  Report to Congress on Program Design- not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this act, the department head of the ePET program shall transmit to Congress a report setting forth the design of the enacted program.  Such report shall include an explanation of how each of the program design requirements under subsection (d) has been incorporated into the program.

(7)  Program Reevaluation- The department head of the ePET program shall transmit to Congress a report examining current industry levels for the three bottle life cycle stages, the current infrastructure standards and major industry innovations, and the percent of certification within the industry. This report is to be transmitted to Congress at the end of each 5 year period and is to include a recommended ePET-qualifying energy threshold for the upcoming 5 year period.  This new threshold will be adopted by the ePET program pending review by Congress.

[1] U.S. Energy Information Administration: International Energy Outlook 2009 http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/world.html

[2] The Peak Global Oil Production in This Decade: http://www.albany.edu/geosciences/oilngas.html

[3] Wald, M. “Cost Works Against Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources in Time of Recession” New York Times 28-March-2009

[4] Twinker, S.W., Opinion: Global Energy- Build Bridges Not Walls http://www.utexas.edu/know/2009/10/12/global_energy_opinion/

[5] NAPCOR 2006 Report on Post Consumer PET Container Recycling Activity

[6] Hopewell, J. et al. Plastics Recycling: Challenges and Opportunities. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 364 (2009) 2115-2126

[7] Bioenergy Conversion Factors:  http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/misc/energy_conv.html

[8] Gleick, P.H. and Cooley, H.S. Energy Implications of Bottled Water.  Environ. Res. Lett. (2009) 4, 1-6

[9] The Container Recycling Institute: http://www.container-recycling.org/images/graphs/plastic/PETpercap-wasterec-96-06.gif

[10] Bottled Water-Global Industry Guide- New Research Report on Companies and Markets

[11] Ferrier, C. Bottled Water: Understanding the Social Phenomenon April 2001

[12] Jose, Raphel Bottled Water Entreprise in India 1998

[13] Richard Campbell, Congressional Research Service.  Interview.  16 November 2009.

[14] “Get to Know Us.” http://www.nakedjuice.com/?#GetToKnowUs/Details/Sustainability/Renewabottle/RenewabottleShell/QuickQA. Naked Juice.  2009.  Web.  17 October 2009.

[15] “Easier to hold, Easier to Live with.”  http://www.nestle-purelife.us/flavors/ecoshape.asp.  Nestle Waters North America Inc.  2009.  Web.  17 October 2009

[16] Rosenbloom, Stephanie.  “Solution, or Mess? A Milk Jug for a Green Earth.” The New York Times.  30 June 2008.  Web.

[17] Rosenbloom, Stephanie.

[18] “Refuel.”  http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/citizenship/fleet_transportation.html.  The Coca-Cola Company.  2009.  20 October 2009.

[19] 16 C.F.R. Part 260 (1996)

[20] 16 C.F.R. Part 260 (1996) and 16 CFR 1.83(a).

[21] Rotherham 4

[22] European Commission. “Environmental Product Declarations (ISO 14025 Technical Report).” Summary of Discussions at the 2nd Integrated Product Policy Expert Workshop, May 16, 2001. Brussels: European Commission, 2001

[23] Rotherham 3

[24] Rotherham, Tom. “Selling Sustainable Development:Environmental Labeling and Certification Programs.”Meeting of Technical Specialists and Policy Experts on Environmentally-Sound Trade Expansion in the Americas, October 28-9, 1999. Miami: University of Miami, 1999.
[25] Rotherman 10

[26] United States. Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Labeling Issues, Policies, and Practices Worldwide. Washington: December 1998

[27] EPA 51

[28] EPA 53

[29] EPA 55

[30] Tansey, James. “Carbon Offsets Then and Now.” Awareness Into Action. Web. 12 Dec. 2009. < http://www.awarenessintoaction.com/whitepapers/carbon-offsets-voluntary-market-offsetter-James-Tansey.html>

[31] Rotherham, Tom. “Selling Sustainable Development: Environmental Labeling and Certification Programs.” Meeting of Technical Specialists and Policy Experts on Environmentally-Sound Trade Expansion in the Americas. University of Miami, Oct. 28-29, 1999. Print.

[32] United States. Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Labeling Issues, Policies, and Practices Worldwide. Washington: GPO, 1998. 32. Print.

[33] Rotherham, Tom.

[34] Wald, Matthew L. “Energy Star Appliances May Not All Be Efficient, Audit Finds.” New York Times. 18 Oct. 2009. Web. 12 Dec. 2009. < http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/19/business/energy-environment/19star.html>

[35] “Energy Star Climate Change Claims Misleading, Audit Finds.” Environment News Service. 31 Dec. 2008. Web. 12 Dec. 2009. < http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/dec2008/2008-12-31-092.asp>

[36] U.S. E.P.A., 6.

[37] Gleick, et al.

[38] U.S. E.P.A., 11.

[39] Bjoner, Thomas Bue, Lars Hansen, and Clifford S. Russell. “Environmental labeling and consumers’ choice—an empirical analysis of the effect of the Nordic Swan.” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 47 (2004): 411-434. Print.

[40] U.S. E.P.A., 52.

[41] U.S. E.P.A., 53.

[42] Wald, Matthew L. “Energy Star Appliances May Not All Be Efficient, Audit Finds.” New York Times. 18 Oct. 2009. Web. 12 Dec. 2009. < http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/19/business/energy-environment/19star.html>.

Energy, Energy Projects

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