Rolling Up Our Sleeves for Clean Waterways

Partnering in Communities
Apr 2, 2015 11:00 AM ET

Rolling Up Our Sleeves for Clean Waterways

Here a shoe. There a tire. Everywhere a bit of litter. This isn’t an updated version of a children’s nursery rhyme. Nor is this an inventory of a local city trash dump. This, unfortunately, is the reality of some of our most precious waterways. Alongside where families fish or swim, a few feet away, items meant for a recycling or garbage bin may be seen floating by. This isn’t okay. Nestlé Waters North America is concerned, and as the company’s senior manager of sustainability (and someone who has committed my life to improving waterways) this has been bothering me since I did my first clean up 25 years ago cleaning up our town park with my middle school.

Before we go any further, allow me to address the proverbial “elephant in the room.” Yes, I know we, among others, sell products in the very plastic bottles that unfortunately continue to find their way into the waterways. But I also know equally well that Nestlé Waters North America is committed to helping solve for this. We have three ways that we are addressing this:

  1. 1) By working with partners to move beyond annual cleanups to develop a model for trash free waterways.
  2. 2) By incorporating recycled content into our packaging to advance the circular economy.
  3. 3) Communicating the value of recycling to consumers to increase demand for recycled plastic.

Nestlé Waters North America has 11Natural Resource Managers who take care of our water sources through management and monitoring; however, not all waterways get this much attention. By convening local stakeholders in their watersheds, collecting data and developing common goals, we are working to focus attention on the issue of debris getting into waterways. As citizens and groups around the world spend the month of March celebrating World Water Day in their own unique ways, at Nestlé Waters North America, we also are taking part by sponsoring cleanup and education activities in the following locations:

  • Hillsborough River – Tampa, FL with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and Tampa Bay Watch, March 28
  • Santa Ana River – Southern California with Inland Empire Waterkeeper, March 21
  • Anacostia River – Washington D.C. with the Anacostia Riverkeeper, March 19

Our work doesn’t stop there, though, because we know the best cleanup is the one that doesn’t have to happen. We think recycling systems are key to preventing bottles from ending up in where they don’t belong. That’s why we use a close-looped approach to recycling where we recapture recycled plastic and incorporate it back into our rPET bottles. We have just launched our national resource® brand in 100% recycled content (excluding cap and label) to demonstrate that it is possible to have a closed loop system, and we hope this can inspire more closed systems to develop.

We look forward to continuing to roll up our sleeves to help communities keep their waterways clean and assist in solving our communities’ recycling challenges. Stay tuned as we continue on our journey!

Debora Fillis Ryba is the Senior Sustainability Manager at Nestlé Waters North America. She is responsible for the company’s sustainability program which includes identifying and implementing programs, practices and policies around water, climate, and packaging. Debora started her career in sustainability as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia, where she worked as an environmental educator. Prior to joining NWNA she was an environmental planner for municipalities in the New York Metro area and before that had a brief stint as an ecologist, conducting watershed science research for federal and state agencies.