The Inside Story: SodaStream vs. The International Bottled Water Association

When SodaStream, a manufacturer of home beverage carbonation systems, released their first video in the Shame or Glory campaign, the video quickly went viral on social media. Shame or Glory used actors from the hit TV show Game of Thrones to promote a clear message: single-use plastic water bottles pollute the earth.

Within weeks of the first video's release, the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), which represents Nestlé and Fiji water, demanded that SodaStream immediately stop airing the video campaign.

Plastic Pollution Coalition interviewed Andrea Lewin, business development and partnerships associate at SodaStream to hear the inside scoop on this unfolding drama and why SodaStream refuses to back down.

Why should we all care about pollution from single-use plastic water bottles?

Single-use plastic bottles are shameful and are destroying Mother Earth. The majority of the disposable plastic bottles that we use end up in landfills, our beaches, and oceans.

The profiteering bottled water industry has been falsely misleading consumers to mistrust the quality of their tap water in order to grow their plastic bottled water business. This is a $150-billion-dollar industry, which has ultimately led to the production of over 200 billion plastic water bottles per year, causing undeniable harm to our planet.

The profiteering bottled water industry has been falsely misleading consumers to mistrust the quality of their tap water in order to grow their plastic bottled water business. This is a $150-billion-dollar industry, which has ultimately led to the production of over 200 billion plastic water bottles per year, causing undeniable harm to our planet.
— Andrea Lewin

After releasing the Shame or Glory campaign, SodaStream came under attack from the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), which represents Nestlé and Fiji water. IBWA claims bottled water is being unfairly targeted. What’s really going on here?

SodaStream is going on the offensive following a cease and desist letter from Joseph K. Doss, the president and general counsel of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) and long-time Washington D.C. insider. The letter demands that SodaStream cease airing its disruptive new video campaign, “Shame or Glory,” in which the brand advocates using fresh, local tap water to make sparkling water at home over the use of single-use plastic bottles.

In the IBWA letter to SodaStream, the IBWA implies that bottled water is safer than tap water. In fact, U.S. tap water is considered amongst the safest and cleanest on Earth.

Thanks to the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 and subsequent amendments, as well as the on-going work of the EPA’s Office of Water, nearly all Americans have access to fresh, clean water straight from the tap. The IBWA’s implications seem designed to undermine the confidence that Americans have in their tap water, founded upon the existing regulations, the work of the EPA and the efforts of the Office of Water. This baseless fear mongering in order to boost corporate profits is cruel and misleading to consumers.

How is Sodastream standing up to the IBWA?

“We will not let the IBWA’s threats stop us from trying to save the planet," said Daniel Birnbaum, Chief Executive Officer of SodaStream. "The IBWA, a front for major plastic manufactures like Nestlé—the world's largest producer of bottled water—is nothing more than an elite group of like-minded corporate sponsors who prioritize their own profits over the care of our planet. I don’t know what’s more offensive: The notion that a huge corporate organization thinks it can silence a small company or that the message they want gagged is that plastic bottles represent a real threat to the environment. This profiteering group, whose financial gains are a direct result of the two hundred million plastic water bottles their industry makes every day, wants to silence us from telling the truth. Even more disturbingly, the IBWA want to convince consumers that there is something wrong with the high-quality, delicious tap water that is available in most homes in America. The documented and real threat we face is from single-use plastic bottles. If anyone is trying to mislead consumers it is the IBWA, not SodaStream in its campaign. So, no. We will not be gagged and we will not be silenced.”

I don’t know what’s more offensive: The notion that a huge corporate organization thinks it can silence a small company or that the message they want gagged is that plastic bottles represent a real threat to the environment.
— Daniel Birnbaum

How is zero waste a better solution than recycling to the plastic pollution problem? 

Zero waste is for far a better solution than recycling as it only reduces the carbon footprint by 20 percent and the recycle rate is too low (less than 20 percent in USA). Every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists today, polluting our planet. There are 5 trillion pieces of plastic afloat in the world's oceans. Yes, 5 trillion!

1 million sea birds and marine mammals are killed every year by the plastic floating in the oceans. Also, it takes more than 450 years for one plastic bottle to decompose in a landfill. Moreover, each year we burn millions of barrels of oil to produce single-use plastic bottle and cans also infecting Mother Earth. So basically, by avoiding the use of single-use plastic bottles and cans, we are saving our planet.

What is SodaStream doing to ensure good manufacturing practices?

SodaStream works under the strictest manufacturing practices and is certified and implements international standards such as: ISO 9001:2008, ADR, HACCP, BRC6, among others. SodaStream's quality assurance processes and company products are under the supervision of leading organizations, which we see as partners to our success. They are always looking for improvement. 

How does SodaStream reduce its overall plastic footprint on the earth?

Each reusable SodaStream bottle is tested to replace over 50,000 conventional bottles and cans. By promoting the use of tap water to create sparkling water, SodaStream strives to reduce the need for traditional store-bought beverages sold in one-time-use bottles. This results in less plastic manufactured, less plastic waste, and less transport of bottled beverages.

In addition, SodaStream helps reduce the carbon footprint of sparkling water consumption by 80 percent. This is based on research done by the Carbon Trust in UK, which proved that relative to generic store-bought sparkling water sold in 100 percent virgin PET bottles, every 250ml serving of SodaStream sparkling water helps reduce the carbon footprint by a dramatic 80 percent! When SodaStream consumers use our product, they are actively reducing the global CO2 footprint.

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