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The team behind Boomerang Water is on a mission to replace single use plastic water bottles with its sustainable small batch bottling system. Jason Dibble is the company CEO and Shaun Zaken is the company CMO. They sat down with Jessica Abo to discuss how their system works and made a special announcement in honor of Earth Day.
Jessica Abo: When did you become so passionate about eliminating plastic bottle waste?
Jason Dibble: It all started with my first tour overseas in the Middle East in the early 2000s. As soon as I landed in a country, the first thing they handed you was a large plastic bottle. The first thing they said was, “Make sure you drink with it, eat with it, cook with it, brush your teeth with it, but you can shower in the water that’s already there.” As you’re on tour and you start seeing these big sorties and planes coming in, dropping off bottled water, it makes you question, “What are we doing? Why are we shipping so many plastic bottles here?” Then come to find out, after you’re done with your plastic bottles, the only place they can actually go is in these large burn pits. So, after four tours over there, it just kept on hitting me there has to be a better solution.
There’s no real small-batch bottling systems. We’re accustomed to these large systems that can run hundreds of thousands of bottles per day, and really cheap plastic bottles that are then shipped all around the world. The reason why companies tend to steer away from glass, in particular, was the weight and the cost of it, of that shipping. So, with a good partner of mine and an unbelievable team of engineers, we embarked a number of years ago to start looking at how we would do this. It hasn’t been easy, but we’re really happy with the system that we have now, and that we’re deploying out into the marketplace.
How does the system work?
Dibble: We bottle water at point-of-use. It then goes out for the customers to consume, and once done, we recover those bottles. Then it goes back into our system, where it’s washed, sanitized, filled and capped to go back out for reuse.
Can you show us what your machines do?
Dibble: It’s a very simplistic machine: An operator would take one of our Boomerang bottles and load the machine, six bottles at a time, so you can use glass and/or aluminum at the same time. The operator will close the door and very simplistically load up the caps into the machines. The machine itself holds 17 caps in per clip. From there, the operator only has to hit the green button. So what’s happening right now inside the machine is it is washing the bottles from the inside and out. And while it’s doing that, it is filling and sanitizing the caps for capping. This process takes roughly 30 seconds. So, give or take, we can run close to 3,000 to 4,000 bottles in an eight-hour shift at location.
We’re in Davidson, North Carolina. We’re actually piloting a program right now, the old milkman delivery style drop-off and pick up to both businesses and consumers in retail. But our primary focus for our unit is, whether it be a hotel, a corporate campus, a manufacturing facility, a military base, a cruise line, for them to take the initiative and put these types of systems there and take responsibility to get rid of those single-use plastic bottles, utilizing our system as a closed-loop system to reduce or get rid of what they’re trying to do or preach about, which is single-use plastic bottles.
I want to bring in your CMO, Shaun Zaken. How is this system good for the planet?
Shaun Zaken: If you look at a traditional, single-use plastic bottle of water, it takes one third as much fuel it takes to get that bottle of water to you. When we return our single-use glass bottles to obviously reuse into our system, every bottle returned reduces carbon emissions by 95%.
In honor of Earth Day, you launched a really cool initiative. What can you share about The Davidson Sustainability Challenge?
Zaken: We launched The Davidson Sustainability Challenge in partnership with the town of Davidson in January of this year. Basically, our goal is to eliminate one million single-use plastic water bottles from the community in 2021. We’re treating the town of Davidson as though it’s its own closed environment, and we’re looking to help them eliminate their single use plastic.
You did something extra special for Earth Day. Tell us about that.
Zaken: We thought, “Well, we’ve got this great bottle, but with Earth Day coming up, why not encourage the students in the community to come up with their own bottle design inspired by eco-friendliness and sustainability?” We’ve just been overwhelmed by the submissions. We were lucky enough to have the talented artists, Sam Sidney, who picked a winner for us. And the bottle that we chose is just beautiful.
I want to bring in Gianna Ziegler, who is an 11th-grade student from the Community School of Davidson. I know you have something you want to tell her. Take it away.
Zaken: We’re actually here to surprise you and let you know that you are the winner of our bottle-design challenge. And I think we’ve got the very first peek of that bottle for you right now.
Ziegler: Thank you so much.
Congratulations! Tell us about your entry.
Ziegler: I wanted to incorporate the people of Davidson with it so that they could look at the design and be like, “Wow, I know that place. I’ve been there. I go there every day.” I wanted it to be the continuum between your company and the town.
Zaken: So, in addition to having your art on 2000 of our limited-edition bottles that are going to go out into your community to be enjoyed, obviously, we keep that loop closed. So, we’ll collect those empties and they will live on in the community, which is really exciting. We’re actually donating 20 cases of your special bottle of water to the Community School of Davidson on your behalf, in your honor, and another 10 cases for you and your family and friends to enjoy it.
Ziegler: That’s awesome. Thank you so much.
How can people support your mission?
Dibble: We need to start thinking differently. A single-use plastic bottle, when you’re done using it, generally sits in an environment for up to 400 to 700 years. And for all those who are sitting and listening and thinking, “These are being recycled,” only 9% of plastic products are actually being recycled. It’s all about change. It’s all about thinking differently. When you’re at your store, it’s looking at what you’re getting and seeing if it’s really necessary to have that for convenience, opposed to, again, a glass bottle, an aluminum bottle. It may cost a little bit more at that buying point, but right now there is not a cost for destroying our environment.
It’s going to take a community of all of us getting behind something and doing something differently together. We’re a small part in a very big initiative, and it’s going to take everybody rallying around to do something and think bigger than themselves.
Zaken: Just being part of the solution is really a special thing. So I encourage you all to do the same.