#10 | Scott Edwards -Drop Water: Champion of Compostable Water Bottles

Did you know, in 2018, almost 480 billion of plastic bottles were sold? That's almost 1 million every minute.

In this episode of the Sustainability Matters Today podcast, I interviewed Scott Edwards, founder and CEO of Drop Water and #Champion of Compostable Water Bottles.

Drop Water is making bottled water more sustainable with their unique packaging and manufacturing methods.

For their innovation, Scott and his team won the silver prize for the 2018 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest beating 7,800 other applicants. 

You can get Drop Water beverages from Drop Kiosks currently found in both terminals at the San Jose Airport and a Kiosk was recently added into the San Francisco Airport.

Please make sure to subscribe to the Sustainability Matters Today podcast to learn about other champions of sustainability.

I hope you enjoy the episode!

 

Resources:

Daniel Hartz: Thank you for joining me, Scott.

 

Scott Edwards: Welcome.

 

Daniel Hartz: I'm glad we had the chance to reconnect. It's been like over 10 years since we last talked after graduating high school and you've been working on some exciting technologies over the last five to six years at Drop Water. And I'm really looking forward to hearing more about it. Before we jump into the specifics, could you please give some background in terms of when you realized you were interested in sustainability and why you decided to start drop water?

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah, sure. So when I went to school - I went Cal Poly -  and if you’ve been to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo you're just surrounded by beautiful nature, beaches, and I've always had a connection with nature. I do a lot of sports out in the ocean and in the mountains and stuff. And I ,just by chance, I studied packaging. And the packaging industry is really what's driving a lot of single use plastics into our environment. So I was being trained how to make a product survive from where it's mad to where it's consumed.

 

And in order to do that, you have to use materials that have great oxygen barriers that are very strong, creating mechanical properties, in order to survive that very violent distribution chain and shelf life. And I thought, man, this whole system is like flawed from the beginning. You're set up for failure for making sustainable packaging because it has a test to be made for this current system. And so that's when I got really into sustainability where I was thinking about that problem at Cal Poly and I made it my senior project - so to try to find a different way how we can get bottled drinks to consumers - which would reduce the requirements placed on packaging. That's where it all started.

 

Daniel Hartz: So cool! And I think it's really rare that what you study in university and college actually translates in what you end up doing directly. I mean, you're just basically carrying on what you started in university.

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah. And it is rare and I think it's also rare that you can find something you enjoy and can just like dedicate your life to and that's what I'm doing. I'm totally set and I know what needs to happen. I see the vision and we're just going for it.

 

Daniel Hartz: Yeah, it's so cool. To give a bit more context, you mentioned that the whole supply chain is a bit flawed and you're set up to fail from the very beginning. So just to give a bit of context for people listening, when I stopped by your lab, you were explaining that the primary reason plastic and aluminum are used for water and other drinks is really so that they can survive the distribution cycle as you mentioned. So where exactly are water and other drinks normally bottled? And what happens from that moment until someone buys the drink and actually drinks it?

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah. So they're bottled. And in a few different like typical locations, a very large percentage is actually just municipal water. So big companies are taking tap water, filtering it into plastic bottles, the bottles into cases, the cases into pallets and then distributing it from there. Right now they source-in the water far away from consumer. And that just requires a lot of infrastructure to get that to the end consumer. And that's what we're trying to change.

 

Daniel Hartz: Wow. So, first of all, it's just tap water in a bottle.

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah. A very large part of the market is just tap water in a bottle. If next time you're drinking a bottle of water, look at it, see where it's sourced. If it says from municipal sources, you're drinking tap water - it's been filtered. Not a lot of people know that. We're a big proponent to influencing people to drink local - like drink water that's at you. Our government spent trillions of dollars making incredible networks and pipes to bring tap water to every building. We should be drinking that water and not the water that some company is putting in a bottle or hundreds or thousands of miles away.

 

Daniel Hartz: I think the fact that it's tap water, it kind of makes you realize just how powerful marketing can really be to make you think that it's anything other than just, you know, someone turn on the tap and then sticks this plastic bottle underneath it.

 

You mentioned, you know, there is the tap water then they filter it, they bottle it, put in cases, pallets. Is that the distribution cycle itself?

 

Scott Edwards: Yes. So the distribution cycle or channel is everything between where it's bottled and when it gets into your hand. So it can be really, really long. It can be kind of short if you go to Costco - it's a pretty short distribution cycle. But typically, if you're out and you are thirsty, you want a bottle of drink. It's been a very long journey, it's hard, it's travel a lot. And basically it's everything between the bottler and you, the consumer.

 

So it can be, you know, going from injection blow molder that makes the actual package. They transport those to a bottler and then those get wrapped up and prepared for that long journey in cases and then pallets. And then it could be - they go through different distributors and then wholesalers eventually go to a retailer or vending any operator.

 

And it's like a smaller and smaller value chain until finally it gets to you, the consumer, and you are paying for every step along that journey. And a lot of the times that whole cost associated with getting it to you, cost way more than the product itself. And that to me just is backwards. There's already water where you are. Let's use that water.

 

Daniel Hartz: That's crazy. And I guess just tying it back to the use of plastic and aluminum - that whole process - it sounds like there's a lot of movement. And because of that movement, you know, people taking things off trucks and moving them into different storage or warehouses, which are then re-positioned and moved again somewhere else. Is that why you need such strong materials like plastic or aluminum or something in order so that the bottles and cans don't break?

 

Scott Edwards: The goal for packaging is to ensure your product gets to the consumer in perfect form. So the reason we use so much plastic, aluminum and cartons - you might think cartons are better than plastic bottle but really there are lined by multiple layers, polyethylene and a layer of paper board and a layer of aluminum.

 

And the aluminum is an oxygen barrier that prevents the atmosphere from getting into the drink and changing its taste to show ensure that it’s  a perfect product when it gets to the consumer. So it's like an armor - like these packaging materials are great at protecting the product and it's like putting on armor. And when it gets to you, you consume it for a few moments, then you're left over with this extremely strong material that's no longer used and that's that's the problem that we're all faced with. Right now, currently, we're creating hundreds of billions of these single use polymers and they're accumulating everywhere. There's huge problems with who actually recycles these materials, if they actually get recycled. And we want to kind of shift away from requiring this super strong armor and then give packaging a chance to become more like a, you know, a fruit skin where it doesn't need to be so strong. It doesn't need to have an oxygen barrier because it won't go through that cycle in the first place.

 

Daniel Hartz: Makes sense. One of the main slogans, and it's right at the top of your bottle is that Drop water bottles are made specifically not to last. And so I really like the sound of that. What exactly does it mean?

 

Scott Edwards: So, you know, I'm sure you guys have heard of probably "made to last". We are  flipping that. And we think packaging should be made not to last because you aren't using it for a few moments before you know - it's how useful to you. '

 

So that basically means, "Hey, you're going to enjoy this product and drink whatever - you're going to drink out of it - for just a few moments. And it doesn't make sense to make packaging that is built to have a year long shelf life or two your shelf life if you're only going to use it for an hour.

 

So we're trying to make packaging that is only useful for how long you're going to use it. And then, you know, you can have a chance to break down, to biodegrade and to cooperate with nature and not be an eyesore or become a waste in the ocean and float around for decades and enter into our food chain.

 

Daniel Hartz: It's a very interesting way to look at it, because you're absolutely right. In some cases, we use a bottle of water for like 30 seconds. Maybe if you're really thirsty, you just buy it, crack it open, drink the whole thing and then you're done. But it's as you said, it's a very strong armor that's meant to protect it for months and months or even years. So what are the bottles made of? I mean, how do they work and why exactly are they 100 percent compostable?

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah. So the bottle is a kind of "Drinking out of a bag" and there's closure on top. And then it's attached to a bag on the inside. And then we use a uncoated paper to make the shelf to make it rigid so it isn't like flop around like a watermelon.

 

And you know it's actually mostly paper. So over half of it by weight is just paper. And its uncoated, it's home compostable, and there's actually no polyethylene or aluminum liner on it. Like you'd see with all of the other aseptic cartons, like milk cartons and stuff like that. And then the cap and shoulder and bag are a combustible polymer that reach a compostability standard. And we actually exceed the standard by 40 percent, just by wall thickness that we're pushing the envelope every day.

 

We're trying to make that cap and bag eventually all edible in there. And finally, now that we have figured out how to get it to the consumer without requiring all these super strong materials and an oxygen barrier, because as described - our distribution channel - we can finally explore materials that I've never been used before.

 

Daniel Hartz: That's really cool. I can't wait to be able to eat the bottle after I'm done with it.

 

Scott Edwards: We pride not promote eating it, but it will work going for technically edible and you can envision going out on a stage one day, put it in a blender, blending it and consuming it. Maybe we should add nutritional value, but haven't thought about that too much.

 

Daniel Hartz: Yeah, very cool. That will be a lot of fun to do. But kind of on the on the flip side, just thinking about the practicality, if the bottles are made to not last, won't they fall apart if there's liquid inside of it?

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah. So right now it's made for immediate consumption and we're not putting these in cases, we're not putting these on shelves. It's actually made right there, like for you, when you get it from one of our points of sale. So it's not going to fall apart because when you got it, it was just made a second ago. And if you keep it for a week or something, mechanical properties start to degrade. It will get flimsy and it will fall apart.

 

But, you know, just like a paper cup, it's kind of on that spectrum. It is a bit more delicate than a plastic bottle. But you can still put in your backpack for a day or a few days and not worry about it leaking on anything. And then also the bottles have a shelf life. So even though it's not filled, we have to use them within a certain amount of time because the properties of our material start to degrade and eventually you can't use it any longer. So we actually do have to try to make our bottles and get them into the field and used in a pretty quick amount of time in order to have a product that can withstand a consumer's perception of what it should stand.

 

Daniel Hartz: Cool. Well, that's good that it won't just turn to a puddle on your hands as you're holding it. So you mentioned that the drink is made right when the consumer basically purchases a drink at the point of sale and those are called Drop Stations. So Drop Stations are unique because they actually, kind of, serve two purposes. First of all, they hold the empty, compostable bottles, as you were just saying. And then second, the machines actually fill those bottles with fresh tap water, which is locally sourced, plus any flavoring and/or caffeine that the user or consumer chooses to include. And that only happens, like you were saying, at that moment that they actually purchased that.

 

So,  basically the Drop Station is like a mini bottling plant that makes custom drinks to order. I know you kind of mentioned it, but just to kind of really hit the nail on the head here, why do you fill the bottles inside the Drop Station instead of just transporting the water in the compostable bottle?

 

Scott Edwards: The obvious answer is so we don't transport water and transporting water, you know, it's really heavy. It takes up a lot of volume and it's very costly. And not just monetarily it is expensive to transport it, but also environmentally - like there's so much fossil fuels are being spent transporting water.

 

So imagine every bottle you've ever drank, every bottle of water you've ever seen in your life has been traveling down a freeway going sixty-five miles an hour. We don't want to support that any longer. We want to use the water that's at use so we don't have to keep on transporting water all over the world. Yeah, that's the main reason.

 

And then the other reason is so we can create us some drinks so we don't just do water, we also do different flavored and functional drinks. And if you fit it on point of purchase, this product is not determined what it's going to be yet. So you have an empty bottle inside the machine, it's just waiting for a consumer to determine what it's gonna be. So maybe it's going to be like a flavored drink with caffeine, ice cold. And then once that information is known, you can fill it and the supply is really determined by the demand instantly.

 

So our machines, they hold about one thousand four hundred and forty bottles - almost 15 hundred bottles. And all of them can be the same drink or it can be an even distribution of like 30 different types of drinks. And that's very valuable and reduce a lot of cost with stocking as well.

 

Daniel Hartz: Really good point. You mentioned ice cold, caffeine and flavors. What are some of the other things that you can customize or what are the flavors and what are the custom options?

 

Scott Edwards: Well, the whole goal here is to make any drink with our points of sale. We're building the back end infrastructure to make a new distribution on rails system for any beverage.

 

But for right now, the things we offer are you can choose different flavors. So right now we offer guava, melon, cucumber-mint. And then after that, you can choose to add a functional aspect so you can choose to add caffeine and you can choose how many milligrams caffeine you want. And then you can choose temperature. And a few things we're working on are probiotics, sparkling and also a different adaptogens like L-theanine, melatonin - so if you want a calming drink, if you go to sleep on a plane, you can get a drink that promotes calmness. And being tired, if you want to have an immunity boost we can have a drink with vitamin C and really tailor the drive to the consumer's need.

 

And so we're really opening up the possibilities for personalized nutrition and bottled drinks. And that's just a benefit from not transporting water and making the drink instantly when the consumer wants it.

 

Daniel Hartz: Super cool. Yeah. I love the options. As you're saying, I mean, you can just keep adding more and more and eventually it can be completely custom made. Or is that the dream - essentially just to make it custom, anything goes?

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah, I think well the dream is to make this a platform for any drink and then it's a whole new market segment its going to be customization. And we're kind of leading the way and we don't know how big it is going to be and we don't know how receptive consumers are gonna be to it. So that's not the focus, but it could be something that's really valuable and really big in the future.

 

But I would say the dream is we can make any drink at the point of purchase from sparkling to flavor to probiotics to functional to coffees and teas. And that's all in our our future. And we're pursuing all of that.

 

Daniel Hartz: Yeah, super cool. Going back to transporting water. And you mentioned that basically any water bottle I've ever seen or drank from has been transported from far away, there is fossil fuels that were burned to basically get it to that point where I saw it. Just a thought that occurred to me, you know, when you travel and you go abroad, I've seen American brands in different continents or, you know, you see Fiji Water in the US. So, I mean, are those not only being driven but also either on boats or planes?

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah. I'm not going to name any specific brands, but yeah, it's happening a lot and it's amazing how much money brands will spend just to say it came from a particular spring like an island on the other side of the world. And I think that the consumers are going to really shape how the future of bottled drinks are going to look in the near future. I think it's not going to be as appealing to consumers to go, "Oh! Wow! this water travel ten thousand miles to get to me". I think that's not going to be something that's idolized any longer, especially with the next generation coming on it.

 

Yet they're more going to value how their impact affects the world, how their behaviors affect the world. And products like this are not going to fly with them anymore. Yeah, they're not going to see value in it. And it's kind of silly that we saw value in this at all, considering we have amazing tap water in so many places and it's so easy to filter water even if you don't want chlorine in it. There are a lot of good tasting water. It's so cheap to do that and so easy to do that. It just won't make sense anymore to idolize these brands whose value proposition is "this came from a long way away".

 

Daniel Hartz: I think that's a really good point. And it seems like a pretty clever marketing strategy as well, you know, to put on on your bottles just that this has traveled zero miles. I mean, people certainly appreciate that when it comes to food now, you know, like this came from a farm that was just outside the city, for example, or even better, this was grown in an urban garden next door, and like I walk there to pick it up  and especially like you're saying, the younger generation, that's what they're all about.

 

Going back to the Drop Station specifically because I know that this is a really big part of of what you do and what you spent a lot of time on designing and perfecting. How exactly does the Drop Station work? Because it's a pretty unique machine and it really stands out when you're when you see it.

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah. So so the Drop Station, it's pretty simple how it works but it was complex when you get into the weeds and really try to make it happen. So essentially, you plug in a Drop Station to any normal electrical outlet and then you hook it up to water  and water is in every building so luckily we have that going for us.

 

And then he uses some pretty sophisticated robotics to take packaging  that's compressed and stacked together. We actually hold over 200 bottles per cubic foot and it autonomously creates drinks for you. So it fills it and close it in a matter of seconds using really accurate mechanisms and delivers it to through a rotating door. The priority was to do it as safely as possible. So we have UV sterilization - this water is filtered to a very high level. And then also reliability so there's a lot of sensors in place to ensure that the product is going to be delivered to the consumer no matter what.

 

Daniel Hartz: It's been taking you quite a while to actually get it to that point. I think when you see it work it's so smooth that you don't really realize how many kind of pieces and components there are that actually make the magic happen.

 

Scott Edwards: Thank you. Yeah, it's been an evolution for sure. And we've had a lot of failures and it's really been an evolving product to get to the point where it's at today.

 

Daniel Hartz: Yeah, that's awesome. Cool. So I mean, I think, you know, one of the benefits of the Drop Station is - as we're talking about extensively- is that the drink is made right there, it's not actually sitting in any sort of bottle at all, it's just tap water, really. It's like a water fountain on massive steroids, really.

 

And I think, at least, I remember hearing for many years now the potentially or actual negative health consequences of drinking water that's been inside a plastic bottle, especially if it's been sitting in like a hot car - that was a big one. I remember, because the fear is that the plastic is leaching into the water and then we're drinking that, and that's not very good.

 

I am curious now, how long on average, if you know - someone's buying a bottle of water from a vending machine or from a store - how long on average do you think the water sits inside a plastic bottle before we actually drink it?

 

Scott Edwards: The answer varies widely depending on where you're getting the bottle from and you don't know until you look at it and it could be a month -that could be many months. It could be a year before you're actually consuming it.

 

And yeah, there are concerns with, you know, what happens to that water when it sits in a bottle for six months. And what happens  if it's in the sun, then it's at a very high temperature. And I'm not sure - Daniel, have you ever drank from a bottle that was in a car and tasted funny?

 

Daniel Hartz: Probably, yeah. I mean, I've tried on it too many times. I don't even really remember it.

 

Scott Edwards: Now, the tastes your tasting isn't water. It's coming off the bottle itself. And so there are concerns around what is that? Is it going to affect my health? And the thing we can ensure a Drop Water is, you know, you're never going to have that problem. It's going to be guaranteed - the bottle wasn't sitting out on the curb in the sun for a week. Every bottle is filled moments before it gets into your hand, you can guarantee that 100% of the time.

 

Daniel Hartz: Yeah. Actually,  now that you started talking about, I definitely remember, cracking open like an unopened bottle and it tastes weird.  But you're thirsty and you're like, well, whatever, I don't know what that is. So that means well, like you're saying that Drop Water isn't just producing plastic waste. I mean, I think a really big part of what spurred this, as you mentioned, when you're in San Luis Obispo.

 

But you're also providing a really healthy or a much healthier alternative to bottled water, because that issue isn't even possible to happen with your Drop Stations. Are there any other health benefits you mentioned that you're going to be adding all sorts of vitamin options to it. Is there anything else that you currently have or you're planning to have to take the health benefits even more?

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah. So when I describe my company to people, I usually tell them about our brand Drop Water. The core of business is making this vast distribution network which will replace the really inefficient central redistribution network.

 

But for our brand, Drop Water, we are really going forward. So we're only going to make drinks that are, you know, sugar-free that you can drink every day and not sacrifice your health as opposed to high sugar drinks that are out there currently. And we really want to make drinks that provide also functional ingredients that are also healthy. So we are offering different vitamins, different caffeine blends and healthy natural flavors to ensure that we're building a brand that isn't just eco-friendly, but also is healthy for the consumers that buy our product.

 

Daniel Hartz: I think it's really important that, you know, it's like it's good for the people buying it but also you feel good about what you're selling and you know that - I mean, I would imagine if I were in your shoes - it would just feel really good knowing that people who are drinking my drinks, they're gonna be healthy and better for it. And there's no kind of guilt or moral questions around it.

 

Scott Edwards: It feels great. I don’t know if could sleep at night if I was making a product that was addictive and at the same time, you know, harming the consumer. I think the industry is shifting away from high sugar drinks because demand is decreasing for it. And people are waking up and realizing what is good for them and what is not good for them.

 

So not only will I sleep better at night if we make good products, I think it's going to be much better for our business in the future because consumers are definitely going to shift over to more healthy products.

 

Daniel Hartz: Yeah, I think so too. There is definitely this movement in the, kind of toward, the health industry. Speaking about business, when we were talking at your office, you mentioned that sustainability often makes good business sense just because oftentimes it means the business can really cut costs by removing unnecessary waste and optimizing processes. You just mentioned that it's really expensive to transport water and it's really kind of bizarre idea to transport water considering that there is water basically everywhere in the US. So cutting costs is a very important part of profitability.

 

But in addition to that, does focusing on sustainable and healthy alternatives, as you're doing, does that allow you to also increase profits in some ways because you're able to provide a higher quality product that people will value more?

 

Scott Edwards: Definitely. So, you know, optimizing for efficiency, it decreases costs - if you're more efficient, you spend less energy, you decrease cost -and also you're creating a healthy product. You know, people and eco-friendly products, people are willing to pay a bit more for that. And that's not necessarily true that you're going to make more money or much more profit from it because oftentimes eco-friendly materials cost more than what's currently out there and what's being massively produced.

 

But I think the trend is we're going to see an increase in materials that are more Eco-friendly. Therefore, costs will come down and eventually we can compete on a unit basis with polyethylene, with visible plastics when volume has increased enough.

 

But to go back to the efficiency, being more efficient cuts cost. And with us, you know, we transport about one twentieth the weight compared to traditional bottlers. And we also transport about one tenth the volume compared to traditional bottlers because our bottles kind of stack and nest together and that is a huge cost savings, operationally, it's over a quarter magnitude less to get a bottle drink into a consumer's hand.

 

Daniel Hartz: Well, yeah, that's phenomenal. That makes a lot of business sense in that case. I mean, you were just mentioning that, you know, people are moving towards this healthy alternative and there's obviously a lot of kind of ,I think, people are starting to become aware of the fact that plastic is bad and there is a lot of it all over the place and we should kind of reduce our consumption.

 

But are you seeing that the market is ready and wants alternatives to plastics, specifically plastic bottles, and people are really trying to reduce their use of plastic and that they're trying to change those habits of using plastic? Is that something that's kind of you're seeing on a day to day basis from from a business point of view?

 

Scott Edwards: Definitely. That's something we're seeing today. And it's only going to increase. A great example is SFO San Francisco International Airport -it's the seventh largest airport in the US in terms of volume. And they are banning bottled water by 2021. This is an airport so bottled water is a pretty important thing. It is the most common thing sold at airports. It makes up and ,I listen to a talk by their head of sustainability, they mentioned about 20 percent of their concession sales -food and bev concession sales - is just from bottled water.

 

So this is a massive thing they're giving up. And it's because people are  waking up and they're realizing that this product is harmful. We probably shouldn't be doing this. And I applaud SFO for doing this and potentially sacrificing a lot of revenue for the betterment of humanity in setting an example for other airports to follow suit.

 

Daniel Hartz: Yeah, that's amazing. I actually did not hear about that. That's so cool. But 20 percent of concession sales is massive. Yeah, they're going to have to find alternative ways to really replace that revenue. That's of money. I thought it was really interesting that the Drop Stations have free water refills. Can you explain first of what that part looks like on the drop station and then what the thought process is behind giving away free water?

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah. So, we think that people should be able to just refill bottles. That's the most efficient way to do things. If you have a refill of a bottle, we want you to refill it. And so every Drop Station right now has a free refill. It's really easy to use quick laminar flow spout. It fills up your bottle in just a few seconds.

 

And it's always going to be free. So we're doing that so we can promote the most sustainable way of hydrating and then also we could be installed next to a water fountain or replace an old water fountain and still offer those refills at those locations.

 

Daniel Hartz: I think it's really good marketing as well. People are just coming up here on machines. Even if they don't buy anything, they're, you know, pressing that big wooden knob or button. Is it a wooden button? I thought it was wooden.

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah, it's a it's a bamboo button. And, you know, the entire front of our machine is bamboo, it's real bamboo, it's like Plyboo. And it's like encircled by a cool, glowing ring. And we want people to use our machine and we want people to interact with it and understand our mission and see what we're doing. And eventually we're going to offer more than just water from outside. So if you wanted a glass of water with some caffeine or tea or something, you could refill from that side for a small fee.

 

Daniel Hartz: Cool. So you don't need to actually go through the "get your own". You don't have to get a Drop Water bottle, you can just use your own reusable one and just do that. So your website says that 100 percent compostable bottles are really just the beginning. You believe in a future where single use products are made from or packaged in materials that are biodegradable like a banana peel and you mentioned it earlier, really, should just be a fruit skin.

 

I think that would be absolutely amazing if every single piece of packaging ever used would just decompose when you're done with it. Personally, a couple of things, I'd love to see completely replaced our Styrofoam. And, you know, we've heard, I mean, I've seen it everywhere how bad Styrofoam is. And also the single use hot beverage cups. You were saying earlier that they're lined with plastic and there might be even aluminum inside some of  these cups.

 

So, I mean, do you have any ideas on what packaging you'd like to create compostable versions for?

 

Scott Edwards: Oh, yeah. Our goal is to make all bottled drinks in compostable packages. Not just compostable, but most of all, not just only possible, but edible. And that is what we're going for and that's the system that we're building to enable that.

 

But not much has been done in the materials  for packages that are only made to last for a few minutes. We're seeing some companies just beginning to get off the ground and distribution is going to be really hard to really compete with and displace the current method because, you know, of course, you can't just have a finished product hundreds miles away from your consumer. You're going to have to be creative on how to get that product to the consumer so they can they can drink it. And it probably most the time they'll have to be made in front of them instantly - like we're good.

 

So, yeah, the goal is we should make all packaging for products eventually biodegradable and be able to be processed by nature itself. The current scale that are we producing bottled drinks at is insane. We reproduced over 480 billion bottles of water in 2017. If you assume each bottles eight inches long, you can wrap those bottles around the equator over two thousand five hundred times. So even mismanaging a small percentage of that and getting it into our environment is devastating. Because this is such a big industry, we need to be prepared and make packaging that can end up in our environment and not sacrifice our ecology. And that's the goal for Drop Water. That's the platform we're trying to build and get the ball rolling in the right direction.

 

Daniel Hartz: I think that's really important. I definitely want to come back to that. I'm curious to know just in terms of, you know, tackling all the various types of packaging that's used, which one - which material or which product packaging - would you say or do you think is the most challenging one to replace with something that's biodegradable or compostable?

 

Scott Edwards: Which one is the hardest to change? I don't have a good answer. I would say I think the hardest thing is not necessarily making the package that is an alternative to non eco-friendly package. It's making the backend platform which enables the package.

 

So, you know, in particular we are focusing on bottled drinks. I want someone else to focus on food. I want someone else to focus on other industries that isn't just bottle drinks. I want all packaging for food. I want all packaging to be made not to last. And that's going to be a huge challenge. It's going to take a lot of smart people. And we're not the only answer. We're a small part of a very big picture.

 

We're hoping to be that catalyst for change, to show people that we don't have to think the same old way. We don't have to use the same old distribution chain that's keeping packaging, you know, in this Eco-friendly or not Eco-friendly State. We can change the entire system. There needs to be a system level change in order for this to happen. And it's going require all different types of scales. That's not just packaging. It's going to involve robotics. It's going to involve software. It's going to involve logistics. It's  it's going to be a global multi-faceted thing that must happen in order to make sustainable packaging on a large scale.

 

Daniel Hartz: It's a really big question. I mean, it's ver,  kind of, complicated situation just because - the first thing that comes to my mind is like - for some reason I keep picturing ketchup packets. Ketchup packets they're so small and yet they're really convenient, not promoting fast food and especially after, you know, saying how healthy Drop Water is, but if you do need ketchup packets on the go, it's challenging to find kind of a compostable version of that.

 

Scott Edwards: We've got to make a ketchup packet machine at every restaurant, at every fast food chain. And when you need ketchup packets, it spits you out and makes it right then and there. And it's good for a couple of days instead of making hundreds of millions in a centralized facility months before. You HAVE to break up that system.

 

So I would say the answer to that if we got to make Eco-friendly ketchup packets, we have to make a little machine that goes into the stores and it makes it on the fly.

 

Daniel Hartz: Yeah, super cool. I bet that ketchup would actually even taste much better because you wouldn't need as many preservatives and would just be fresh.

 

Scott Edwards: Oh that would be cool. If you could like put tomatoes on the top and like blends them up and, do you know Sir Kensington ketchup- it tastes awesome. You can make a superior product, probably. It could be more fresh. It could be made right then and there.

 

Daniel Hartz: Yeah, made to order. Packaging is such a big industry, it's so broad, there's so many things that require packaging. You've started to kind of give a little bit of hints in terms of what you're looking to do next and you know, some of the ideas that you have.

 

Are there any other insights that you have in terms of future plans for Drop Water?

 

Scott Edwards: The future for Drop Water - we want to be a platform for as many brands as possible. We kind of want to be like the EWS for bottled drinks. So, you know, the brand we're making today might not exist in the future.

 

We  want to see as many different products, and different brands, and different ingredients go through our platform to make it as as effective as eco-friendly as possible and displace this nonsense of transporting water. And I heard that article recently and it said like by 2050, we're going to have as much plastic in the ocean as fish. It's terrifying and we need to do something about it now.

 

Daniel Hartz: Absolutely. Yeah. And you mentioned earlier that there is this mismanagement of the waste, and perhaps it's not all of it, but a small percentage. But do you have any thoughts on why there's so much plastic in the ocean now? And I mean,  how does it even end up in there in the first place?

 

Scott Edwards: Well, it's simply the misuse or mismanagement of plastic. You know that quote from Spider-Man where the uncle says, "With great power comes great responsibility"? We are misusing a great power and plastic is an amazing power. Without plastic, we wouldn't have LCD screens or MRIs or life saving medical technology. So obviously, it's very powerful.

 

But there's this flip side where we're using it for a single use disposable package to wrap water in plastic and ship it from hundreds of miles away and that is a gross misuse. And we need to stop doing that immediately.

 

We need to find a different way.  If we have to keep on doing that, let's find a different way where we don't need all these requirements on the package and we can start using other materials. That's how it gets into the environment. We're producing so much plastic. It's on a scale that's almost incomprehensible.

 

As I mentioned before, you know, in 2017, we made as many bottles - we made 480 billion bottles of water, enough to wrap around the equator twenty five hundred times - enough to go from the surface of the earth to the moon, something like twenty five times and that's just one year's production and it's growing.

 

It's becoming worse every year. So now is the time to change and now is the time to think about alternative ways. And to answer your question more specifically, how does plastic get into the ocean? It gets caught up in waterways. Like imagine a piece of plastic that flies off of a garbage truck - it happens all the time, every day - like every second there's garbage flying off garbage trucks, especially straws because they're so light. And especially Styrofoam, too.

 

They go on the street, it rains, the rain breaks into the gutter, the gutter brings it to a little creek, the creek goes into a larger river, the river goes into the ocean, and that's where it's going to be for ever. It's going to sit there on the surface of the ocean because it's lighter than water and it is going to photodegrade. That means like the sun is - the greater the polymers and starts breaking up into smaller pieces and those pieces eventually get mistook as it's life and become consumed by by actual sea life. And that can cause death, it can cause birth effects.

 

A lot of plastics have hard chemicals in them, which can cause a whole assortment of negative effects, especially if you eat that fish. And it's really sad that that this is happening. And it continues to grow every year.

 

Daniel Hartz: It's really unfortunate. And you see all these photos of, you know, different sea life or birds have stomachs full of plastic, and it's it's very, very sad.

 

And like you said, you know, we do need to do something about it. And I think that ties in very, very neatly with why you started Drop Water in the first place is this is really one way to change that and to make a big, big impact.

 

So, I mean, you're working very hard on Drop Water and you have really big plans for what's next. Are you optimistic  about the future in terms of plastic and where we are currently? And, you know, do you see yourself living in a world where it's all been cleaned up and it's been completely replaced?

 

Scott Edwards: I don't see myself in that world. It's going to take longer than my generation. It's going to be a multi-generational problem to solve. But what is optimistic is seeing movement from a younger generation and seeing a lot of change in consumers just in the last few years.

 

I think it's going to grow, especially because I think the problem is going to get a little worse before it gets better. And I am optimistic that it will be solved eventually. I think that humans are going to be around for many, many centuries to comea - many millennia to come - and that we're going to solve these problems and we're going to find a way to live and grow sustainably and become possibly multi-planetary.

 

And all the same time, we're going to let this natural life thrive on earth without exploiting it as much anymore and switch over to a different way to grow. I think in the past, in the last hundred years, we've grown without limits at all. We've grown as fast as possible - as quickly as possible - for as cheap as possible and haven't upheld the environment. And we're now learning that way.

 

We need the environment to survive and we need the environment to lead good lives. And so now we're going to switch over to a new way to grow. And on the forefront of this growth and expansion is going to be preserving the environment. So, yeah, I'm optimistic about it. It's going to take a long time, but we're going to get there eventually.

 

Daniel Hartz: That's awesome. I'm glad to hear it. It's always good to hear optimism, because sometimes, especially if you start reading the news, it just feels very dire and it feels like there's no way out. I mean, as you say, you know, it's going to take a while. There's a lot to do.

 

But, you know, people like you -and there's so many others who care a lot - and they're trying and they're doing whatever they can coming up with some really interesting, really interesting solutions. And it's not just in plastic, but in all sorts of different areas, whether it's energy or the way farming is done or cars and all of that. You know, there's so many different ways to to solve this problem.

 

I think it is good to be optimistic. I think it makes sense. I'm glad to hear you say you are optimistic as well. As we start to wrap up a bit, I always love to hear about books or resources that you can recommend for anyone who's interested in learning more, whether it's about the plastic issue or packaging or even something that inspired you to make some changes. Do you have any any books recommend or resources you can recommend?

 

Scott Edwards: Yes. I recently recently read a book called "Thinking and Systems", and it really nails the point about making not just marginal changes. So a marginal change in my field of work would be like making a plastic bottle thinner or making a cap smaller. That's a very marginal change that will not create much change and much benefit at all.  In "Thinking and Systems", it highlights how system level changes are really what creates a significant impact. And if you're looking to solve a problem in the world, I would suggest reading the book, "Thinking and Systems". It really gives a macro-perspective on things. And I think that's really important on solving big global problems. And it's helped us out a lot.

 

Daniel Hartz: That's awesome. That's by Donella Meadows.

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah, that's right.

 

Daniel Hartz: Nice. Yeah, that's that's really cool. I think that's that's very important. I mean, you've been talking this whole time about essentially making systemic changes. It's not, you know, like making smaller ketchup packets, like we're talking about -we're like you said, smaller bottle caps - it's really completely changing the face of the whole thing from the very bottom all the way to the top.

 

Scott Edwards: I think  making a smaller ketchup packet or making a thing or bottle that just makes your product worse. So maybe less people will buy it so that maybe that's actually more beneficial in just reducing the plastic in one package.

 

But yeah, we need systemic changes in order to solve these big problems. And it's a lot harder to do that, but it's absolutely necessary.

 

Daniel Hartz: Well, cool. Scott, I really appreciate your time. And this has been very interesting. Where can people find you and learn more about what you're doing?

 

Scott Edwards: Yeah, you can go to our website. It's Dropwater dot CO. You can chat with us on Instagram - our Instagram is at Drop Water CO. And on Twitter, Facebook and the come say hi if you are interested in what we're doing - we love to hear what you think. And you can find this at the San Jose Airport and both terminals, that Plug and Play Tech Center, at our lobby in Menlo Park and soon many other airports.

 

Daniel Hartz: Awesome. Well, I had the pleasure of actually trying out the Drop Water station at gate 26 at the San Jose Airport. I took it with me on the flight when I after I  visited you and it was great. I wanted to try the melon flavor - it was really good. It was an evening flight so I decided to skip the caffeine. But it was great to see it work and it was cool. I was walking, probably holding the Drop Water bottle through the airport and I got a lot of looks because it's a very unique and distinct bottle, you know, very, very blue and has the Drop Water logo on it.

 

So hopefully, some people got inspired along the way as well. Thanks, Scott, for your time. This was really interesting. Great to hear your insight and really looking forward to the future and hope to see on a stage drinking one of your bottles - whole, everything.

 

Scott Edwards: I'm going to eat the bottle. Trust me, it's coming.

 

Daniel Hartz: I believe you.

 

Scott Edwards: All right. Thank you, Daniel. Nice talking to you.

 

Daniel Hartz: You, too.

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