The opening of a new multi-million dollar production line in Waikato will see a significant proportion of the New Zealand’s still bottled water packaged in recycled plastic bottles, according to manufacturers.

The new production line at the country’s largest water bottling facility in Pokeno is capable of producing 220 million bottles made from recycled PET (rPET) plastic annually.

NZ Drinks director Kyle Osborne said the move is part of their long-term journey towards a more sustainable product.

“As New Zealand’s largest bottled water producer we felt it was our responsibility to introduce the latest raw material and manufacturing technology as an important step towards creating a more sustainable industry," said Osborne.

“In theory, there is no limit to the number of times the plastic from a bottle of water can be recycled into new products - what we are missing in NZ is the infrastructure necessary to achieve this. Currently, the economies of scale needed to introduce a suitable recycling facility are not there and Kiwis simply don't consume enough of this type of product to make it viable - which leaves us out of step with bigger international markets such as Australia."

NZ Drinks director Tony Vesper said the use of rPET should become the standard for still bottled water in this country.

“With annual sales across our portfolio increasing at 139%, our Pure NZ label is the country’s fastest growing still water brand and will now be packaged in 100% recycled plastic bottles," said Vesper.

“We first introduced recycled plastic into some of our ranges two years ago but the new line will allow us to continue to expand production of bottled water in recycled packaging, while at the same time substantially improving efficiency by reducing the weight of rPet used per bottle. The new line uses the latest technology from Krones, Germany and is capable of forming around 28,000 600ml bottles from recycled raw material and then filling them with water - every hour."

Vesper said their ultimate goal is to see an industry that is capable of capturing consumer waste like empty plastic bottles and continuously reusing them.

A waste minimisation programme at their locally owned and operated manufacturing facility also sees all surplus plastic wrapping returned to source for recycling.