The move is part of a broader recycling commitment made by the company. Nestlé's US water arm has said it plans to use recycled plastic bottles across 25% of its portfolio by 2021. By 2025, it wants to increase that amount to 50%.
"We spent a lot of time designing these bottles to ensure that they move efficiently and effectively through the recycling value web," David Tulauskas, Nestlé Waters North America's chief sustainability officer, told CNN Business. "We want the bottle back."
Many big companies have vowed to use more recycled materials over the next several years. The commitments come as consumers become increasingly aware of the harm posed by plastic waste — plastic hurts marine life when it ends up in the ocean, and has been found in our soil, air and water — and as governments explore bans on plastic bags and straws. Recycling initiatives are also a way for companies to keep their branded products from becoming litter, which could hurt their reputations.
But the commitments aren't easy to pull off. Recycling infrastructure is more built up in some US cities than others, and rules for what can be recycled differ from place to place. And in order for recyclers to get the materials they need, people have to dispose of their waste correctly.
With so many moving parts, companies have to do a lot to make sure they can keep those promises. Nestlé is one company, like several others, that has poured money into the Closed Loop Fund, which invests in recycling technologies.
By committing to purchasing recycled PET, the type of plastic that Nestlé uses to make most bottles, it's also helping to drive demand for the material.
"We do need more suppliers producing food-grade, high-quality" recycled PET, Tulauskas said. He noted that without that demand recyclers would stick to "downcycling," or turning recycled plastic into a lower-quality plastic.
"They need confidence that we're gong to buy from them for the long term to make sure that it's worthwhile for them to make the investment," in the technology and equipment needed to make food-grade plastic from recycled materials, he said.
Nestlé is also exploring other ways to make their products greener, he noted, like working alongside PepsiCo and Danone in a research consortium designed to develop packages made with sustainable, renewable resources.