Breckenridge leaders discuss ways to reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles

Breckenridge council members listened to a presentation from Boomerang Water about its business model that introduces aluminum bottles as an alternative to plastic ones. The town has a goal to reduce waste headed for a landfill by 40%.
Mark Fox/Summit Daily News archive

Town leaders in Breckenridge have been looking for ways to get rid of the public using plastic water bottles, but before that can happen, council members have to discuss potential alternatives. On Tuesday, July 26, the council heard a presentation from Boomerang Water, a company that bottles and distributes aluminum water bottles that can be returned and reused. 

Boomerang Water is a bottling system that intends to mimic how a consumer would use a single-use plastic bottle, but the bottles can be used over and over again. Each machine is designed to wash, sanitize, filter, refill and cap each bottle. Consumers can return them when finished, and the cycle starts again. According to CEO Jerrod Freund, one Boomerang system running eight hours each day for 360 days can supplant 1 million plastic bottles in a year. 

“The average is one plastic bottle consumed per person per day in this country, which sounds like a lot, but I know I can go through five in a day or I can go through zero,” he said. “I was pretty shocked at those numbers. If you assume visitors to Breckenridge are here for four to five days — I don’t know what the average stay length would be — and then you take the customers and then you take (the town’s) events, it’s probably over 15 million bottles a year, which is a lot.”

Freund said the overall goal of the company is to cut out single-use plastic bottle use. In addition to that goal, he said one advantage of the Boomerang system is they can bottle locally, so there’s no additional carbon emissions from shipping. Customers can buy bundles of bottles just like they could with plastic ones, and they can subscribe to have them delivered and picked up at their front doors. 

“We have a system in a Four Seasons in Hawaii, and they’re doing about 1,500 bottles a day, and they have less than 3% attrition on their bottles,” Freund said. “That’s been up since January. You get people in the mindset. It’s no different than putting in a blue recycling bin. You’re just not throwing (bottles) into the recycling. You’re just bringing it back.”

Council members noted that most of the single-use plastic water bottles are consumed by visitors, meaning that any sort of outreach would also have to include or focus on them. Council members suggested partnerships with local property management companies or resorts could help with the effort. 

“The whole mindset here medically is we’re at higher altitude, so they’re encouraging people to drink a lot of water,” council member Jeffrey Bergeron said. “The deal is I don’t see any of my friends at City Market buying cases of bottled water, so who I think you have to reach out to is the visitor. A lot of them are from other climes that probably think only heretics recycle. I think we’d have to have figured out a way to reach out to the (vacation rentals) and the hotels.”

In order to staff the machines, Freund said that one person could start, but it would require two to three people at full-scale. Bottles can also be branded with logos or designs. Boomerang co-founder Jason Dibble said that one client the company is working with is expecting to lose about 80% of the bottles when people take them as souvenirs. 

Council members did not make any commitment on Tuesday, but they plan to have further discussions about what potential alternatives exist if they should decide to cut out single-use plastic bottles.

“I think it’s potentially a good alternative for restaurants, the golf course, the police department, town hall (or) Riverwalk Center,” Mayor Eric Mamula said. “Everything that we do like that I think this can be something that we could further look into.”

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