Lawrence Memorial Hospital is ditching plastic water bottles and offering a greener option instead.
Beginning Wednesday, the hospital will be selling water in cartons — it will be the first in the nation to do so.
“It is something that could help the planet, plus help us,” said Debbie Miers, director of Food and Nutrition and a member of the hospital’s newly formed green task force.
ECO-Choice Natural Spring Water’s packaging is made from 74 percent paper. It is derived from renewable and sustainable resources. For example, the manufacturer uses wind energy to produce them. For every tree used for packaging, two trees are planted in its place.
Michael Trautschold, chief operating officer of Overland Park-based CRB Springwater, also said that because the cartons are square in shape, the company can transport more of them at a time, thus using less energy to store and transport them.
“This is a very efficient production process,” Trautschold said. “We can control how it is made and how it is transported. So, we think we are doing everything we can.”
The aseptic packaging also degrades faster than plastic if the cartons end up in a landfill, where most water bottle now go. Only about 18 percent of the estimated 60 million plastic water bottles used in the country are recycled. The hospital goes through about 720 24-ounce bottles per week, or more than 37,000 per year.
“If this goes into the landfill it is breaking down,” Miers said, holding up a carton. “It is not sitting there like your plastic bottles and your plastic bags; you are breaking this down into the ground.”
The water comes from a natural spring in Ohio and is routinely tested.
Jennifer Juarez, vice president of Snack on Racks, which is distributing the water, said she often is asked whether the water tastes like a milk carton. Her answer: No.
“The taste is great,” she said. “If you truly enjoy a bottle of water — some people are very particular — this lines up with the best of them,” she said.
Trautschold said CRB Springwater picked the packaging after researching consumer studies in Europe. He said the company preferred the new packaging because:
• The twist cap is bigger and easier to use.
• The cartons don’t roll around or tip over.
“It functions well from a drinking point of view, resealing point of view and storage point of view,” he said.
He said the water’s price would be comparable to other bottled water. The company is launching the product at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which will be selling the cartons to the public. The price is still under negotiation.
Then, the company will slowly roll them out across the nation. Trautschold said he expects them to be in stores by June 1.
“It will be just in time for the summer drinking water season,” he said, smiling.