ETHIOPIA – Manufacturers of bottled water in Ethiopia have resolved to forego the use of neck seals, a decision aimed at promoting a sustainable environment by reducing plastic waste.

The Ethiopian Bottled Water & Soft Drinks Manufacturing Industries Association said that the move, which took effect 23rd July 2019, is also aimed at saving foreign currency in addition to curtailing the negative impact of plastic on the environment.

According to the Association’s chair, Getnet Belay, the decision was backed by a detailed study on the effect of neck seal packaging conducted by the association, bottlers, the Environment & Climate Change Commission and consumers.

The study focused on the health, economic and environmental issues arising from the use of neck seals, reports Addis Fortune.

“The packaging is very small, making it difficult to be collected and easily recycled,” said Getnet.

The decision has also received approval from the Food & Drugs Administration (FDA), the Food, Beverage & Pharmaceutical Industry Development Institute, the Ministry of Trade & Industry and the Ethiopian Standardization Agency (ESA).

The FDA and ESA noted that the seal does not contribute to the health, safety or the quality of the product, but instead has a negative impact on the environment and while it is not commonly used in other countries, the seal is not mandatory under Ethiopia’s standardisation rule.

“Neck seal packaging is a tradition carried over from pioneer water companies,” said Getnet, “but it can’t be a measurement for standard or quality.”

This is also expected to save the country about US$3.5 million a year spent on importation of the neck seal as well as cut on additional labour costs incurred during the application process.

“It will save us a considerable amount of foreign currency,” said Fethi Abdulqadir, the general manager of Nyala Plc which bottles Eva Water.

According to Fethi, the company has been spending US$40,000 a year to import the seal. The company produces 16,000 bottles of water an hour.

Other companies that have embraced the move include Damot Industrial & Commercial Plc and Gift Water.

“We have been investing 40,000 dollars to 50,000 dollars a year importing the seal,” said Seray Yeshawanew, deputy manager of Gift Water, which bottles 10,000 half-litre; 8,000 one litre; and 6,000 two-litre bottles of water an hour.

Kaleab Baye, director of the Centre for Food Science & Nutrition at Addis Abeba University, says that consumers should not relate the seals with quality and “should focus on the quality of water and fair prices instead,”

The Ethiopian Bottled Water & Soft Drinks Manufacturing Industries Association was established in April 2018 with 33 founding members. Ethiopia currently counts of about 85 water bottlers.