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WFAE reporter David Boraks explores how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

Davidson startup has a solution to single-use plastic water bottles

060722 Boomerang Jason Dibble.JPG
David Boraks
Jason Dibble is co-founder of Boomerang Water in Davidson, which offers a system that uses refillable glass or aluminum bottles.

Around the world, a million plastic bottles are bought every minute, according to the UN Environment Programme. A Davidson startup company says it has a solution: bottled water that comes in refillable aluminum or glass containers.

Single-use plastic water bottles are a convenience, but they're also a contributor to climate change. Scientists say greenhouse gases that cause global warming are emitted from the time they're produced to the hundreds of years it takes for them to decompose in landfills. One solution is for us to just stop buying bottled water. Another is to make all those bottles reusable.

"It's really about going after the plastic pandemic and get rid of single-use plastic bottles at all facilities," said Jason Dibble, co-founder of Boomerang Water in Davidson.

The startup is trying to revive an idea from the pre-plastic era: returnable drink bottles. Dibble and his colleagues came up with a water filtering and bottling system that uses durable glass and aluminum bottles.

"The system itself washes, sanitizes, fills and caps up to 3,000 bottles of fresh water a day. The whole idea and concept is the reusability of the bottles," Dibble said.

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David Boraks
Boomerang Water uses durable aluminum and glass bottles that can be refilled. The company has a delivery service in Davidson and also leases its bottle processing equipment to businesses and institutions.

Boomerang has both local and international ambitions. The company has done about a million dollars in business over the past year through two different business models. First, they deliver bottled water to homes and small businesses around Davidson. When they're done, consumers return the bottles for refilling and get a new shipment.

And second, they're leasing their bottle processing equipment to big businesses that want a greener footprint. The machines can be installed in a business or operated out of a mobile trailer. Customers include the massive Hualalai Four Seasons resort in Hawaii and a group of coal mining camps in West Virginia that previously had to truck in bottled water.

"When we first started this, we said we're going to have a lot of scrutiny because it's never been done before. So what are the two hardest places we can get to?" Dibble said.

Dibble said the Hawaii resort replaced 50,000 single-use bottles in five months.

Now the company is pitching the system to other businesses as a way to make a big climate impact in a short time. Dibble said permitting and installing solar panels can take months or longer. Offering reusable water bottles can be done quickly.

"We can have it up and operational in 48 hours, and literally give them messaging around getting rid of their single-use plastic, and doing something, you know, positive for the environment," he said.

Boomerang started five years ago, but it's really just hitting the market this year. Contract manufacturers build the equipment. And Boomerang works with container manufacturers to design its glass and aluminum bottles.

They've raised about $12 million to build and expand the company and hope to see revenues multiply over the next year.

Dibble is confident refillable bottles will take off.

"This is going to happen," he said. "We're years ahead of it."

This story originally appeared in WFAE's weekly climate newsletter, which comes out Thursdays. You can subscribe at https://www.wfae.org/climate-newsletter-signup.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.