Monday, October 6, 2008

SIGG - Still Not Green and Here's Why

Perfectly clear morning, more color popping up.


It is time to update some facts and commentary with regard to the previous SIGG vs Klean Kanteen blog. There are 3 areas of "greenness" that I would like to update and clarify.

At the top of the list is the amount of energy required to make the product, its carbon footprint and pollution, typically the first and most important eco criteria of any "environmental" product.

First stainless steel. There is no doubt that producing stainless steel is energy intensive and grossly polluting, pumping out 2-8 tons of CO2 per ton of steel. Using recycled steel greatly reduces CO2 by as much as 60-75%. Luckily this has been common practice for so long that 66% of the steel is from recycled steel. A Klean Kanteen spokes person verified that their steel is 50% recycled content prior to the introduction of the alloys. In addition, there is no lead in either aluminum or stainless steel, the seams in the KK bottles are welded (melted) not soldered.

The manufacturing of virgin aluminum is more polluting than steel, releasing 18 tons of CO2 per ton of aluminum. One source says that manufacturing aluminum releases 10 times the CO2 vs steel, per ton. The manufacturing of aluminum is responsible for 1% of the CO2 released world wide with most of the energy needed in the initial smelting phase. Using recycled aluminum saves 95% of the energy, CO2 and pollution. Recycled aluminum offers the greatest opportunity of reducing CO2 compared to any other recyclable product while at the same time not losing any of its integrity.

In the perfect world we would have a water bottle made out of impervious non-breakable 100% recycled content glass. But our world isn't perfect and so we pick and choose what's next in line. With Carbon Footprint in mind, using part recycled stainless steel over virgin aluminum wins hands down. If all the soda cans can have a high recycled content, so can SIGG. I will maintain my position on this as I find it incomprehensible that SIGG washes itself environmental yet uses virgin aluminum, while recycled aluminum would only use 5% of the energy.

With regard to the potential of BPA in the SIGG lining, this is considered a product's chemical footprint. For review, SIGG's only one test for BPA did not show any BPA "detectable" above 2 parts per billion, PPB. They did not test below 2 PPB. Since my first blog about SIGG vs KK, more research has shown disturbing findings of hormonal disruption from gender bending chemicals - BPA, Phthalates and pesticides. In one study the serious affects of BPA showed at 1 PPB, with affects also down at 1 parts per trillion, PPT. The gold standard is to test using the calibration of PPT, parts per trillion, not PPB. SIGG claims 0% leaching but what they don't put in parenthesize is (above 2 PPB). Is this a big deal? My opinion is if genitalia are being deformed at PPT, then BPA seems to be a problem. BPA has traditionally been part of an epoxy mix and until proven innocent, I think it is fair to be cautious given that continued research shows that minute levels of gender benders do bend the genders. A quote from Environmental Defense of Canada, "Concentrations at much lower levels (parts per trillion) have been found to cause adverse health effects in animal studies." From a biological stand point, humans are part of the animal world.

The last area is labor issues. Most of us would prefer if products were made in our own back yard (unless it is polluting then its okay to have it made in China) (you know that is sarcasm, right?), employing our neighbors and feeding our own economy. I am not happy that KK is made in China, and as a reminder, the new SIGG stainless steel bottles are also made in China. So KK visits their factories 4-5 times per year and SIGG says they have full-time employees located there. I am not sure where "there" is - could be in the next city over - but I hope to find out. Either way, being made in China goes against the grain of many. However, the global economy is here to stay. China is where the steel is made. So either, you don't get steel, or you work with China to change and improve their labor issues. Both SIGG and KK have tried to be responsible in addressing this labor issue. Some small stainless steel water bottle makers have no idea where the factories are even located. So at least the 2 biggest manufacturers of water bottles are taking steps to insure good manufacturing practices. Not my preference by any means, but it is a start. As consumers, it is our job to hold companies accountable for their labor conditions - so go forth and question. China has been in hot water recently but it is also a huge country. Just like we would not want the world to assume that all of our banks are corrupt, (my local bank is fantastic) so we should not assume that all of China has bad working conditions. To do so is...uh...prejudice.

So let me recap:
1 - Klean Kanteen's partly recycled stainless steel produces 10 times less CO2 than SIGG's virgin aluminum..and the winner is...Klean Kanteen.

2 - Klean Kanteen's food grade stainless steel is not lined while SIGG's aluminum is lined with an undisclosed epoxy lining that has not been tested below 2 PPB, where levels show birth and genitalia abnormalities... and the winner is... Klean Kanteen.

3 - Klean Kanteen's factories are in China, supervised and visited 4-5 times per year. SIGG's aluminum bottles are made in Switzerland and the stainless steel bottles are made in China with full time employees. It is my opinion that you can not assume that a factory in a given country has a given working condition. Yes there are trends to be sure, but the subjectiveness of this comparison can not guarantee anything...and if there has to be a winner...SIGG.

So in summary, my personal eco criteria considers carbon footprint first, followed by chemical footprint, followed by social footprint. This is an environmental blog first, not a humanitarian blog, though it does not diminish my personal interest and commitment to social and labor issues. Therefore, I stand by my original assessment which is: SIGG aluminum water bottles are not green in and of themselves, only in that they are reusable, and that Klean Kanteen is the greenest choice for reusable water bottles.

Whew.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had heard of klean kanteen and knew their products are made in china and is the reason I WON'T buy their products. chinese environmental and labor rules are less stringent and buying chinese made goods takes jobs away from Americans and sends money to a country that is destroying the environment and its own citizens. I will never buy klean kanteen as long as it's made there. I had just heard of sigg today and was excited, until I read this article. Now I won't be buying anything by it either.

solarsquirrel said...

Thank you for an insightful blog post. I couldn't really find any good information - but there is an extensive summary of Sigg's bottle's chemical testing here:
http://www.reusablebags.com/news.php?action=details&id=144

Leah said...

you seen this!!??
http://www.walletpop.com/blog/2009/09/10/patagonia-severs-sigg-relationship-claiming-chagrin/