What Is rPET and Why Has South Downs Water Made The Switch?

We’ve just announced the switch to using 100% recycled plastic (rPET) for South Downs Water’s plastic product lines. But what is rPET? And why is it such a big deal? Why are we using plastic in the first place? With so much information available, we’ve explained all below.

South Downs Water: 500 Sparkling Bottle with background

What is rPET?

rPET stands for recycled polyethylene terephthalate. No, we don’t like pronouncing that either! So to keep it simple, we refer to it as rPET. For the most part, rPET looks and feels exactly the same as traditional plastic (PET).

rPET is created by recycling previously used plastics, including plastic bottles. Once collected, it is sorted, cleaned, and transformed into rPET. 

South Downs Water is using 100 percent rPET for its 330ml and 500ml bottle ranges which means that all plastic bottles will have already been used at least once before. and removes the need to use new, virgin PET.

Why is South Downs Water switching to rPET?

South Downs Water: Think Globally

South Downs Water recognise the global need to re-think how plastic is manufactured, used and recycled.

Whilst acknowledging that collectively we all have a long way to go, South Downs Water is continuing on its sustainability journey and is constantly looking at ways to adapt and change, where possible, to keep plastic in a closed loop system – and out of the rivers, oceans and countryside. Switching to rPET is just the first of several initiatives being rolled out in 2020. 

South Downs Water is ahead of many competitors, including large multinationals, which are not likely to reach this point until 2025.

How do I recycle rPET?

rPET is recycled in the same way as traditional PET and therefore widely recycled – the end user should recycle their rPET bottle in exactly the same ways as before.

South Downs Water: 500ml rPET Range

Why not switch to biodegradable bottles?

South Downs Water is constantly reviewing the latest industry manufacturing processes and products. Having looked into a number of options the company felt that biodegradable bottles, at this time, are counterproductive to achieving wider global sustainability goals.

330ml Still - 100% Recycled Plastic

This is due to:

  • The production of biodegradable bottles using a greater carbon footprint than rPET.
  • Biodegradable bottles are single use products that cannot be recycled.
  • If a biodegradable bottle gets into the recycling stream its material composition will contaminate the entire batch which, in turn, will no longer be reusable.
  • Biodegradable bottles don’t address the large volume of pre-existing plastic in the system that is reusable. 
  • Biodegradable bottles are a relatively new concept and their long-term impact on the environment has not yet been proved.


With these points considered, South Downs Water believes that switching to rPET and re-using plastic that is already in existence is the most sustainable way of producing plastic bottles.

Is rPET more expensive?

South Downs Water: Recycled Bottles

It currently costs more to manufacture rPET because there is a great demand for it and supply and recycling technology has not yet caught up with this increased demand. The cost of rPET is likely to stabilise as technology catches up and supply increases. 

Will the new labels be recyclable too?

Absolutely! The rPET bottles will have paper labels so they’re good to be recycled, too.

And the lid? 

Yes, that can be recycled too. 

The plastic is made from High-density polyethylene (HDPE). It’s fully recyclable and in a new life, you might see it as rope, toys, recycling bins or pipes.

Why not get rid of plastics completely?

Whilst over 50 percent of South Downs Water is sold in glass or larger bottle formats, there are still cases where plastic bottles are the most practical solution. 

  • Events
  • Concerts
  • Beaches – Nearby West Wittering Beach, for example, is unable to use glass for public safety. 

With so much plastic in the world, South Downs Water is looking to reuse an existing resource time and time again. 

South Downs Water Bottle

What about the wider South Downs Water supply chain?

South Downs Water is bottled and packaged at source, eliminating any emissions from transportation. 

Every component of packaging is manufactured in the UK to minimise carbon footprint. South Downs Water’s UK-based glass and plastic bottle suppliers use recycled materials.

The South Downs Water 19L and 11L bottles are collected and recycled in-house. They are re-used until they break and are then sent to be recycled. 

South Downs Water bottle caps and outer packaging are 100 percent recyclable and South Downs Water transports bottles on pallets made from recycled wood. 

The outer pallet wrap is recyclable and has been changed to clear – to help with recycling. The shrink film is also recyclable. 


And what about delivery? 

To keep South Downs Water’s carbon footprint to a minimum, South Downs Water’s Greener Delivery initiative was developed and rolled out in 2019. In an effort to lower its carbon footprint, South Downs Water buys solely from UK suppliers and delivers only within a 50 mile radius – for the most part to the South Coast community.

Anything beyond 50 miles is distributed via a haulage network, use lorries that would be travelling in the same direction to minimise any extra carbon footprint. 

South Downs Water has also worked with its customers to increase minimum order quantities and reduce the number of deliveries.


What is The UK Plastics Pact?

The UK Plastics Pact is an initiative that looks to create a circular economy for plastics. It brings together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain with UK governments and NGOs to tackle plastic waste. The UK Plastics Act champions the move away from a linear plastics economy, where we take, make and dispose of plastic, and towards a circular system where we keep plastic in the economy and out of the natural environment.

Visit the WRAP website for further information. 

What is South Downs Water?

South Downs Natural Mineral Water rises from an Artesian Well 420ft below ground. It is bottled at source just outside the historic City of Chichester, near to the Kingley Vale National Park on the Sussex/Hampshire border.

South Downs Water: Glass Bottles

Enriched with minerals deep from within the South Downs, it is untouched at source – producing water of unrivalled quality and truly exceptional taste. The natural filtration provided by the deep chalk layers of the South Downs gives us a delicious fresh water that’s naturally high in calcium and low in sodium.

What is Natural Mineral Water status? 

Natural mineral water must come from an identified and protected source. It is guaranteed to be consistent in composition and naturally wholesome without any treatment – except for the addition of carbon dioxide to make the water sparkle. Natural Mineral Water status is only granted to waters that are demonstrated to be free from pollution and have a characteristic stable composition.

We are very proud that South Downs Water holds Natural Mineral Water status. This is the top of the tree in the water world – originating from a natural, and protected underground source. Naturally wholesome, without any treatment, South Downs Natural Mineral Water has a consistently stable composition and is bottled at source.


The prestigious “Natural Mineral Water” status is only granted to waters that are demonstrated to be free from pollution and are microbiologically safe to drink without treatment. We are proud to produce local mineral water which goes through no chemical or treatment processes before it reaches you.

How does it differ from Spring Water

Unlike Spring Water, where treatments are permitted, Natural Mineral Water is totally wholesome and natural – without any treatment.