Huntersville company brings water bottling full circle
by Staff Writer
Four years ago, an idea was conceived that could potentially revolutionize the bottled-water industry. Yet, an idea alone isn’t enough to see an invention all the way through to fruition. It takes time, capital and a little bit of engineering expertise.
Lucky for the world, Huntersville-based Clearwater Manufacturing is no stranger to big ideas. The company bought the idea from its inventor who wished to remain anonymous. Clearwater Manufacturing has spent years developing and perfecting this idea until Boomerang Water was born.
“The whole plastic water bottle industry has just gotten out of control,” said Colin Van Rooyen, Boomerang’s chief operations officer. “We’re taking 18-wheelers and carting water across state lines, and yet it’s in your building already. The biggest contributor to the carbon footprint of bottled water is its transportation from factory to its destination.”
Boomerang Water hopes to solve a pressing environmental problem, while simultaneously satisfying America’s thirst for portable water. Using an automated machine about the size of a hotel icemaker, vendors such as cafeterias, hospitals, universities, cruise ships and military installations will be able to sanitize, refill and re-seal reusable aluminum water bottles for sale to consumers. The process takes less than a minute.
The machine further filters the building’s water source.
Customers can return the bottles to the vendor after use – for a redemption reward at the vendor’s discretion – and the cycle can come back around again, in ‘boomerang’ fashion. New bottle caps are used every time.
Customers may also recycle bottles and caps.
“Any reduction we can make in the number of plastic water bottles going into the landfills will have a positive environmental impact,” Van Rooyen said.
The machine will reside in the back of businesses where customers would not see them. One or two operators can produce up to 2,000 bottles of water in eight hours.
“It’s very user-friendly,” Van Rooyen said. “I could train you to run this machine in under two minutes.”
When it comes to getting the machine to market, Boomerang is still in its early stages, having only been available for less than a year. The company is currently in talks with what hopes to be its first round of customers.
The units cost about $98,000 and can be leased for $1,500 a month. Boomerang officials say the environmental and monetary return on the investment is worth it.
According to their projections, a vendor selling 500 bottles a day would net an annual profit of $73,000 for a bottle being used for the first time. A bottle that has been returned, say, four times, would more than double the profit, since the cost of the bottle itself is no longer a factor.
The sustainable concept has grabbed the interest of several college campuses across the country.
Boomerang won the 2010 Regional Advanced Manufacturing Award for Best Innovation Project from the Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation.
“We’re excited to see the company gain recognition for their cutting-edge ideas in advanced manufacturing,” Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain said in a press release regarding the award.