Can a home-use seltzer maker reduce household waste?

Consumer Reports News: May 03, 2010 03:31 PM

Bottle Shock: A seltzer maker could help you
cut down on the number of bottles you recycle.
Friday is recycling-pickup day in my northern New Jersey hometown. Week after week we schlep to the curb bins filled with the usual assortment of recyclables produced by a 21st-century American family: newspapers and magazine; empty food containers (human and canine) and wine bottles; shredded credit-card offers, bills, and other household papers; corrugated cardboard and packaging materials; etc.

The bins also contain an unusually high number of one-liter seltzer bottles. It's good that my three kids prefer plain and flavored seltzer to soda and juice since it's generally cheaper than those drinks and lacks their sugar or artificial sweeteners. But all that seltzer produces lots of waste, at least 15 bottles a week. I wondered whether we could cut down on the plastic bottles and maybe even save a few bucks. Giving up seltzer not being an option, I turned to home-use seltzer/soda makers.

In our 2006 review of  seltzer/soda makers, covering models that use refillable CO2 cartridges (Mr. Butler's Italia Fizzy Drinkmaker, Right Choice Drinkit, Soda Club Edition I, and Soda Club Penguin) and siphon bottles that use disposable CO2 cartridges (iSi, Liss, and Mr. Fizz), the emphasis was on the quality of the seltzer and soda the devices produced, the cost to buy and use the makers, and convenience.

Today, manufacturers continue to emphasize the quality, savings, and convenience angles but also seem to be using green as a way to sway you into buying a home seltzer/soda maker. For instance, the folks at SodaStream (formerly Soda Club) make the following statement online:

"SodaStream is an 'Active Green' product, meaning that consumers  are actively reducing their CO2 footprint every time they make soda  or sparkling water at home instead of buying it from the store. . . . Because SodaStream uses water straight from the tap, the system makes traditional store-bought beverage bottles obsolete. That means less plastic manufactured, less plastic waste is created, and fewer bottled beverages must be transported from manufacturers to distrobutors [sic] to stores to homes."

I'll leave it to the experts to determine the environmental friendliness of these machines, but a home seltzer/soda maker seemed like a good move for my family, so I picked one up yesterday.

The model I got was a snap to set up and is easy to use. It's sharp enough looking and has a small enough footprint to make it countertop worthy. The seltzer the machine makes is certainly as good as the bottled stuff we buy, and it's fun to try different carbonation levels. (We made four bottles last night. I expect my kids to hold a burping contest soon.) We'll experiment with the unsweetened "essences" to make flavored seltzer and maybe even splurge on some of the other flavorings, some of which are supposed to taste like national brands of soda.

On the cost front, we'll break even after about 300 bottles, based on my typical 60-cents-per-liter cost of seltzer and the price of the kit and refillable CO2 cartridges. (Note to self: Keep an extra cartridge or two on hand to avoid dealing with seltzer-deprived kids.)

Seems like a worthwhile deal. Plus, I certainly won't miss having to lug home all those cases of seltzer from the supermarket.

Steven H. Saltzman

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