Clear choice: Firm offers an alternative to the bottle in unique containers

Colorado Clear packages water in what the Palisade firm bills as an amphora that’s not only recyclable, but also biodegradable and offers an alternative to the traditional bottles that end up in landfills. (Photo courtesy Colorado Clear)
Colorado Clear packages water in what the Palisade firm bills as an amphora that’s not only recyclable, but also biodegradable and offers an alternative to the traditional bottles that end up in landfills. (Photo courtesy Colorado Clear)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Tim Huff had been waiting for this moment for years. So he was understandably excited about the prospect of seeing his unique water bottles for sale on a store shelf.

“To see it on that shelf, finally, is going to be huge,” says Huff, whose business card identifies him as both the owner and janitor at Colorado Clear, a Palisade company he founded to offer what he touts as a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional plastic bottles.

The distinctive soft-sided bottles colored in white and shades of blue and filled with water that originates in Rapid Creek on the Grand Mesa are now available in C&F Food Stores and other retail locations in the Grand Valley.

Huff hopes to quickly expand distribution as well as his operations in supplying containers for other beverages and products. He figures the more of his containers he can get on the market, the fewer plastic bottles will get buried in landfills — and go nowhere for centuries on end.

As one of the first companies in Colorado to be approved for the Rural Jump-Start Program, exemptions from income and property taxes will help in that process, Huff says. “That’s a big thing for a small business.”

Huff says he was inspired to build a better water bottle  by the amount of plastic bottles he found littering the areas in Western Colorado in which he likes to hike and hunt.

He estimates that more than 50 billion plastic bottles are sold and discarded worldwide each year. Despite efforts to promote recycling, 40 billion bottles end up in landfills. Then it can take can more than 700 years for plastic resin bottles to decompose.

Huff came up with what he calls an amphora made with laminated plastics. The containers are recyclable just like other bottles in traditional processing facilities, he says. But his containers also are biodegradable and can break down in the microbial-rich environment of a landfill in just three years.

Huff says he borrowed the term amphora, which also describes the storage vessels used by ancient Greeks and Romans.

A patent is pending on the amphora film, which Huff says offers a shelf life of 10 years, but decomposes in less than a third of that time in a landfill. Moreover, the amphora container can be frozen when completely full.

The containers are made in the United  States, a goal Huff says he initially set out to accomplish in five years, but actually realized far sooner.

Huff says he decided to first use his containers to bottle spring water. That water comes from Rapid Creek off the Grand Mesa, among the sources of domestic water for the Town of Palisade and Ute Water Conservancy District.

Unlike some other bottled waters, Colorado Clear offers water with natural minerals and electrolytes that contribute to the taste and other benefits, he says.

Working out of small warehouse space in Palisade, Huff says he can fill about 2,000 containers an hour as well as box the containers and stack them on a pallet.

Central Distributing based in Grand Junction has agreed to distribute Colorado Clear water and already has placed the product in C&F Food Stores and other retailers, Huff says. The Wine Country Inn also stocks Colorado Clear Water in the rooms of the Palisade hotel.

As distribution grows across first Western Colorado and then the rest of the state, so will the bottling operation, Huff says. He says he’s been working with Western Slope Industries in Grand Junction on designing equipment capable of accomodating the bottling of up to 90,000 containers an hour.

There’s also a possibility of one day relocating the bottling operation to a larger facility in Cameo with both interstate highway and rail access, he says.

Meanwhile, there’s also the potential for using Colorado Clear containers for other beverages, perhaps beer or wine.

The containers also could be used for medical products and would decompose more quickly following their disposal.

Huff has yet another use for his containers in mind in using them to respond to disasters when bottled water is needed. Rather than deal with the bulk and weight of shipping bottled water to a disaster-stricken area, it would be more efficient to ship empty containers and set up a mobile water bottling facility on site.

Huff says 5,000 of his amphora film containers would fit into a package less than three times bigger than shoe box. A similar number of traditional water bottles would fill five pallets, he says.

While the outlook appears bright for his venture, Huff says he’s grateful for the assistance in received along the way, including financing from investors and the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction. The Town of Palisade has been helpful as well, he says, in quickly granting a conditional use permit that enabled him to open his bottling facility.

The Grand Junction Economic Partnership helped Colorado Clear gain approval to participate in the Rural Jump-Start Program, Huff says. Tax exemptions offered through the program will enable him to purchase equipment as well as lower costs.

For now, though, Huff says he’s exciting about finally getting Colorado Clear products on store shelves. It’s another milestone in his efforts to increase his operations even as he decreased the number of traditional plastic bottles buried in landfills.

For more information Colorado Clear, log on to the Web site at www.ColoradoClear.com.