Chilmark Spring Water molds a better bottle
They were green long before it was cool to be green. From the moment they formed the Chilmark Spring Water Company, the Dunkl family went to extraordinary lengths to provide a chemical-free, all-natural product with the lightest possible impact on the environment. The water comes from a zealously protected natural spring in Chilmark. Brothers Frank and Peter Dunkl, mechanically inclined former Volkswagen mechanics, run the bottling line. Sister Heidi keeps the books in order.
But there was one thing that always bothered them. "We had to package our products in bottles which we knew most people would be too lazy to recycle," said Frank Dunkl. "In our household for generations, we've always recycled everything. Rubber bands, string, paper, plastic, metals, glass. We don't throw out mixed garbage. We've always composted anything that can be composted, and recycled anything that can be recycled. But it's not yet the common way. The reality is that every time we bottle a thousand bottles, only 270 of those are likely to be recycled."
The thought of their bottles winding up in an incinerator or a landfill bothered Frank Dunkl so much that he and his family spent four years studying the issue, learning about solutions, and searching for a manufacturer that could supply them with a truly biodegradable bottle. Now, they think they've found it.
Molding the future
Inside the Chilmark Spring Water bottling plant at the Airport Business Park, Frank and Peter Dunkl demonstrate how the bottles are made. The bottles arrive on the Island as a plastic "pre-form." It looks like a test tube with a screw top. The pre-forms are warmed to the temperature of toast in a small oven, then placed by hand in a blow molding machine, two at a time. The molds close tight, and clean, dry air is forced into the heated pre-form at tremendous pressure. "I always explain, it's like blowing up a balloon inside a box. The balloon takes the shape of the box." When the molds spring open, two perfectly formed bottles are ready to be filled with Chilmark Spring Water.
The company has been making its own bottles for three years now, partly because doing so makes for a more reliable supply, but partly because it takes a lot less energy to make them here than it does to buy them and truck them to the Island. Before acquiring the bottle making machinery, six or seven times per year the company would send a truck to a supplier in New York to bring back plastic bottles.