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Eco-friendly bottle for ethical water

By Julie Clothier for CNN

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The 750ml glass bottle of Belu water retails for 99 pence ($1.68) at British supermarket chain Waitrose.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A water company that puts all of its profits into clean water projects in developing countries has created an environmentally friendly bottle out of biodegradable plastic.

Belu Spring Water began putting its socially responsible water on supermarket shelves and tables in some of Britain's top restaurants in May 2004.

The company was formed two years ago when a group of people came up with the idea for the business after being spurred on by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's campaign to use capitalism to improve the planet.

Managing director and Belu co-founder Reed Paget, a former documentary maker, told CNN the idea behind the business was to use water to create water in areas where it was not widely available.

"We thought why don't we start a company that addresses this possibility of using capitalism as an aggressive way to solve the glaring problem of water pollution," he said.

"A quarter of the population on Earth don't have access to a clean water supply, so a simple way to address that was to create a company that does just that."

Until now, Belu water has been available in a glass bottle, but from next month the company will launch its "bio bottle," which is made out of a plastic that can decompose in eight to 10 weeks.

The plastic is made from corn starch sourced in the U.S. state of Nebraska, and Paget says it is the first of its kind to appear in the United Kingdom.

He said the company began investigating using the eco-friendly plastic six months ago, but that the technology only recently caught up with the high standard he was looking for.

"Plastic always seemed a little bit suspicious because it has always been considered a pollutant."

Belu water can be found on the shelves at Waitrose, a high-end British supermarket chain, as well as in some of London's most exclusive eating establishments, including Nobu, Sketch and the Groucho Club.

Reed said the company had focused on targeting businesses, government and the high end of the restaurant sector.

The water is sourced from a spring in the Shropshire hills in the west of England.

"We didn't want to market it as ethical water. We want it to be considered the best water you can find which happens to do good."

As a new business, Belu is yet to post a profit but when it does, it plans to put all of it into clean water projects.

Despite this, it has already set aside money from sales to fund water projects, including one in a village of 10,000 people in the Tamil Nadu region of India, where Belu has created four sources of water for the town, sanitation blocks for children and hygiene education.

It is also planning a project in West Africa, as well as closer to home in London, cleaning up the Thames River in the runup to the 2012 Olympics, which are to be held in the city.

Paget says Belu -- derived from the word blue and the Italian word for beautiful, "bella" -- takes a three-pronged approach to its clean water projects, by not only providing a clean water source for drinking but water for washing hands and education about the importance of hygiene.

Reed said the people behind Belu had looked for inspiration in companies like The Body Shop, which was started by Anita Roddick and does not test its products on animals, and Newman's Own, a company started by screen legend Paul Newman that gives a chunk of its profits from the sale of its food products to charity.

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