Making bottles from bottles
This week is Recycle Week here in the UK and the theme this year is: Recycling. We do. Because it matters. WRAP, the organisers of Recycle Week, are encouraging business to bust myths around recycling and demonstrate its benefits.
Shows like David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II have reignited people’s interest in conserving our natural environment and put sustainability firmly on the national agenda. As consumers, we all need to consider our impact on the environment, to use less, and when we do buy we should choose the most sustainable option. But it’s not made easy for us. Sustainability can have many forms and it can be a minefield deciding which of them is ‘best’.
With new alternatives to traditional formats being introduced and with each new material claiming to be the ‘absolute best’ environmental option, it can be difficult to wade through the greenwash. In fact, in the very early days of Belu we made and sold a corn based (PLA) biobottle. But, it was a tricky experience because the recycling industry complained of its ‘polluting’ effect on the waste process. Unless contained on the site of sale and professionally processed, the bio-bottle still faces the same issues as all plastics – it won’t biodegrade fast enough to avoid causing pollution in our oceans if it isn’t processed through recycling infrastructure.
At Belu we believe the smartest decision is to simply use less first and foremost. Where single use is needed, we maximise the use of recycled content in our packaging, utilise smart design in order to use as little raw materials as possible, and minimise the transport footprint of materials by sourcing them from the UK. By using less material, and especially less virgin material, it allows us to produce products with a lower carbon footprint.
As demand from our customers increased for plastic formats, usually in situations where for safety or practical reasons glass isn’t an option, we decided the most ethical position to take was that of championing plastic waste as a valuable resource. By working with the right partners, we’ve been able to make our bottles from bottles, helping to promote the circular economy.
To do this, we work with Lincolnshire-based Clean Tech, one of Europe’s leading recycled plastic pellet manufacturers. Clean Tech processes bales of used PET bottles collected from kerbside recycling schemes. Bottles are sorted, shredded, washed and converted into pellets, which are then purified to remove any contaminants. The pellets are then transported to Clean Tech’s sister bottle-making factory, Plastipak, and put directly back into new Belu bottles. It’s called closed-loop recycling – meaning that the PET plastic can be reused time and time again, saving valuable resources, and preventing it from being wasted in landfill or incineration, or polluting our land and marine environment.
Since 2012, our plastic bottle range has been made with at least 50% recycled plastic and we’ve already sold bottles made from 100% recycled material in a limited trial. Whilst we think they’re beautiful, our trial saw consumers occasionally reject these bottles, as there can be a noticeable visual difference in the colour of the bottle. Is that enough to hold us back? Absolutely not. The greater challenge is the availability of used bottles making it through the recycling process to make recycled plastic pellets, needed to make recycled bottles. For this reason, Belu are natural supporters of any initiative in the recycling space that ensures bottles are recycled into new bottles. So please help us make more bottles from bottles and recycle!
Recycling. We do. Because it matters.
In case you’re new here, Belu began with a simple idea: that there was a better way to do business. That through business, we could do more than make money, we could help solve some of the world’s problems too. In water, our mission is to show that a business can deliver an environmentally improved and sustainable proposition in the market. We also invest 100% of our net profits into WaterAid, to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere.