You may have heard from some large corporations of their goal to switch to a 100% recycled plastic in their product packaging. Some of these companies happen to be the largest contributors to single-use plastic pollution globally. While their vision is noble, it begs the question, will recycled plastic single-use packaging be enough to save the world?
The answer is not nearly enough. Vowing to phase out virgin plastic and replace it with 100% recycled materials adds to companies’ eco-credentials. However, in our opinion, adding more single-use plastics in the eco-system is not the answer to curbing plastic pollution.
Recycled plastic is a scarce resource, demand for which is growing tremendously as large food, beverage and household products manufacturers vow to phase-out virgin plastic packaging. Besides, there is a growing trend of sustainable fashion that has an endless demand for recycled plastic.
A recent article in Fast Company points out that there is a war between food and clothing manufacturers who want to get their hands on recycled plastic (rPET). Some claim that recycling PETE bottles to produce more bottles is the best use of rPET as recycling plastic used in fabrics is traditionally more difficult. Even that is old news as more fabric-to-fabric recycling plants are becoming available.
There is more to sustainability than using recycled plastic packaging. Companies that have been in the business of mass-producing single-use plastics need to rethink the end-to-end customer journey. They should aim to design single-use plastics out of the equation and replace them with refillable packaging. This will lengthen the lifetime of any type of packaging be it plastic, glass or aluminium.
We think PCR (post-consumer resin) is better suited for durable goods that will have a much longer lifecycle as opposed to producing yet another single-use plastic bottle. We know those will ultimately end up in the landfill. Here are a few options that we love. Not only are these products made from recycled plastic waste, they are converted into durable products so you can use them 100 times over and make sure that the plastic stays out of the landfills.
GNGR BEES: Plastic activewear anyone? While plastic-based fabrics are best avoided, in certain case their use is necessary such as raincoats and activewear. One of our favourite ethical brands is GNGR Bees that sells women’s activewear made from 100% reclaimed and upcycled waste materials especially reclaimed plastic bottles. Besides reusing and reclaiming plastic waste, they have put a lot of thought behind making sure every aspect of the business is ethical and eco-friendly. Their packaging is reusable and zero-waste as well. In addition to their awe-inspiring product and packaging, GNGR Bees has truly changed the way they sell their products by promoting a body-positive image and using real customers as their models.
Patagonia:One of our all-time favourites and the pioneer in sustainable fashion. This company has set the gold standard for recycle, reuse and repair. Their mantra is to help you reduce consumption by selling long-lasting products so you only buy what you need. Not only do they use recycled material in their products, they want you to repair any damage to extend the lifecycle of your gear. Their goal is to keep the clothes they produce out of the landfills. Their new line of Black Hole bags was launched by upcycling 10 million plastic bottles that would have otherwise lived forever in our landfills and waterways.
Batoko Swimwear: Swimsuits made from rubbish, literally. We can aim to swap regular clothing non-synthetic, non-petrochemical materials, but it is not so easy when it comes to swimwear. Did you know all swimwear is made of polyester? This independent swimwear company claims to have diverted 300,000 plastic bottles from the landfill into swimsuits. Many large companies are on-track to using more recycled materials, but we think there is a special place in heaven for brands that were set up with sustainability as their mission and have designed environmentally-friendly products, supply chains and end-to-end processes. Batoko claims that each of their swimsuits is made up of an equivalent of roughly 10 plastic bottles. Not only are their designs fun, you can give yourself a pat on the back for making the eco-friendly choice.
Gomi Speakers: gadgets made from waste. This Brighton-based UK company uses local plastic waste that is not easily recycled into durable and complex products. Not only are they preventing plastic waste from ending up in the landfill, they also don’t like diverting it to make more single-use products. Gomi's goal is to extend the life of plastic-based products to keep the waste out of the oceans. They want to create their own circular design by reusing materials from old, discarded products. Not only are they ethically made but are true pieces of art.
Making the eco-friendly and ethical choice is not always the easiest thing to do, but the good news is that alternative options exist. We salute these companies that make it possible for us to make the ethical choice.
At Spruce, our mission is to bring you high quality refillable home and personal care products that are safe for you, without any toxic chemicals and safe for the environment, free of single-use plastic packaging.