Ecover trials ocean plastic waste 'trawls' for latest packaging drive
Ecover has raised the bar in closed loop packaging by creating a recycled polymer mix for its bottles that will incorporate plastic waste fished out of the ocean.
In a world first, from 2014 Ecover bottles will be manufactured from a mixture of post-consumer recyclate, its own bio-based Plantastic sourced from sugar cane, and plastic pollutant 'sea waste'.
The announcement is the latest bid from the ecological laundry products brand to remain one step ahead of its competitors in sustainable packaging.
Back in 2010 its sugar cane derived Plantastic material set an industry benchmark in moving away from fossil-resourced plastics. Other brand leaders like Cola Cola have followed suit with similar plant-based alternatives.
In launching the "innovation triple" Ecover chief executive Philip Malmberg said his company wanted to challenge standard practice by continually investing in such trail-blazing initiatives.
"We want to create green products that deliver more than just a nod in the direction of sustainability ... and we want to inspire others to do the same," he maintained.
Ecover will work in partnership with plastics reprocessor Closed Loop Recycling to deliver the material needed, and trials are already underway to test the performance of the new polymer mix.
Asked by edie what percentage of the mix would contain 'sea waste', Ecover's innovation manager Tom Domen said it was difficult to tell at this stage.
"What the inputs or outputs will be are still uncertain in terms of quality, but we hope the material will contain at least a few percent of sea-sourced plastic waste."
Meanwhile Closed Loop Recycling CEO Chris Dow told edie that the marine waste plastic would first have to be dry cleaned to remove any residual material and be separated out according to polymer type before entering the reprocessing stream.
Dow was also confident that the performance of the new polymer mix would be comparable to current solutions.
"First signs are that [the marine waste plastic] has very little impact on material quality, it certainly can be reprocessed and we hope the tonnages will be huge," he revealed.
Dow added that at the bottles' end of use, the complex polymer mix would be able to be broken down again and recycled.
In terms of collecting the marine waste material, both Ecover and Closed Loop Recycling are working in tandem with the Waste Free Oceans initiative which aims to reduce floating debris on Europe's coastlines.
To begin with, Malmberg confirmed that the North Sea would be trawled for material, but added this might widen to Belgian and French waters depending on volumes generated. Boats will be kitted to collect between 2 to 8 tonnes of waste per trawl for cleaning and recycling.
Dow said the initiative carried a fantastic consumer message in light of estimates that 10% of the world's plastic waste finds its way into the sea.
"These sort of initiatives from major brands are crucial in getting that sustainability message to consumers. Ecover is taking such a futuristic view on packaging, showing commitment to designing on-shelf product with recycling in mind."