We’re no strangers to the packaging conundrum that plagues many of us in the natural products industry. Packaging, especially in an industry focused on sustainability, can often seem contradictory to a natural company’s core values. So is packaging merely a necessary evil needed to market your product? Not necessarily. In fact, packaging can actually play a significant role in reducing pollution. Eco-friendly cleaning products company Method demonstrates how its packaging can actually benefit the environment with its newest technological innovation, Ocean PCR bottles.
The idea is nothing short of groundbreaking: In a partnership with Envision Plastics, Method is intercepting the plastic waste collected at national beach cleanup efforts and putting it through an intensive upcycling process. From this, they engineered a bottle made partially of plastic from the North Pacific Gyre (dubbed the “great Pacific garbage patch”; it’s exactly what it sounds like), yielding a new plastic material that retains the same level of quality as freshly manufactured plastic. The result? A high-quality bottle, for which 15 grams of plastic is removed from the ocean for every Method product bought.
However, there is debate surrounding whether this process is actually cleaning the ocean or really only cleaning the beaches. Due to ocean winds and regional currents, plastic from the Gyre often washes up on beaches, where it is collected and reused by Method. While the plastic is coming from the Gyre, it is in actuality being collected by hand, on land. Technicality aside, the new bottle still consists of 100% postconsumer polyethelyne, 25% of which is plastic from the Gyre.
Through its new technology, Method not only has pioneered a new high-quality form of recycled plastic, but is directly addressing the plastic pollution problem as well. Through its collection and recycling efforts, Method hopes to further the goal of recycling of existing plastic rather than manufacturing new material. “Our ultimate goal is to raise awareness that the real solution to plastic pollution lies in reusing and recycling the plastic that’s already on the planet,” says Method co-founder Adam Lowry.
With this new initiative, Method continues to push their image of corporate responsibility. Founded on the principle on making green cleaners mainstream, Method began using bottles made from 100% postconsumer plastic in 2006.
It remains to be seen, however, whether consumers will accept the new bottle, which is an opaque industrial gray, as opposed to the glossy clear bottles Method currently has. Manufacturing of the plastic also must be sustainable in the long term — both environmentally and economically — something Method is still working out. The new bottles are expected to hit shelves sometime next year.