FIGHTING OUR THROW-AWAY CULTURE
Ecover was born from seeing first-hand the devastating effect that phosphates from laundry and dishwashing products were having on aquatic life.
Now we’ve got an arguably bigger challenge on our hands – facing up to the world’s over-reliance on single-use plastic. In 2016, less than half of all plastic bottles were collected for recycling and only 7% of those were turned into new bottles [Source: The Guardian, A million bottles a minute: world’s plastic binge ‘as dangerous as climate change’, June 2017]. The resulting impact on waterways and marine life is, to put it bluntly, horrifying – with an estimated 12.7 million tonnes ending up in oceans each year.
We want to be a role model to show the way forward for manufacturers like us to use better, more sustainable types of plastic and reduce our ‘plastic footprint’. To do this, we need to work out how to ‘close the loop’ by recovering and reusing as much packaging as possible and not let it go to waste. And we’re stepping up our efforts to find new biodegradable materials so we can move away from plastic altogether.
“Ecover needs to totally rethink plastic. Today we are making public our long-term ambition to stop using virgin plastic. It may take us several years, but it is an important goal for us and the planet.”
Tom Domen, Long Term Innovation Manager at Ecover.
We want to make it as easy as possible to recycle our bottles. Ever wondered why we do not use bright colours in our bottles? It’s not that we’re boring, it’s because transparent or white plastic is easier to recycle than the fancy coloured stuff (which can be difficult to re-dye to another colour).
When it comes to taking a stand on the big issues, we’re not shy about acting on our instincts. In 2014, our first limited edition Ocean Washing Up Liquid Bottle was made from 10% plastic collected by North Sea fishermen, and 90% recycled plastic (PCR). In 2017, we launched a new bottle made from 50% plastic waste collected from the beaches, shores and ocean of Rio, and 50% recycled plastic (PCR).
We’ve been using recycled materials since 2007 when we began using fully recycled cardboard for our paper packaging. Then in 2014 we started making most of our bottles from a mix of 25% recycled plastic and 75% PlantPlastic. Since launching our Ocean Bottle project in 2014, we’ve also reclaimed more than 11 tonnes of plastic from oceans, beaches, canals and waterways, raising awareness about the environmental consequences of plastic pollution. And this year, we’re taking an even bigger step, with the launch of our first 100% recycled plastic bottle from post-consumer waste (called PCR).
REUSE & REFILL
Since 1989, we’ve been encouraging people to reuse their containers and buy refill cartons rather than buying new plastic each time they run out. Our bottles can now be used more than 50 times, and refillable from many health food stores using our 15 litre refill carton. In 2016 we sold over 1.5m litres of Ecover refills across Europe and we are aiming to sell 10% more each year by making them easier to use and more widely available with our retailers.
In 2011, we launched our first 100% recyclable, reusable plastic bottle made from renewable sugarcane and not petroleum. We call this PlantPlastic – an innovative type of plastic that reduces the bottle’s carbon footprint by about 70% compared to virgin petroleum-based plastic, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Now most of our bottles use 75% PlantPlastic and 25% recycled plastic. All of the sugarcane we use to make our PlantPlastic is certified through Bonsucro, ensuring that the sugarcane was harvested responsibly.
We are always reassessing how we can improve our packaging and reduce the amount of materials we use. For our Ocean Washing Up Liquid Bottle, we worked with a biomimicry expert to reduce the amount of plastic used compared to the same bottle without the biomimicry design. This resulted in a distinctive design inspired by the lightweight yet robust skeletal structure found in many ocean micro-organisms.
OUR CLEAN PLASTIC GOALS
We’ve made an ambitious set of new goals to do what we can to help stop plastic pollution. We know we can’t lead this approach on our own so we want to work collaboratively with others. Above all, we’re proud to take a stand and use new packaging materials that will help to shape a better future.
We are launching a new 100% recycled plastic (PCR), recyclable, washing-up liquid bottle.
We’ve worked hard to create a washing-up liquid bottle that is durable and functional, whilst bringing some serious style to your kitchen sink. The bottle is made of transparent, 100% recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastic and mostly comes from used soft drink or water bottles. It’s the first step on our journey to using only recycled plastic.
We are planning to introduce recycled plastic into some of our caps for the first time.
The polypropylene plastic used in most bottle caps (including ours) is technically recyclable but in practice often isn’t. This is because there aren’t enough facilities to recycle them due to a perceived lack of value. So we want to stimulate more demand for recycling this plastic by introducing recycled polypropylene into caps in 2018.
We are planning that all our bottles will be made from 100% recycled plastic (PCR).
We are already using 100% recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastic for our new washing-up liquid range. We are currently testing 100% recycled High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) plastic (the same sort that’s used in everyday milk bottles) as this is the type of plastic we use for the bottles of most of our other products. And if we can make the switch by 2020, so much the better.
We will start testing alternative biodegradable and bio-sourced packaging.
Ultimately, we believe that packaging shouldn’t cause environmental harm even if it does end up being discarded. So we’re aiming to trial alternative biodegradable and bio-sourced packaging – like corn or potato-based plastics, or fibre-based pulp from wood, straw or wastepaper, likely with a degradable lining.
Being good to the planet and the people we work with is just as important to us as the bottom line.
We’re waging war on single-use plastic. And we’re aiming to make all our bottles from recycled plastic by 2020.
Our original phosphate-free formula helped clean the world’s waterways. Now we’re on the case to use less water, full stop.
We’re making our supply chain more responsible. Like buying local when we can, and using suppliers who share our values.
You get out what you put in. Which is why most of our ingredients are made of biodegradable plant-derived substances.
We use fragrances that are designed to smell natural, fresh and wonderful – not overpower you with toxic chemicals.
First we built the world’s most ecologically sound factory. Next stop: a zero-waste, zero-carbon footprint.
We believe that packaging design can have a positive impact on people and the planet.