The water bottle industry is one of the most flagrant users of plastic in the world, but aside from banning the industry altogether, the next step forward in combating this is difficult. However New Zealand made compostable and circular water bottle company, For The Better Good, may represent the next best alternative. Founder Jayden Klinac sat down to chat about his plant based alternative and how the company is turning waste into capital.
Words Findlay Buchanan. Images For The Better Good
The plastic industry is set to account for 15 percent of the annual carbon budget, climate change is standing at our doorstep and banging on our front door, and scientists argue that our oceans will hold more plastic than fish (by weight) in 2050. Plastic is an anathema on our planet, and for so long, commercial alternatives have been few and far between.
However, with regenerative and holistic economic models now at the hands of businesses, innovation is happening, and even the most complicit industries are seeking alternatives. Namely, the water bottle market, a sector that has gone mad on selling a freely accessible natural resource and packaging it in oil based plastic, with waste then disregarded and unmanaged.
Klinac was previously a co-founder of The Honest Coffee Company, a New Zealand company that imported biodegradable coffee pods. For The Better Good started three and a half years ago when Klinac was parched in a regional New Zealand petrol station. He had forgotten his trusty refillable drink bottle and needed water. It irked him that there was no alternative to oil based plastic packaging.
“You should have a choice not to buy oil and to drink water that comes from a container that doesn’t harm the environment.”
Spurred by disrupting the devilish plastic industry, he started to meddle with different product concepts, including trialing hemp-based plastic, which he discovered couldn’t make plastic water bottles. However, two and a half years later the final product came to fruition: a plant based water bottle made from renewable materials, corn, potatoes and sugarcane.
The manufacturing process sees the plants broken down into individual natural components, fermented, extracted and mixed into a polymer that is used to make its bottles. Additionally, the bottle captures and stores co2 (Carbon dioxide) and is compostable. The bottles are also non-toxic and can be re-used multiple times without any dodgy side effects from petroleum based plastics. Klinac is also working on a bio-degradable lid, which would be a world first.
But its significance doesn’t stop at ‘sustainability’ – For The Better Good accounts for the full lifecycle of the product. It has developed a system based on product stewardship, where everything sold is collected back. People are able to hand their bottle back to the distributor who sends it to the company where the bottle is composted.
It’s the first product of its kind and a potential solution to the deathly statistic that 72 percent of plastic packaging is not recovered at all – 40 percent is landfilled and 32 percent is leaked out of the collection system.
But in a market, where The Guardian recorded that annual consumption of plastic bottles was set to top half a trillion by 2021 and with the likes of Kim Kardashian fashioning water bottle brands in a bawdy manner, is an environmental alternative enough to shift consumer behavior? According to Klinac it will.
“We believe humanity wants to do the right thing, we just need to provide the platform for them to do so.”
The first test was at Wanaka’s Tuki festival in February this year. People were encouraged to bring their own bottle, with free water supplied on the day. The event saw the first marketing opportunity for the company. And for those who didn’t bring their own bottle, For The Better Good was there to distribute its new alternative. Klinac says he urged people to only buy one bottle and refill it accordingly. He saw people value the product, reuse it and hold on to it – a stark comparison to the insatiable antics of single use waste typically seen at festivals.
“Instead of buying a bottle and throwing it away, they reused it during the day we had our own collection bins there where people put the bottles in, once it was over we collected all the bottles to ensure it was waste free.”
Since the Tuki festival, Klinac has been on the road, reaching out to prospective retailers and distributors across the country. The bottles are now found in yoga studios, cafés, food outlets and fellow businesses. Klinac says the concept has resonated with both businesses and customers who have embraced the loop collection system.
“I popped into Eastwest Yoga last night where the waste collection bin was filled with empty bottles – they also said that people are loving the product.”
To further incentivise the community to embrace the waste free system, Better Collection Partners offer a reward for the return of the bottle. For example, if customers return the bottle to a cafe it will give you 20 cents off a coffee, For The Better Good will match it by giving 20 cents toward sustainable coastlines.
“We will count every bottle returned over the next 3 to 6 months and provide them with a donation equivalent to what we collect.”
While For The Better Good is looking to grow both domestically and internationally, it’s a matter of management, and for Klinac it’s critical that the production, distribution and end of life cycle is accounted for. He also doesn’t want to be limited to being a water bottled brand but as a driver for wider social change.
“The billboard being a bottle shows what we can do if we start to consider the environment over pure financial gain when making decisions and account for the entire lifecycle of products, if producers don’t take responsibility for what they produce it leaves no one accountable.”
While offering another product to the hyper-inflated water bottle market sounds like the last thing our world needs, with The Guardian reporting that 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold across the world in 2016, there is no doubt that change is needed.
This story originally appeared at idealog.co.nz