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Plastics and the Future.

An intertwined story that can change the world, for better or for worse. Read on for our take on it.

But first, in order to talk about the future, let's take a step back and talk a bit about the past.

The starting point:

Since the 1970s squeezable plastic bottles have been used widely. They were a big step forward from the prior aluminum bottles with their cork closure. Functionality was a clear driver for this change back then. The plastic bottle was lighter, more durable, didn’t wiggle so much in the bottle holder and importantly: it let you drink faster thanks to its squeezability. These advantages over a metal bottle were so massive that the metal bottle never made its comeback into sports. 

In the years since then plastic made its  triumphant success into most areas of our life. Better functionality and better price – who can compete against that? The same goes for our favorite opponent: the plastic bottle. Today you can get a standard plastic sports bottle in your color and with your logo on it for a little as €0,50 per piece. A marketers dream!

Here's a little story for you: when I was 10 years old, I got a plastic bottle from a Swedish floorball player after the finals of the European championship. The inherent value of this bottle for me was about 100 times the production costs. I kept using it for many years and still remember the mold that was inside and the disgusting taste it developed over time. My mother did not dare to throw it away.

In retrospect, she definitely should have.

Thinking of my experience it is no wonder every Tour de France roughly 10.000 bottles are thrown out for the fans to collect (hopefully!). There is no other merchandising product that even comes close to this.

At KEEGO I have taken a deep look at the drawbacks of plastic sports bottles. The 3 big ones are taste - health - and cleanability. Reason enough to invest in alternative solutions.

With the start of the development, I have also dealt more and more with the topic of sustainability of products. And I must say, the many aspects that have an impact on the circular economy and the sustainability of products are not easy to navigate. From raw materials, transport, production, lifetime to collection and recycling, there are many steps to consider and not all of them are easy to measure and compare.

Fast forward to Today:

Since we are focusing on sports and areas where squeezability, lightweight and impact resistance of the bottle are important it makes sense to compare with bottles that provide the same basic functionality. These are made of plastic – specifically LDPE, HDPE, PP and PET.

In recent years the development in PET collection and recycling has been substantial. It is exemplary in the world of plastic recycling and we can only hope that other plastic recycling processes will follow suit. However, PET bottles are designed and produced to be one-time-use products only. You might have experienced how thin and paper-like they get when you use them a few times.

But, to put this in perspective – single-use packaging is by far the biggest problem.

95% of plastic packaging material is lost to the economy after a short first-use cycle. This is by far our biggest concern. Please read more about it at the EllenMacarthurFoundation. Even in countries that have introduced collection systems for plastic packaging besides PET, just a small amount is being recycled the way we wish it would be. For example, in Germany from all plastic packaging that did find its way into the “Gelbe Tonne” in 2019, only 47% was being recycled into new products or raw materials. The rest ended up being burned (Source:  German Federal Environmental Agency)

When it comes to recycling packaging for food, the tricky part is that you need to control without any doubt what was in the recycled material. That means all sorts of plastics, colorants, additives, labels, closures, etc. Sometimes thermal utilization is just easier. Countries and institutions are improving the processes continuously to separate and recycle but it is still a long way to go.

But now the good news: by far the biggest impact on the footprint of any product is how long we use it. That’s why the EllenMacarthurFoundation has introduced the guiding principles of reduce, recycle, reuse that we go by.

Our goal is to help to reduce consumption (buy better, buy less), recycle (use materials and processes that allow for recycling the materials) and reuse (make products that last longer and can be reused).

Since our launch with every single production run we have improved on certain aspects of the bottle so that it can serve longer AND better. Because we believe that only when the functionality is at its best then the product will be used continuously - without getting the urge to buy something new.

For us the main functionality aspects are:

- True taste

- No unwanted substances in the water

- Easy cleanability

- Lightweight

- Squeezability

 Evolution der Trinkflasche

Today 99% of reusable sports bottles are made of PE or PP plastic. Which is, as mentioned above, a very cheap solution.

The footprint of any product is by large determined by the lifespan of it – how long it is being used before being thrown away or collected. Mother nature would prefer us to use our bottles for many years. Unsurprisingly, studies show that it would be better for our bodies not to use plastic bottles for a long period of time. See more here.

This is the one dilemma we at KEEGO can help solve, by creating a bottle that lasts long without any functional drawbacks (such as bad taste, BPA, softeners or microplastics in the water and development of mold due to bad cleanability).

Future Aspirations:

Even the best bottle will come to its end one day.

No bottle is entirely safe from mold and a heavily-used outside may lose its attractiveness to some of us (not to us. Scars show personality). Currently in many countries, collections for PE and PP bottles do exist and these can also be used for KEEGO bottles that are reaching their retirement. But, as we know now, large parts of these collections will end in a thermal utilization.

Besides offering a better alternative to plastic bottles we know we can also do better when it comes to collection and recycling. Which is why we have started the KEEGO Refresh program where we want to take things into our own hands and make sure new KEEGOs are made from old ones. Learn more about it on the link above.

Still, this is not enough since the CO2 footprint is made of a long list of factors. The following points are things we reassess regularly and aspire to meet. Even if we're not there yet, we keep going.

  • KEEGO becomes the new standard for reusable sports bottles and as such reduces usage of single-use bottles.
  • KEEGO can be returned and exchanged in numerous retail stores, directly to us at fairs and events, and via sending to us (see KEEGO Refresh).
  • We recycle 100% of the collected KEEGOs and turn them into new products.
  • We use non petroleum based materials and locally sourced bio materials only.
  • The energy used for our manufacturing comes from renewable resources.
  • We reduce distances and transport within our supply chain to the absolute minimum.
  • We find a process that allows us to produce with minimal waste even though we use impure and unsteady materials from bio sources and recycled materials.
  • We keep on improving the durability and lifespan of the KEEGO.
  • We work together with an independent organization to measure our progress on the above points, as well as make our progress transparent.

 

Keep going

Lukas for KEEGO