One month has passed since our bottle reuse program started. Although we have yet to collect enough products to be released, we are confident that we will be able to create a sustainable cycle in the long run with the support of our stores.
From around August this year, we also have decided to switch all our packed products to include recycled content. We are currently conducting a final selection of materials with suppliers who possess the best technology to make this happen.
If all goes well, we will start using these in mid-August to early September.
First and foremost, BLACK packs will change from the current aluminum foil to without, so it will appear like a transparent cutout logo from the metallic logo. PURE, SPEED and EFFECT will be replaced with white printing at a later stage if the back side is translucent.
So far, it’s going well – time for a little background story.
About recycled materials
In 2012, I started looking for packaging with recycled content. We started calculating our CO2 emissions this year. At the time, there were only major corporations which had the technology, and none were able to fulfill our small order quantity. It was also extremely expensive, about 5 times the cost of our original ones. Everything had to also be paid upfront, thereby incurring a lot of debt which we couldn’t viably sustain at the time.
The recycled PET comes from plastic bottles, after the caps have been removed, labels taken off and cleaned, before pulverizing them. There is considerable loss at this point, as it takes a lot of energy to melt it back before making it into a film or other products.
Since around 2016, more global companies have become more interested in renewable energy and sustainable packaging material. From 2018, Seven-Eleven, Coca-Cola have started collecting and recycling their own PET Bottles. As the industry moved forward, access became easier for us. Still, the cost of these bags are around 3 times, so a lot of courage (and money) was needed to embark on this project.
However, there are still more challenges. Our pouches consist of multiple films, and only some recycled content can be used. Raw nylon is needed to achieve a certain tensile strength, but recycled nylon requires biomass technology, and the initial cost is not feasible My eyes popped at that point. We should maybe stop producing packs but focus on all bottles. But the cost to make the bottle mold…. I pray for the technology to advance and reduce the cost – but it’s a good goal that I should aim for.
Our best solution at this point is a compromise – to make the packs out of minimal nylon, and maximum recycled PET with sufficient resistance to tears and the environment. Although the landscape in which environmentally friendly supplies is changing, the pace in Japan’s soft packaging industry is slow. We do feel it is important for the long-term survival of the company though.
There is no choice but to balance costs and profits, although we should not be measured by numbers alone. When I think of recycling, environmental activities and social issues, I feel I’m trying hard every time. Is it necessary? Or correct? Or just some passing phase? If I make this choice, will the end user understand it, and support it even if you are wrong? A lot of courage is needed, and of course some money.
Recycling numbers, comparison with other countries, etc
The recycling system is super complex, and we can’t be ignorant by just reading the numbers as they in themselves are but one part of the image. It’s better to find ways to reduce and reuse where possible.
Although our new packaging will be using a recycled material, it doesn’t mean that the concerns for disposal fade. The priority to reduce, reuse and recycle where possible remains the same.
Below are various link to articles for your reference.*All article are in Japanese.
Nikkei Shimbun “Recycling rate increases year by year”
Japan’s recycling rate reached 86% in 2017
PET Bottle Recycling Promotion Council
Statistical data (2017): Europe 41.8%, US 20.9% versus Japan 84.8%
National Institute for Environmental Studies-Column-I want to know about recycling and garbage
Although it is an article in 2017, it is written about recycling in the world that is difficult to judge by numbers
NHK-Plastic Garbage World’s largest exporter USA Is now
One year since China stopped importing plastic waste. Japan is the second largest exporter of plastic waste. Will we sell mainstream in the future?