Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News Spring 2014, Vol. 23, No. 1


by Saskia Van Gendt, Method Products, PBC, San Francisco*

Method Products, PBC makes environmentally-friendly soap. Since we sell our soap in plastic bottles, we take every measure to be conscientious about the plastic that we use.

Our packaging strategy is threefold: minimize packaging use wherever possible, maximize recycled content, and design for recyclability. Method was the first company in the cleaning category to use 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Because our brand is very design-driven, it was no easy feat to source the quality and clarity of PCR that we desired. The existing recycling infrastructure resulted in a lower quality plastic than we wanted to use, and we had to develop alternative pathways to collect high quality PCR. Method also designs its packaging to be compatible with curbside recycling streams. We make our bottles out of PET and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) because the overwhelming majority of curbside recycling programs collect these types of plastic. Our packaging approach aligns with our overall cradle-to-cradle philosophy ensuring that materials cycle safely in a closed loop.

Last year Method took its packaging stewardship to the next level by developing its ocean plastic bottle. Method employees collected plastic that had washed up on a remote beach in Hawaii from the North Pacific Gyre. We sorted out #2, #4, and #5 rigid plastics, and our partner Envision Plastics ground up and re-pelletized the plastics. Using this ocean plastic posed some interesting design challenges. Since the ocean plastic had been degraded by exposure to sun, waves, and light, we had to blend the ocean plastic with PCR to get the desired strength. The mixed resin was also a much muddier color than any of our other bottles. In the end, we like that the unusual gray bottle serves as a reminder that we should be using the plastic that we already have on the planet.

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