Product Design

Out of the Fridge, into the Future

Today’s milk jug could become tomorrow’s laundry detergent container.

AUGUST 12, 2020 - Got milk? Probably. Got laundry detergent? Certainly. What’s the connection? The containers — they’re both made of the same plastic (high-density polyethylene or HDPE). Thanks to recycling technologies, reusing milk jugs to create laundry detergent containers is not only possible, it’s happening now.

It’s time to rethink plastic in its many forms, to move from single use to reuse. Even that simple milk jug in your refrigerator is a durable and valuable resource to be reused, not thrown away.

From dairy to detergent: Seventh Generation’s 100 oz. laundry detergent container is made with a combination of post-consumer recycled HDPE sourced from used items like milk jugs, supplied by Envision Plastics, and Braskem’s I’m green Polyethylene.

Braskem uses sugarcane, a renewable resource, to create its I’m green Polyethylene, which removes three metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere for every ton of it produced. Additionally, Seventh Generation uses bottles made of 100% post-consumer recycled plastic for 11 other dish liquids, hand washes, toilet bowl cleaners, fabric softeners and various home cleaners.

“Our work with Seventh Generation and Altium Packaging is an important example of the full value chain working together to address the plastic waste issue,” said Gustavo Lombardi, U.S. Renewables Leader at Braskem. “Specifically, in the packaging industry, collaborating and co-creating with the various different links in the chain is crucial for building a new generation of packaging designed for the circular economy. Working together, we developed an innovative packaging design that incorporates recycled plastics that otherwise would have been discarded, along with bio-plastics, leading to an end product that is more sustainable and has lower overall environmental impacts.”

Reusing plastic, reducing impacts: Cutting down on waste is just one of the environmental benefits of recycling and reusing plastics. According to Method, a cleaning and personal care products brand, using recycled plastic can result in a 70% lower carbon footprint than using virgin plastic. Method’s bottles range from 25% recycled plastic for its toilet cleaners bottle to 50% in its laundry detergent bottles to 100% in its hand wash, dish soap and spray cleaner bottles.

Reusing plastic from items like milk jugs to create detergent containers is an example of circularity in action. In this case, the principle idea behind circularity is that plastic used today is recycled to reuse tomorrow. It basically means reusing rather than discarding materials.

Take Action

Want to learn more about how you can participate in and promote a circular economy for plastics?

By recycling properly according to your community’s program, you can contribute to circularity and help reduce waste while creating valuable products. Check rooms beyond the kitchen, like the bathroom, laundry room and garage—all places you’re likely to come across a plastic container or two that can be recycled. Place empty recyclable plastic containers with caps or lids attached in your recycling bin. Be sure to check with your local recycler to learn which plastics can go in the recycling bin (or visit berecycled.org).

Continue to visit From Single Use to Reuse to learn more about how communities, companies and brands are recycling and using recycled plastics to make new products.

Glossary

Circularity:  Circularity is the ability to more efficiently use plastic (or any resource) by keeping material in use for as long as possible, getting the most we can from them during use, and then recovering them to make new products.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE):  High-density polyethylene, also known as HDPE, is a strong and durable plastic used to make common items like jugs and bottles for short-term storage. Its toughness makes it difficult to tear and helps it resist bursting. Recycled HDPE plastic is used to make many products such as toys, soda bottles, trash cans, traffic cones and plastic “lumber” for playgrounds, decks and outdoor furniture. To determine if a container is made from HDPE, look for a number 2 inside the three-arrow recycling symbol.

Post-Consumer-Recycled (PCR) Plastic:  This is plastic that has been made into a product, used and recycled, collected, cleaned, reprocessed and remade into something new. Products made from PCR plastic contribute to a circular economy as they close the loop and divert plastic products from landfills by instead allowing them to be recycled into feedstock to create something else.

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