In the name of sustainability, some eco-conscious brands have taken steps to turn discarded plastic bottles into everything from shoes to speakers. But rarely do you hear about textiles and plastic scraps being turned back into bottles. But that’s exactly what Loop Industries is doing — and they’re partnering up with well-known brands like Pepsi, Evian, L’Occitane, and others to make it happen.
We rely on plastics on a near constant basis. Whether they’re created using reaction injection molding (wherein two liquid components are mixed and are injected into a mold to cure) or processes like machining, thermoforming, or countless others, the end-products are ones we use daily. But we also throw them out just as quickly — and because it takes decades for plastics to break down in landfills and they often end up in oceans, we’re in the midst of a crisis when it comes to plastic consumption.
However, Canadian-based Loop Industries thinks they have a solution. Rather than burning plastic waste or recycling it through conventional methods (which actually releases more greenhouse gases into the air), Loop combines existing plastic scraps with polyester fibers, like t-shirts and even carpeting, to create new plastic products. The way Loop accomplishes this is quite complex — they use a process called depolymerisation, which breaks down plastic waste with no heat or pressure into its chemical compounds, before removing impurities and creating food-grade PET. But in essence, they’re upcycling instead of recycling, taking plastics that have no value and turning them into other plastics with a lot of it.
Their tactics are gaining a lot of traction, particularly among well-known brands. Although there are 28 million small businesses throughout the U.S., Loop regularly works with bigger corporations like Evian and Pepsi to create bottles with 100% recycled content. While Evian was one of the first brands to work with Loop, PepsiCo recently signed on with Loop to promote sustainable plastic for their products. Despite the fact that U.S. organic food sales amounted to $45.21 billion in 2017, it’s clear that even brands that aren’t necessarily associated with healthy or natural products are still pursuing ways to be more eco-friendly in their practices.
Loop’s reach isn’t limited to the food and beverage industry, either. They announced a partnership with L’Occitane Group in February to create recycled plastic for their cosmetic and personal care products — part of the brand’s mission to become fully sustainable by 2025. Before this agreement was reached, a mere 30% of the brand’s products were made with recycled plastic, possibly because the brand was limited in color selection from their previous provider. Now, they’ve signed a multi-year agreement with Loop (which includes terms that require the brand to incorporate Loop’s logo on all of the products) in an effort to keep up with competitors who have also made sustainability a main goal.
While employing the use of recycled plastics may not be enough to reverse the effects of climate change, it’s encouraging that bigger corporations are feeling the pressure to embrace sustainability in some way. The question is, however, whether the bottles and other plastic products that Loop creates will continue to be recycled in an eco-conscious way. If not, we’ll still be facing problems related to plastic waste for the foreseeable future (as long as it lasts).
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