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February 25, 2022

You may have spotted them. An increasing amount of products made from recycled plastic. Plant pots, running shorts, sunglasses, garden furniture, yoga mats, phone cases, parasol bases, shampoo bottles – you name it, they’re making it. Using recycled plastic means less raw materials are needed, reuses something that would otherwise go to waste, and reduces the carbon footprint of a product with up to 75%. Sounds like a win-win-win. So why aren’t we making Dopper bottles from recycled plastic?

European Food Safety Authority

The short answer: because recycling isn’t simple. For starters, there are rules. Dopper bottles are designed for you to drink (tap water!) from, which means they have to follow regulations set by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Currently, those regulations make it impossible to create recycled hard, reusable plastic like we would need for Dopper bottles. 

“100% recycled polypropylene (PP) with an EFSA food approval does not exist in the European market in big quantities”, confirmed Lars van Zutphen when we gave him a call. Lars is responsible for business development at Morssinkhof, one of Europe’s largest plastic recycling specialist. What better person to talk you through the details, right? 

“Per the rules, recyclers have to first purify the material by submerging it in a chemical cocktail for what we call a defined residence time. Then we have to wash and decontaminate it so we’re able to show that the levels of concentration of these chemicals are reduced to an acceptable level as set by EFSA. And that’s only the first part.”

Plastic waste collection

The second part is that to be allowed to make food-safe recycled PP, recyclers have to demonstrate that 99% of the input stream was food packaging before it was discarded. Which is something they can’t do at Morssinkhof, because the Netherlands doesn’t have a separate collection system for PP food packaging.

Just think about the plastic you collect at home in your recycling bags or bins. There’s food packaging, yes. But also things like washing up liquid bottles, plastic bags and the cellophane they wrap around your flowers.

Deposit return system

That last bit is the reason why you do see PET soft drink and single-use water bottles made from 100% recycled plastic. “You can make food-safe granulate from PET bottles, and then turn them into new PET bottles, because there’s a deposit return system that allows us to collect them in a safe, separate stream without contamination. So you can guarantee that the input stream consists of food packaging. For PP, there’s no such system in place yet.”

Bottle to bottle recycling

So, we can’t use general plastic waste to create new Dopper bottles. But how about taking old Dopper bottles and recycling them into new ones? Technically, that’s possible. Dopper bottles are designed for recycling, meaning we thought about its end of life when creating it. 

“You can easily separate the cup from the bottle and the cap, so you get separate material streams fit for mechanical recycling”, Lars agrees. “But we work with equipment made to process huge volumes of plastic waste. Our machines grind it, dust it, wash it, dry it. We’re set up to do that at a large scale, so we’d have to get a lot of discarded Dopper bottles to make it worth running the machines and scheduling staff.”

Choosing sustainable materials

Since Dopper bottles are designed to help you fight single-use plastic pollution for years and years, there isn’t a large stream of discarded bottles for the recycling system to turn into new ones. So, while Dopper-to-Dopper recycling isn’t possible, our product development team has sourced the most sustainable materials we cán use, based on a full life cycle analysis.

That means we take into account the full environmental footprint of a material – from the energy required to mine it, to the recyclability at end of life and everything in between. For example, producing a 200-gram stainless steel bottle requires more fossil fuel and resources and emits more greenhouse gases into to atmosphere than producing a 100-gram reusable plastic bottle. On the other hand, at end of life steel is more easily recycled without loss of quality.

Recycling your Dopper bottle

The result are the Dopper Original, Steel, Glass and Insulated collections. Reusable bottles made of polypropylene, borosilicate glass, stainless steel - and a minimal amount of ABS and Tritan for the cup and some caps. All collection are part of the Cradle to Cradle Products Program, the global standard for products that are safe, circular and responsibly made.

When your Dopper bottle does reach the end of its life, you can currently recycle it by handing them in to your local recycling station. Or, if you’re in the Netherlands, find your nearest WAAR store and drop it off there.

While we can’t turn them into new Dopper bottles yet, together with Morssinkhof we’re exploring the option to turn the individual parts into plastic granulate, which combined with granulate from other plastic waste, can get a new life as a parasol base, plant pot, or something else.

Single-use water bottles? Not on our watch.

Join the Wave against single-use water bottles.