"We think our fully compostable bottle, cap, and labels are the right answer to helping alleviate some of the environmental damages that take place now."
For the first time, Totally Green Bottles & Caps has created the world’s first 100 per cent compostable water bottle, cap, and label. As many of us are aware, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic takes between 450 – 1000 years to decompose. However, Totally Green’s bottles compost within 85 days or less. Since they are made from plant-based materials, they pose absolutely no harm or toxicity to the earth. They may also be safely incinerated as clean-burning fuel. Bio-Based World News wanted to find out more by speaking to the company’s President and Founder William Horner at an important time in the business’ development because “Green Bottle Spring Water” samples will be available early 2017! It all started in 2003 when William started Naturally Iowa, an organic dairy processing plant where the first PLA-plastic bottles for dairy products were pioneered. To better target the growing market for plant-based bottles, Totally Green Bottles and Caps, was created in 2012. Our reporter Emily O’Dowd discovers how the business began and some of the trials and tribulations that were encountered along the way.
Emily O’Dowd (EOD): How did the business begin?
William Horner (WH): Naturally Iowa started as the producer of the world's first compostable milk bottle that was formed by using various technologies to turn greenhouse gases into a portfolio of polylactic acid (PLA) performance materials from corn. I was surprised to learn that such an natural product like organic milk was marketed in oil-based milk bottles. However, one hour away from the plant was a biopolymers supplier and innovator which made it possible to work with natural corn derivatives to create a compostable bottle. Whilst the business began with just milk bottles, we extended this to yoghurts and water.
After five years of research and development, we have now delivered a compostable bottle with a fully complimented cap and label. Whilst this has been an expensive process with a lot of hard work we are very happy with the final product and hope that it will change the way consumers think about plastic bottles. After joining with a talented group of engineers at Urthpact in Massachusetts, our new bottles and caps and labels will be available very soon!
EOD: How are you going to launch the bottles?
WH: We are going to start off promoting the product through ‘closed loop’ facilities. This means that the collection of empty bottles will occur on site, and be taken to the nearest industrial composter to be used in various agriculture and horticulture contexts, including landscaping, crops, gardening, erosion control, potting soil, and much more. There may also be sites where the “empties” will be burned since these plant bottles emit zero toxicity to the environment. There is clearly a national initiative to prevent organic waste from ending up in the landfills, so our bottles will be added to the carrier taking product to industrial compost sites.
EOD: What has led you to this role?
WH: In the early part of my career I was an educator and I worked to develop educational material that main stream publishers had overlooked. In 1966, I founded Experience Education, a non-profit educational company that remains active today. I have always enjoyed working where I can help and inform people. Putting compostable bottles in the hands of people who care about the environment is very fulfilling.
EOD: What do you enjoy most about your role?
WH: I love working towards a goal that might seem difficult to reach but with persistence, progress can be made.
EOD: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the industry?
WH: The most difficult thing I have had to contend with is that like myself, many people do not realise that the bottles holding the water they drink will most likely end up in landfills or in the street, or a waterway. Totally Green Bottles and Caps has set its course to change that lack of awareness, and offer positive solutions for the bottle, cap, and label.
EOD: What advice would you give for someone starting work in the sustainable/bio-based industry?
WH: My advice would be to not give up when it appears that your efforts will not make a difference, because we are on the right side of history. Technology is advancing all the time which makes starting new companies in the industry more accessible than it was even ten years ago. So my real advice is that there is no reason to wait!
EOD: Where would you like to the industry in 5 years’ time?
WH: Well billions of plastic bottles are continuing to fill up landfill sites unnecessarily. Several large cities have already passed restrictions to decrease waste in landfills, and plastic bottles as they now stand, are going to have to change. We think our fully compostable bottle, cap, and labels are the right answer to helping alleviate some of the environmental damages that take place now.
EOD: Do you feel threatened by the competition that will inevitably develop?
WH: We welcome competition. That just means that our product will get more exposure because consumers will get more information about the advantages of compostable packaging.
EOD: What single change would help develop the bio-based/sustainable industry further?
WH: As we all know, the consumer drives the market and therefore demand. It is helping that more young people are getting vocal about the issues facing our environment. Once the connection is made that it is petroleum content in packaging that starts the string of damage to the environment, the change will come more quickly. It is a case of educating the consumer.
EOD: What is your favourite bio-based/sustainable product aside from your own product range?
WH: Any product that can successfully make the transition from oil to plants works for me.
EOD: Thanks for your time today, good luck with the product launch and we hope lots of people are inspired by your innovation.
Bio-Based World News will bring this 5 minute feature to our readers every week. This will able to put a face to the brand and provide established businesses and new start-ups the crucial advise they need in this industry. If you would like to be interviewed about your own bio-based/sustainable business then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week's 5 minutes with... 5 minutes with... Wayne Lee, Founder and CEO of Lee Enterprises Consulting.