3 Big Questions About Method's New Ocean-Plastic Bottle

Method made a splash with its latest packaging innovation, a bottle of 100 percent recycled content with 25 percent coming from plastic trash found in the ocean.

Method founders Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan introduced the bottle Thursday in San Francisco (see my article for GreenBiz here), prompting Mayor Ed Lee to declare it Method Day in the city.

The company isn't aiming to clean up the North Pacific Gyre and the tons plastic trash awash in its currents. Its goal is to raise awareness of plastic pollution, Lowry says. Which is a great idea, as Treehugger's John Laumer notes.

I think so, too, but I'm also eagerly awaiting further developments with the bottle that will answer a few questions I have.

The main one being: While delivering an anti-pollution message, can the ocean plastic bottle also deliver a profit for Method?

Question 1: What's the ROI?

The company hopes to bring the ocean plastic bottle to market early next year. (See the prototype bottle on the far left in the photo at the top of the page.) It's looking to hook up with a major retailer for the project, and Method isn't naming names yet.

It will be interesting to see how Method, working with its plastic recycling partner Envision Plastics, brings this to scale. And how, or whether, it manages to do so in a way that's at least cost neutral when the revenue from whatever is sold in the bottle is tallied up.

For that matter, it would be interesting to know how Coke's PlantBottle, which was recently licensed to Heinz, and Pepsi's answer to the PlantBottle, pencil out as well. The makers and users of recycled plastic bottles often talk about sourcing, resulting reductions in a carbon footprint or the amount of used plastic extracted from the waste stream. In the case of Method's new bottle, each would take about 10 grams of plastic trash out of the sea.

Behind-the-scenes looks at how the math works are of particular concern to sustainability professionals who are constantly under the gun to make a business case for product-related, operations and other changes they advocate.

Lowry says Method can't talk about ROI yet, so that's point  No. 1 on which we'll stay tuned.

Question 2: What's the Supply Chain?

Where exactly is the ocean plastic coming from?

The issue came up during the Q&A session of Method's new conference on the bottle. When I asked for more details on the bottle's market launch, Lowry spoke of the intended launch early next year and added: "A lot depends on the right supply of plastic and to make sure that we get enough of it to make the bottles."