Taking a Bite Out of Plastic Use with Preserve

Nature of Business radio, created and hosted by Chrissy Coughlin, is a weekly show on business and environment.

When it comes to plastic, to love it or to hate it is always the question. Indeed, there is a certain level of fear and loathing we have toward the stuff, when we hear, for example, about BPA leaching out of baby bottles into babies. But you have to admit, we kind of love -- and definitely rely upon -- the utility and convenience of the stuff whether in the form of a Ziploc bag, Nalgene bottle, credit card … you get the picture.

Plastic is everywhere. One way to push back on plastic use is to ban it, as Whole Foods did with its ban on single use plastic bags. Eric Hudson, Founder and President of Preserve had an entirely different idea. He decided to make household goods out of reused #5 plastic (polypropylene and one of the most benign out there).

Eric and I had a fun and highly informative conversation about what drove him to start his company, the evolution of Preserve's products, the importance of design in the products, the partnerships Preserve has forged, the Gimme 5 Program, as well as a great discussion about plastics themselves and why #5 has historically typically been left out of the recycling stream.

In 1996 Eric started Preserve (called Recycline at the time). In the spring of 1997 he launched his first product and best seller, the Preserve toothbrush. Preserve now boasts tableware, kitchen and food storage lines as well. Eric and his team strongly incorporate design into their products and understand the importance of when capturing recycled materials, you make them functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

In Eric's words, "I wanted to start a company that would that have less impact on the earth and make fantastic products that people use everyday. I found a space to try to accomplish this and a market opportunity in the sense that there was more and more recycling going on in the early 90s but there was also this big question of what my stuff turns into. I wanted to deliver on those actions that consumers were already doing but also help the industry by creating demand for the materials that were recycled out there."

I was glad that we had some time to talk plastics in general because they are so confusing. I always have wondered for instance why #5 plastic was not regularly recyclable. In fact, as I say on air, I basically thought something was wrong with it. That is was a naughty plastic so to speak. Not the case. The reason? #1 and #2 plastic are the cash cows for the recycling industry. Fiscally it doesn't make sense for them to accept #5. Pure and simple. Another factoid? Recyclables are normally sorted out by shape and size rather than by number.

Eric has built a team around him that will continue to inch them closer and closer as one of the leading manufacturers of household products out there. And they are educating us about plastics so we as consumers can make the right decisions and support companies who are moving the needle towards making our world a little better. One colander at a time.

George Papoulias edited this podcast.