Seventh Generation Boosts Recycled Content in Bottles

Seventh Generation Boosts Recycled Content in Bottles

Seventh Generation has increased the recycled content in two of its products' bottles to about as high as they can go.

Just a few months ago the company's dish liquid and fabric softener bottles were made with 90 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) content, and now they've moved up to 96 percent PCR content.

The bottles, produced by Consolidated Container Company, are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE, a commonly-recycled plastic identified by resin code #2) taken from milk bottles and other recycled plastic.

To get to the current high of 96 percent PCR, Seventh Generation removed the bottles' calcium carbonate filler, which accounted for 6 percent of the material in the bottles, said Peter Swaine, the company's director of global strategic sourcing.

Swaine said that studies have come out saying that calcium carbonate improves the strength of bottles, while other studies says it doesn't do much. Seventh Generation tested it out for itself by removing the filler from bottles and putting them through the typical tests its packaging goes through. The bottles passed, sans filler.

Seventh Generation has integrated recycled content into the bulk of the rest of its packaging, with its concentrated laundry detergent in 80 percent PCR and bleach in 90 percent PCR.

In 2009, the company had 75 percent PCR in two of its 11 bottles — it didn't identify which products, though — with 25 percent PCR in the rest of its packaging, according to its Crossroads report.

In that report it also explained why it wasn't aiming for 100 percent PCR. Since all of its bottles also include colorants and filler materials, it's not possible to have complete PCR content in bottles, although they could use 100 percent PCR plastic.

Home cleaning competitor Method, meanwhile, has 50 percent PCR in the HDPE bottle for its 8x concentrated laundry detergent and 100 percent PCR in various other products' PET (the other most-commonly recycled plastic, #1) bottles. And Procter & Gamble has a long-term goal to have all of its packaging be made of either 100 percent recycled or renewable materials.

[Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional information from Seventh Generation on how they moved to 96 percent PCR.]