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Method Recycled Materials Story – Why Plastic?

Since 2019, Method has utilised over 26 tonnes of recycled materials in production!

As the ‘war against plastic’ wages on, we often get questioned about manufacturing our bins out of Polypropylene (PP). Trust us when we say the material selection wasn’t taken lightly. In the design process we considered all material and production techniques from stainless steel to bioplastics – we couldn’t find a material that matched PP on strength, durability, recyclability, and of course it's beautiful matte finish.

The ‘war on plastic’ is understandable, as it’s undeniable that there is a major plastic problem. Though, we believe it’s about using plastic in a considered, circular and responsible way, moving away from single-use packaging and products.

What is Polypropylene?

PP is the number 5 plastic that is strong, durable, and resistant to fatigue and heat. As one of the few plastics that is structurally stable, it doesn’t have off-gassing or toxicity that others do, which means it has a wide range of applications in the medical industry, as well as food packagings such as ice cream containers, medicine containers, and bottle lids. This is why the market value for PP continues to grow, and increasing numbers of recyclers are collecting it.

When treated correctly, PP is fully recyclable, as we’ve seen with our own bins. Any broken parts, end-of-life stock, or production errors are simply chipped down and re-fed into the next production run. This is why we use pure PP in our manufacturing process. By not incorporating other kinds of plastic or adding excessive overlays, we ensure the bins remain fully recyclable.

Our Recycled Materials Journey

It wasn’t easy finding a source of quality recycled PP in New Zealand in the quantities that we need, especially with the complicated process of injection moulding. However, with the help of our manufacturing partners and some passionate recycling processors, we were able to introduce 50% recycled materials into our 60L bins.

With all we learnt on this journey we were able to make 100% of the black components of the Method Twenty out of recycled materials, a note on the coloured parts below. We also maximised the use of black compared to coloured materials to increase the amount of recyclate we were able to use. When the machinery we use to manufacture the Method Sixty needs to be replaced we now have the knowledge and resources to hopefully get the black components to 100%.

The recycled materials we currently use are all sourced locally to our manufacturers, including the curbside collections in Whanganui, Christchurch, and some from our friends at Aotearoa NZ Made. These materials depend on the market but often include:

  • 1 Litre yogurt containers
  • 2 Litre ice cream containers
  • Car bumpers
  • Buckets
  • Car wheel covers

Where we have the most trouble is with the coloured components of our bins. Our team is constantly searching for a source of recycled materials on-shore in New Zealand or Australia for our lids. For the material to be usable we’d need a clear or natural source of PP. We are looking into a private collection scheme to validate the materials on the market so that we can look into how we can collect the materials at scale regularly. Know someone that might have a source? Send us a message!

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Our Priorities When Selecting a Material

Durability & Performance

A notable reason we selected PP is its strength and durability. Any product needs to be designed to withstand reasonable use, and a bin sees a lot of action in a workplace. Bins made out of a flexible or lesser quality material are going to need to be replaced more frequently.

We injection mould our bins meaning we’re able to achieve a relatively thin bin base, while still withstanding years of use and the weight of at least 20 KGs of waste on any given day. We’re so confident in the design of our bins they come with a 3-year warranty.

Maintain Recyclability

Many organisations are doing great work using recycled materials that use a mixture of plastic types, but we wanted to ensure that our products are still fully recyclable at the end of their life, which most often isn’t possible with mixed sources. Comparatively, we’re currently producing our 60L and 20L bins from pure polypropylene #5 plastic.

We won’t rule out a material change at some point if we’re able to find a more sustainable solution that meets all of the criteria.

Take Responsibility for our Materials

Product stewardship has always been a part of Method’s values set. Steven and India created Method with a design lens and the belief that the best way to address waste is to ensure there is an appropriate end-of-life solution when you design a product.

With a durable material, we are able to extend the life of the products meaning that our product stewardship scheme focuses on reuse before recycling. If bins are returned to us in a usable condition for any reason, we refurbish them and donate them to schools, kindergartens, or other charities so the materials can see their full useful life through.

If they’re beyond repair, we will then send them to our partners for recycling. Learn more about Method's Product Stewardship here.

We take design and sustainability seriously, and each step is considered carefully to ensure longevity and circularity.

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