Apr—16

The Role of Recycled Materials in Plastic Products

This post is part of a series where our co-founder Steven Korner will be talking about a range of topics – from design, to what it’s like to engineer a product in the sustainability space.

The Role of Recycled Materials in Plastic Products

As a Method co-founder, I’m excited to share with you that in November 2018, Method began our first production run of bases made from 50% recycled polypropylene.

As a result, we can now confirm our bin bases will be at least 50% recycled content moving forward. This is a small but exciting step in the development of Methods products.

At its core, Method believes in facilitating the circular economy, capturing recyclable materials and diverting them from landfill. Incorporating recycled content has been an important focus for us since we began, but it’s taken a lot of research, trial and error and many technical difficulties.

We needed a source with consistent qualities, that is available in significant quantities to ensure it is a long term solution. Our first choice of recycled materials is a supplier with infant formula lids that have been chipped down to recycle into the bin bases we are making now. In addition to this, to ensure a constant supply, we have two back-up sources.

Image from i OS 21 These are the formula lids after being chipped down to become bins

We have received criticism over the past three years for using virgin recyclable polypropylene, but we believed in the process and journey that we were on. Seeing this come to life is truly exciting. Even more so, seeing the recycling infrastructure we are a part of capturing resources for the development of our own products.

These days, organisations are facing increasing pressure to incorporate sustainable business practices into their operations. However, with increasing demand for products made from recycled plastic, comes a lot of confusion, technical jargon and unfortunately, false-claims.

I see products with loose statements of using post-consumer recycled content, but being from the industry you know it’s not possible for the product that they are making. It can be frustrating when conversations about hot-button topics such as recycled content aren’t fair and balanced, when you know there are hard-working organisations out there working towards long term solutions.

Recycled materials are highly varied by nature. Contamination, recycling and production processes can impact the ways the recycled materials can be used. This often results in downcycling, a common practice that sees materials used in products of a lower quality after they are recycled.

For products such as the Method bins, this makes it increasingly difficult to introduce recycled materials, as they are made from long and thin plastic through injection moulding. Incorporating recycled content is important to us, however, we had to be sure it wasn’t going to reduce the strength, durability and life-span of the bins that Method prides itself on.

Further, we needed to ensure that at the end of their life the bins are still fully recyclable and the materials are able to be used at the same level, otherwise, the process is ineffective. In a previous post, I discussed this after I’d attended the first NZ Circular Economy Summit, it’s about products that don’t do less bad, but products that do good.

We believe this is about the entire life-cycle of the product, not just introducing recycled content because it looks good from a brand perspective. As with our product design, these decisions need to be made with a considered and balanced approach.

We have so many more exciting plans for this body of work. We’re constantly working on it with our in house research and development team and sustainability team. As well as continuing to build great relationships with manufacturers and experts who support our mission, and will work with us to achieve greater things.

Reaching 50% is a major milestone for us, but it is only the start of our journey.



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Steven Co-founder Steven Korner
Profile: Steven Korner


Steven Korner graduated from the University of Canterbury with first class honours in Mechanical Engineering.

After leading the neonatal care product design team at Fisher and Paykel, and inspired by buying Total Bins, he and his wife India decided to create their own company and their own product.

Steven took an analytical approach with Method – spending weeks researching, prototyping, and gaining customer insights to decipher what could really make a difference in the waste market.

As co-founder and CEO, he has spearheaded Method’s innovative product research, development and design, and is the creator of Method’s award-winning 60L Office Recycling Bin.

Are you ready to start your journey with Method?