They’re made from non-renewable resources, they’re used only once but take centuries to break down, and all too often, they’re not recycled. There’s no shortage of reasons to ban the plastic bottle. But given their ubiquity, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. The good news is that plastic bottles, including their caps, are now a resource being incorporated into all manner of unexpected products. And businesses from startups to massive corporations are raking in real gold in exchange for these products made of reconfigured black gold, aka petroleum.
Colleen Kane is a New York-based freelance writer.
Flats and Other Footwear
Product: Rothy’s shoes
Bottles used: 17
The San Francisco footwear brand Rothy’s sells women’s seamless round-toe flats ($125) and pointed-toe flats ($145), made using recycled PET plastic yarn in a 3D knitting process. The soles are described as “carbon free” and the outsoles are recycled as well.
Likewise, this spring the UK makers of barefoot shoes Vivobarefoot introduced models for men and women made with a canvas of 50 percent PET bottles and 50 percent cotton: the Mata slip-on and the Joy oxford style (both $120), with each pair diverting 17 water bottles from the landfill.
Product: Hamilton Perkins Earth bags
Price: $95 and $295
Bottles used: about 16
Available as a pre-order through Indiegogo, the Hamilton Perkins Collection Earth Bags are convertible duffel-to-backpack vessels made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
Other pluses: They’re made in the U.S. and lined with repurposed vinyl billboards, so each lining is unique. Hamilton Perkins is a B Corporation that touts its commitment to supporting fair wages and sourcing materials in less developed nations.
Children's Play Set and Other Kid Stuff
Product: Green Toys Farm Playset
Bottles used: about 16
The products of California company Green Toys are made 100% from recycled milk jugs.
Between their wide range of toys and the brand’s Green Eats line of dining utensils, the company has recycled over 44 million jugs to date. Their products also come in sustainable packaging of recycled cardboard with soy ink and they are made in the U.S.
Soccer Uniforms and Other Clothes
Price: not sold to the public
Bottles used: approximately 16 per kit
Because of Nike, recycled plastic threads have performed for global audiences, including at the Olympics.
Nike makes the USA National Soccer Team polyester shirt and shorts pictured here using yarn made with recycled plastic from bottles. Through this and many other applications of the yarn brand-wide, from professional sports to consumer goods, Nike says it has saved more than 3 billion plastic bottles from the landfill.
Product: Pilot Bottle 2 Pens
Price: $2.49/1, $27.48/dozen (gels)
Bottles used: 1 bottle can yield 2-3 pens
Pilot’s Bottle 2 Pen line consists of gel roller pens made from 89% post-consumer recycled bottles, and ballpoint pens made from 83% recycled bottles. These are the only products in this list designed to purposely resemble what they’re made from: the pen barrels are clear and have ridges inspired by water bottles.
Toothbrushes and Other Grooming Products
Product: Preserve Toothbrush
Bottles used: varies
Preserve is a B Corporation that makes bath, kitchen, and tabletop products in the U.S. from recycled yogurt cups and other #5 plastics. But the company also collects plastic bottle caps at Whole Foods markets and schools, which are harder for households to effectively recycle, through their Gimme 5 program.
The caps are used to make Preserve’s toothbrushes and razors. When it’s time for a new toothbrush, used Preserve toothbrushes can be dropped in a Gimme 5 bin or mailed back in the pouch they arrived in to continue the recycling loop.