Changing the Way We Think About Plastics

Evian is setting the standard for a world without waste plastic.

However hot it is, however thirsty you are, however better it tastes, there is often a pang of guilt associated with grabbing a bottle of water from the cooler. The problem is polyethylene terephthalate – the thermoplastic polymer resin typically used to make plastic bottles.

It’s estimated that nearly 350 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year, and despite the efforts of manufacturers and consumers, barely any of this is ultimately recycled. Most is destined for landfill or joins the five trillion pieces of plastic polluting the world’s oceans. It’s a problem that has been discussed at every level, from the local store to the World Economic Forum at Davos.

This January, evian made an announcement that changes the conversation, turning talk into action with a commitment to make all of its plastic bottles from 100% recycled plastic by 2025.

“We want to keep the plastic in the system and out of nature,” asserts Patricia Oliva, evian global brand director. This is no small thing, even for a global brand that is on track to being carbon neutral by 2020. It involves a fundamental re-design of its packaging and processes to make its bottles from 100% recycled plastic.

That’s the key to the circular approach at the heart of evian’s thinking, a conscious shift from the traditional linear economy that relies on finite resources, to a circular economy that reuses or regenerates resources to deliver true sustainability. By making plastic bottles that can obviously and easily be recycled, evian gives them a value that makes them worth collecting, so more plastic stays in the system. The bottom line is that you don’t need to create more plastic, and that’s a huge win for the environment.

“The circular approach and making our bottles with 100% recycled plastics is now possible because of exciting new technologies,” explains Patricia. Evian is partnering with breakthrough tech companies such as Loop Industries, whose pioneering innovation was showcased at Davos. Loop Industries has developed a revolutionary way of commercially transforming all types of PET plastic waste into virgin-quality PET resin, delivering both the quality and quantity of recycled raw material evian needs to make all of its bottles from 100% recycled plastic. “This will completely change the way we use plastic,” declares Patricia.

Of course, for this to work evian needs a reliable supply of recycled plastic, so it is collaborating with governments and the waste processing industry to reinvigorate the collection of plastic. And, crucially, evian is sending out a strong message to the consumer that plastic bottles have evolved from a waste product to a valuable resource—so, recycle, recycle, recycle.

At Davos, Ellen MacArthur, Christiana Figueres from Mission2020, Stella McCartney and Patricia Oliva for evian joined forces in urging all industries to embrace the circular economy.

“To make this huge change in our system, we need other players to transform the way they are using and managing plastic,” emphasizes Patricia.

Evian has delivered a compelling message, throwing down the gauntlet for change—and it is likely to be picked up. “Everyone is concerned about today’s plastic systems,” states Patricia. “We need to change, and everybody wants to change. We are showing that there are solutions and that we really can make a difference.” Evian’s approach could completely transform the way we think about plastics: they have imagined a world without plastic bottle waste, and with it the prospect of a truly guilt-free healthy beverage.

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