RETULP: REFILL TO FULFILL

Dopper, Klean Kanteen, Retulp, Mizu, Camelbak. All these brands have designed their own bottle, but share the same goal: to reduce single-use plastics around the world. You might have read my blog about my BFF, my Best Bottle Forever. A bottle you always carry with you and want to keep refilling. I was curious to learn more about the motivation from the people behind a bottle brand. What is their mission? Who are their heroes? Time for a chat with Richard Gabriël, founder of Retulp.

THE PACKAGING DILEMMA

We meet at the train station lounge in the Hague. When ordering a tea, we both feel some frustration and sadness, as sugar, honey and the little cookies are wrapped in plastic. “If I were to open a restaurant I would use beautiful sugar bowls and big honey pots”, Richard comments. I already like his thinking! But what about the packaging Retulp uses?

Retulp bottles are being sold in a box made from recycled cardboard, with a small leaflet inside. Richard tells me he’d prefer to sell his bottles without any packaging material, yet most retailers do require this. Even EkoPlaza, an organic supermarket chain. They reason that consumers are less inclined to buy the bottles with a few fingerprints on it. A nice exception is Dille & Kamille (a home, garden and kitchen utensils store), who prefers to sell Retulp bottles without packaging. Interesting, I always thought the brands were to blame, but it turns out to be a lot more complicated.

ABOUT RETULP

Retulp was established in 2014 in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. Back in the days, Richard was inspired by Plastic Soup Surfer Merijn Tinga. Local and global awareness on the plastic soup issue has increased enormously in the past three years. Retulp’s slogan is ‘Refill to fulfill’. Beside the stainless steel water bottles, they sell their tea/coffee thermos mug (see image below) and a biobased bottle (made from sugar cane). Richard feels the current incentives to refill hot drinks are too limited. “Starbucks give you €0,05 discount, while most staff perceives it as a hazard.” Retulp also considers to add lunch & dinner boxes in the future “so you can refill everything. Water, tea, your Thai takeaway meal”. Not surprisingly, Richard perceives ‘zero-waste sisters’ Jessie and Nicky Kroon as true heroes.

RECYCLING VERSUS REUSING 

I was wondering what Richard thinks about overconsumption. In his opinion, there is too much focus on recycling. Most of all we need to start buying less products. Secondly, try to buy sustainable products. I agree with this. In practice, recycling often means downcycling. The recycled raw material no longer has the purity of the original raw material. Although recycling is important, reusing and reducing is more effective.

We also talk about the perception of product value related to price. Nowadays, you can buy a reusable bottle for a few euros (e.g. made from Polypropyleen, plastic no. 5). This lowers the threshold for people to buy one. But we both feel ‘too cheap’ could have a high price. Do you look after your cheap bottle? If you lose it, you just buy a new one. We see the same thing happening in the fashion industry. People are more careful with a €100,- shirt than one that only costs €13,-.

MISSION INDISPOSABLE 2020

Back to Retulp. For 2020, Retulp aims to avoid 20 million disposable plastic bottles and to donate 20 million liters of drinking water to people in developing countries. They do this through Mission Indisposable 2020. For every bottle sold, 1.000 litres of clean drinking water will be donated. I’ll try to give you an update next year on the progress.

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Two hours fled by and we had to end our interesting conversation. Thanks a lot Richard, for sharing your thoughts with me. Keep up the Dutch Design spirit! To read more about Richard Gabriël, Retulp and Mission Indisposible or to get your own Retulp bottle (also available printed or engraved for companies) visit the Retulp website.

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YOUR BBF: BEST BOTTLE FOREVER

Have you already found your BBF? No, we are not talking about your Best Friend Forever. We are talking about your Best Bottle Forever, or in short BBF. In this blog we explain you all the essentials on reusable bottles.

WHY DO I NEED A BBF?

First of all, we think it is much nicer to drink from a well-designed bottle than a shitty PET bottle. Some reusable bottles can keep the water hot or cool for hours. It also saves you money. Refilling is often free or at least a lot cheaper than buying new single-use plastic water bottles. Last but not least, it’s better for the planet.

WHAT IS THE FOOTPRINT OF A REUSABLE BOTTLE?

Many people ask themselves the question: What is better for the environment, to drink from a mug or use disposable cups? According to Plasticdieet, after 16 uses your mug becomes more sustainable (including washing your mug in between). The same principle works with water bottles.

Less resource are needed to produce a single PET bottle (read our other blog for more background information), but a reusable bottle lasts many years. The footprint of your BBF is not easy to determine, as it depends on the material, production, usage and finally disposal. A life-cycle analysis conducted by Simon Lockrey resulted in favour for durable plastic bottles over steel and aluminium. This was mainly due to the high energy use needed to produce steel aand alumimium.

Compared to single-use plastics, glass, bamboo, stainless steel and aluminium bottles are all seen as sustainable alternatives. When dividing over its lifetime, the associated greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and solid waste are minimised.

WHERE DO I REFILL MY BOTTLE?

Here our work as refill ambassador starts!

  • Your BBF is like a friend you always carry with you. Make it a habit to always fill her up before you go out.
  • Sitting in a café, bar or restaurant? Put up a friendly smile and ask the waiter whether you may refill your bottle. Do not feel embarrased about this, it’s a really normal thing to ask! Sometimes there is a tap or large jar available for customers (usually on the counter), and if not the staff can fill it for you behind the bar within 5 seconds.
  • Locate the nearest refill point with the help of a refill app. True, there are many apps and you need to know which one shows refill stations in your area. We try to bring these projects together, so in the future you don’t need to download ten different apps for each region.

HOW DO I CLEAN MY BOTTLE?

Like with a BFF, you need to pay love and attention to your Best Bottle Forever. Most bottle companies, like Dopper and Klean Kanteen provide cleaning instructions online. We recommend you to check these out for your brand. To make things easy, we listed some important cleaning tips:

  • You don’t need to wash your BBF after every single use, but make sure to wash it regularly. Use warm (but not boiling) water.
  • Avoid chemical dishwashing liquids, as your water can taste like it. Instead, soak your bottle in (baking) soda and (table) vinegar to remove funny smells and tastes.
  • Dry your bottle well after washing.
  • Water bottles are designed to drink water! Use a different bottle to drink soda, fruit juice or alcoholics.

 FIND YOUR BBF

Nowadays there are so many beautiful designs, it can be difficult to choose. Durable plastic bottles are lightweight, steel bottles can keep your water hot or cold, glass bottles are stylish. Think about the main purpose. Will you be using it while commuting to work, or on hiking trails? Also take into account the size of the bottle and its volume.

Once you have found your BBF, it can keep your company for years and will not let you down. So in the end, your bottle also becomes your Best Friend Forever.

Good luck and enjoy your BBF!

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