EARTH: ‘SELL WATER FOR WATER’

EARTH is known for its bottled water, coffee and tea. You might be wondering: “Bottled water? I thought Refill Ambassadors is promoting tap water.” Yes we do. But EARTH has an interesting story, which we’d like to share with you. By selling bottled water, tea and coffee, they have been able to donate over €1.5 million to various water projects. We interviewed co-founder Patrick de Nekker.

EARTH founders Patrick de Nekker (l) and Henk Witteveen (r)

INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK DE NEKKER, CO-FOUNDER EARTH

When and how did you start EARTH?

In 2007, together with Henk Witteveen I founded EARTH Water/ EARTH Concepts. The idea was (and still is) to ‘sell water for water’. 100% of our net profit is invested in sustainable water systems around the world. Later we added EARTH Coffee and EARTH Tea, in response to our customers’ demands. We also experiment with EARTH Cacao, depending on supplies.

Where do you source your products?

Our water is from a small water source named Anl’eau, located in the province of Drenthe (the Netherlands). EARTH Tea comes from Sri Lanka, EARTH Coffee is from Nicaragua, Guatamala and  Peru and our cocoa from Cameroon. On the latter we hardly make money as profits remain overseas.

Where are your products sold?

We are a B2B brand. Our products are sold in restaurants, hotels, at events and in the catering industry. Plus in some large chains like Starbucks and IKEA. Our water is also sold in China.

Your water is transported from the Netherlands to China?

Yes. You can debate whether that is good or bad. Quality of tap water in China is not always good, so there is a demand for our water. And we want to earn as much money as possible to donate to people who are in need of clean water.

Example of water project in Mali (Source: EARTH)

That is an interesting discussion indeed. We will not go into details now.

TAP WATER VS. BOTTLED WATER

Another question: tap water in the Netherlands is of really good quality. You sell bottled water. And you use plastic packaging. Can you explain why?

The way we look at it: preferably drink tap water. If that’s not possible then drink EARTH WATER. Our bottled water is useful in places that do not have tap water available, like outdoor festivals. And for people who do not trust tap water.

Plastic has many advantages and recycling possibilities. But it has received negative input because it has entered our food chain due to human behaviour. Our packaging is made out of 100% recycled PET, and we use Tetra Pak’s. We’ve been offering recycled PET bottles for 10 years, Coca-Cola just started. Many companies now donate 5 or 10 cents to charities, while we make a 100% donation of our profits (after deducting our fixed costs). As a result, people support our brand.


15 CENT DEPOSIT ON SMALL PLASTIC BOTTLES

Nice to hear people support your brand. However, many people support Coca-Cola too. Their revenues keep growing, also in bottled water. We want your opinion on something else. From 2021, a 15 cent deposit will be introduced on small plastics bottles in the Netherlands*. What do you think about this?

I’m a supporter of deposit systems. But I doubt deposit of 15 cents will make a difference. With €0,50 for sure, but will you stand in the queue at McDonalds to get a €0,15 refund for your bottle? In the end it’s about clients demands. I would also be in favour of heavier fines if you litter the streets. Comparable to using a mobile phone on a bicycle. Then people don’t do it anymore.

Interesting thinking. Hopefully the 15 cent deposit system will already be effective, but this we can only found out in the future. We’d like to ask you something else. Not all your ‘water products’ is packaged. You also offer water tap systems with filters. Can you tell us more about those?

Our tap systems filter and chill tap water. They have a luxurious appearance. Venues also donate to our water project ‘6 Mile’ when using our taps. It’s like a subscription model.

Our clients can decide for themselves how much they want to charge their customers for consumption. It raises interesting questions like “How much extra value does a filter provide?” Bottled water in general has a very low purchase price. And it’s being sold for a high price. For example in Dutch restaurants you sometimes pay 6 euros for a 1 L water bottle. I have some difficulty with this.

Yes we totally agree! 6 euros for 1 L water really is a lot!

FUTURE VISIONS ON BOTTLED DRINKS

We could talk for another hour but it’s time to wrap up. Is there something else you would like to share with our readers?

Yes! There are many debates about bottled water. But I think it is important to treat water similar to sodas. You don’t want to force people to buy a Coke because they can’t buy water in a plastic bottle.

And perhaps we should tackle issues on a different level. Like a ban on all packaged drinks. Then we may start to think in completely different business cases. For example fill your own cup with Red Bull via a machine.

That will be interesting. We’re sure you’ll be creative enough to continue with EARTH Concepts even in a world without packaging. Thank you for your honesty Patrick and good luck with EARTH.

*the 15 cent deposit on small plastics bottles is somewhat different for the catering industry, because they are not forced to return their bottles. One can say; go to the supermarket to get your 15 cent. And that is the bottleneck is this discussion.

CONNECT WITH EARTH

Our interview with Patrick was inspiring. Things are not always black and white. Doing good sometimes means making sacrifices. Without the sales of bottled water (and tea and coffee), Patrick and his team would not have been able to donate >1.5 million to projects that are so desperately needed.

Henk (l) and Patrick (r) announce EARTH Water surpassed the 1.5 million euros in donations, 2019. (Source: EARTH Concepts)

Do you have questions for Patrick and his team? Or do you want to share your vision on the EARTH concept? Leave your comment behind or get in touch with patrick@earthwater.nl

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CLEANUP CAMPAIGNS: HELPFUL OR HARMFUL?

Last week, it was World Cleanup Day.  In total, 39.324 people took part in the Netherlands, and hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. I also assembled a small team to clean the streets and parks in my neighbourhood in Amsterdam. Within a few hours, we collected 4 big bin bags. Many people praised us and it felt rewarding. However, five days later the streets were littered again. This made me wonder about the effectiveness of these cleanup events and organisations. Do they help or do they harm?

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PLASTIC LITTER?

The Amsterdam municipality claims if 25% of the Dutch would clean up 1 piece of litter per day, there would be no more litter. There is even a campaign “Elke dag eentje” (one piece every day). This sounds fantastic, but it’s not very realistic. Furthermore, one could argue who is responsible for doing so: civilians or the Fast Moving Consumer Good industry?

Cleanup Campaign “Elke dag eentje”

To dive into this topic I did not have do my own research. This month, Tamar Stelling (author at The Correspondent) highlighted several issues around the plastic industry. Since her article“Briljant bedacht: hoe de plasticindustrie het idee verkoopt dat de burger z’n ‘eigen’ plastic op moet ruimen” is in Dutch, we’ll give a brief summary here.

The article frequently quotes Rob Buurman, director of Recycling Network Benelux. In his opinion, the (Ddutch) government perpetuates the story of the plastics industry: that the problem with plastic is mainly that citizens leave it lying around. “As long as there is the idea that we should clean up our plastic waste” ourselves “, the government is not thinking about legislation to prevent plastic waste – and it should.”

WHAT ABOUT CLEAN UP ORGANISATIONS?

Rob Buurman feels clean-ups and other end of pipe initiatives legitimize the lack of action of politicians. For example The Ocean Cleanup wants to clean up 40 thousand tons of plastics from our oceans in five years. This may sound like a lot – and it’s better than any organisation has ever done – but it’s only 0.0008 percent of 5,000 million tons of ‘loose’ plastic. Buurman: “The more successful Boyan Slat is in the media, the less it matters what you realize in terms of government policy. Because you have made the problem private, you have placed it with individuals in society, instead of with the government. “

The Ocean Cleanup (Source: theoceancleanup.com)

COMPLETE BAN ON DISPOSABLE PLASTICS

So what kind of measurements could politicians take? Soft measures have not been very effective. For example in the Netherlands there is a mandatory price (e.g. €0,05) for plastic bags. Disposable paper bags have not been addressed. And many shops, bakers and greengrocers still sell everything in free disposable bags. Similarly, my cleanup day was not too effective in the end. Tomorrow, new litter will be on the streets.

The article advocates a complete ban or mandatory environmental tax on disposables (which is done in Ireland). It will be easier to enforce. The good news is that a 15 cent deposit system on small plastic bottles will be introduced next year in the Netherlands. Plus a production ban by the EU will apply for disposable plastics such as plastic cutlery, cotton buds, stirrers and straws. Last week our cleanup team found lots of these bastards, which made us wonder: why clean your ears on the streets?

Disposable plastics ending up in oceans (Source: EU)

PRODUCERS SHOULD TAKE THE LEAD

Governments are not the only ones to take action. The article suggests producers should take more responsibility, as they can make choices that consumers cannot make. Which products they market, how they design them and how they collect waste, whether or not in collaboration with other companies.

The article also sheds light on the NGO Alliance to End Plastic Waste. Plastic producers and waste processing companies such as Procter & Gamble, Shell, DSM, ExxonMobil or Pepsico aim to put in a billion euros, to be spent on clean-up campaigns, new recycling technology and better waste collection infrastructure. The founding companies behind this self-styled alliance to end plastic waste are among the world’s biggest investors in new plastic productions plants (source: Guardian). For example, ExxonMobil is building a new polyethylene production line in Texas that will soon produce 2.5 million tons of plastic – making it one of the largest plastic factories in the world. Shell is building a plant in Pennsylvania that will make 1.6 million tons of polyethylene per year.

HELPFUL OR HARMFUL? SHARE YOUR OPINION

After reading the full article I had mixed feelings. I still think cleanup campaigns, events and organisations are good, because some litter is collected (and every piece counts!). Cleanup campaigns increase awareness on the huge amount of packaging we use. And even if we were to prevent new plastics from littering, we still need to clean up the mess we already made. However, I also agree with the Tamar Stelling’s article. It would be better if governments and producers invest mainly in prevention. And enforce stricter bans on disposable plastics.

I’m really curious about your opinion. Do cleanup campaigns help or harm? Please post your comment below.

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15 CENT DEPOSIT ON SMALL PLASTIC DRINK BOTTLES

In these strange weeks, we have been rather silent. Luckily we can share some positive local news with you. The Netherlands will introduce a 15 cent deposit system on all plastic bottles < 1 litre! This measure will come into effect in July 2021. We’re already looking forward to it.  

WHY DO WE NEED 15 CENT DEPOSITS ON SMALL PLASTIC BOTTLES?

You may consider the Netherlands clean and wonder whether small plastic bottles are a serious problem. Yes they are. According to Rijksoverheid, 100 million small bottles (out of the 900 million sold annually in the Netherlands) still end up being dumped. Take a close look and you see them scattered everywhere. While >1 L plastic bottles have had a 25 cent deposit for ages, small bottles had none. Some people need an incentive to get rid of their trash in a responsible way. 

GREAT VICTORY FOR PLASTIC SOUP SURFER

Countries like Denmark has shown bottles and cans rarely end up in landfills, thanks in large part to the pant deposit system. Previous efforts to reduce littering of small plastic bottles in the Netherlands have not been effective. Several stakeholders fought for years trying to convince our government to expand the current deposit system. Among them are Plastic Soup Foundation and Plastic Soup Surfer Marijn Tinga, who even dared to crossed the Channel on his DIY plastic-bottle surfboard to raise awareness. Many thanks for your persistence! 

Plastic Soup Surfer Marijn Tinga – Image source: Plastic Soup Surfer

WHERE CAN i RETURN MY EMPTY BOTTLES?

Producers will be responsible for the new deposit system and bear the costs thereof. Around 12.000 sellers will collect the small bottles: in large supermarkets, caterers, at most train stations and at large petrol stations along the road. Hospitality and small businesses are yet excluded from the obligation to collect small bottles. Schools and sports associations can also voluntarily opt for a collection point. We hope many of them will join, to set the right example to our young generation. 

WILL CANS BE NEXT?

In case the number of cans dumped as litter is not reduced by between 70% and 90%, the Dutch government will also introduce a deposit on canned drinks in 2022. We will keep you up to date!

WHICH COUNTRIES HAVE A DEPOSIT SYSTEM?

We tried to look for a source that contains a complete overview of deposit schemes around the world, but we could not find it. Please leave your comment behind if you can help. If you want to read more about deposit systems, here are two suggestions: How have plastic deposit schemes worked around the world or Deposit return schemes solving plastic waste.

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COFFEE TO GO? BRING YOUR OWN CUP!

What a crazy time. A few weeks ago, we were working at the office, meeting our friends, going out and playing football. These days, most of us are (working) at home. Schools are closed. The streets are empty. Due to the coronavirus, all cafés, bars and restaurants in the Netherlands are closed, with the exception of take-away. And that’s what we want to talk about today: how to eliminate single-use plastics for take-away food and drinks. Coffee to go? Bring your own cup! Pita-falafel? Bring your beeswax wrap!

cofee to go restaurant

WHAT TO BRING?

Reusable cup/bottle for your coffee to go

The choice is endless! Personally, we’d like to keep a separate reusable bottle we call them your BBF) for water refills and a smaller reusable mug/cup for coffee to go. Not all cups/mugs/bottles are suitable for hot drinks, so check beforehand when buying one. Secondly, pay attention to the washing instructions, as some are not suitable for dishwashers. Last but not least, choose for something that lasts long and does not leak.

Food storage containers

Again, there are many good options here. Zero-waste sisters Jessie and Nicky always carry a mason jar with them. If you prefer something lightweight, you can choose for example recycled plastic (look for BPA-free). Steel is very long-lasting, but not suitable for microwaves. For sandwiches/pitas, you can bring reusable beeswax wraps. Eating in the park or on the train? Bring your own cutlery!

HOW TO ESCAPE PLASTIC BOXES/PAPER CUPS?

  1. Be prepared: bring your reusable items when going out for the food hunt. You can always stack a foldable reusable bag under your bicycle seat or as a key hanger.
  2. Feel proud: never be embarrassed about you bringing your own packaging. Feel proud instead!
  3. Be quick: when ordering, immediately ask the staff to pack it in your containers. Make sure to show it to them (people tend to have a bad short-term memory when hearing things, but this improves when seeing things). When ordering a cold drink, say no to the straw.
  4. Pay the right price: use a waterproof marker to write the weight & volume on your containers. So in case you buy food per kg, they can easily deduct the container weight from the total. Furthermore, look out for discounts. Some places offer €0,25 discount when you bring your own cup for instance.

DO YOU HAVE MORE TIPS?

We would love to hear more stories how you can avoid single-use plastics. Please share your experience below. For the coming weeks: good luck, keep your distance and stay healthy! And a big applause to the medical staff worldwide.

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6X PLASTIC FREE GUIDES

This month marks the 5th edition of the Plastic Diet Challenge in the Netherlands. Each week, we reveive tips and tricks how to avoid and reduce single-use plastics. Refilling your water bottle is one step, but there are many other products to tackle. Just look at your fridge or cosmetics. We love plastic-free tips & tricks. In today’s blog, we highlight a couple of interesting platforms and guides. 

1. TRAVEL WITHOUT PLASTIC

The Travel Without Plastic founder Jo Hendricx and her team created ‘Let’s Reduce Single-Use‘, a Toolkit to help hotels and accommodation providers reduce or eliminate single-use plastics and providing practical, affordable recommendations. Besides the toolkit, they offer a “Plastic Reduction Guide” (avaliable as free downloadable version, or €79,- for the complete guide), workshops and personalised support. Furthermore Travel Without Plastic has inspiring blogs and reports.

Travel Without Plastic

​ 2. HET ZERO WASTE PROJECT

Dutch Sisters Nicky and Jesse Kroon live a zero-waste lifestyle. Step by step they managed to eliminate their waste stream, using the 5R-principle: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. They wrote the practical book “Het Zero Waste Project” (in Dutch), opened their own sustainable lifestyle store called SMIR, maintain a blog, and keep an online overview of ‘bulk stores‘ in the Netherlands.

Het Zero Waste Project

3. SLO ACTIVE

This luxury swim wear brand recently updated their guide, titled Plastic Pollution: Single-Use Plastic Impact on our Oceans. It’s comprehensive, intensely detailing the facts and figures of plastic pollution, the impact on our oceans and marine life. The brand is inspired by the slow movement.

4. BETTER PLACES

Better Places is a sustainable travel agency. Practical tips and tricks how to avoid plastics, eat vegetarian and susainable hotels can be found on their website for each country in their portfolio (in Dutch).

Image: Better Places

5. MYPLASTICFREELIFE.COM

100 steps to a plastic-free life. Wow! This inspiring woman, Beth Terry, has been blogging for more than ten years and researching plastic-free alternatives (see her ongoing Plastic-Free Guide). She also enjoys reviewing alternative products from ethical companies. 

6. CUSTOM EARTH PROMOS

Blogger Erin Pearson writes about simple lifestyle changes. Those small impacts can start to add up and make a difference. “These changes can be as simple as swapping one product on your next trip to the supermarket, choosing a responsible eco-friendly company over an oil-guzzling conglomerate, or simply reusing that coffee cup.” On the website Custom Earth Promos you find tips and tricks and a wide range of eco-friendly (packaging) products.

What is your favourite plastic free source?

There are hundreds of cool plastic free tips & tricks guides and zero-waste guru’s. We picked these 5 platforms, because we like them (we don’t receive commissions!). Please note we did not try to make a complete overview. Do you have another favourite plastic-free guide or guru? Leave your comment below. 

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TAP WATER IN SEVILLE

Is it safe to drink tap water in Spain? Yes! At least 99.5% of all public tap water in Spain is safe to drink. According to a recent study, Seville has the best tap water of all big cities in Spain. Do people – locals and travellers – actually drink from the tap in Seville (in Spanish: agua de grifo)? And where can you refill? That’s what our Ambassadors Hella and Michal are trying to find out. Time for a quick update from Seville, Spain. 

DO PEOPLE DRINK TAP WATER IN SEVILLE?

So apparently tap water in Seville is the best in Spain. We don’t know if this is true, but we agree that Seville’s tap water is good compared to other places we visited. It has a slight chlorine taste, but one quickly get used to this.

Many people seem to drink tap water at home or in the hostel, but they buy bottled water in restaurants or when on the go. These insights were confirmed by employees from several venues. Still, some people choose not to drink the tap water, like Monica (tourist from Northern Ireland): “I feel bad about buying plastic bottles, but I really don’t like the taste of tap water here.” 

PLASTIC BOTTLES & REFILL PLACES IN SEVILLE

What do we see on the streets? Our observations:

  • Single-use plastic water bottles can be found on every corner: in the grocery store, kiosk, tourist shop and ho(s)tel. Even so claimed eco-friendly venues usually sell single-use plastic bottles. Read the next blog for some found some positive  exceptions.
  • Most restaurants and bars serve water in single-use plastic bottles, unless one specifically asks for tap water. Note: Andalusian cafés and bars are required by law to provide free drinking water to customers (as part of a regional government plan to improve the population’s health).
  • There is no deposit on plastic water bottles (only on >20 litre gallons).
  • Some venues (usually more luxurious) offer glass bottled water.
  • There are bars and restaurants with a tap water jug and glasses available for self-service. If not, you can ask for it. A few bars serve cold tap water.
  • Public drinking fountains can be found in many squares and public spaces, also in touristy areas. These fountains have signposts indicating it’s safe to drink. The public drinking fountains are sometimes hard to spot, and sometimes unsuitable for bottle refills.

PLASTIC BOTTLES FOR SALE ON EVERY CORNER

Many tourists buy single-use plastic water bottles out of convenience. You can find them on any street corner in town, for usually €1,- (for 0,5 L). Hostel staff and shop workers stated they sell a lot more water bottles in summer, when it gets really hot. In supermarket the water is cheaper, around €0,45 for 0,5L (cold water). Prices for large bottles can go down to €0,65,- for 5L (unchilled).

OPPORTUNITIES

Overall, we think Seville has decent tap water, so whenever you’re visiting this beautiful city, ask for agua de grifo! If you want cold water, you still have to buy plastic bottles in most bars, restaurants or kiosks. We see a gap for cold water refill stations, and an overview of all refill points. In addition, the taste of tap water can be improved by using filters. We are going to test a filter for our next blog, so stay tuned!

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REFLECTION ON A PLASTIC DIET

During the month September I was on a plastic diet. One month without using single-use plastics. Or at least trying to do so. The plastic diet was organised by Opgemärkt and consisted of four weekly assignments. How did it go? Read about my struggles and victories.

WEEK 1: INSIGHT

The first assignment was to collect all plastics you’re throwing away and share your picture. I felt somewhat embarrassed but I put my picture on facebook (see below, and this is excluding plastic waste to-go). Furthermore I set myself the 1st goal: to cook plastic-free meals. This was though. I had friends over for dinner and wanted to make lasagne. I walked in the supermarket and ran out. Spinach, lasagne, butter, cheese. Everything wrapped in plastics. No lasagne tonight, and no more shopping at Albert Heijn this month.

WEEK 2: MAKE AN INVENTORY

This week’s assignment focused on tracking different categories of single-use plastics. Plastic bags, cups, bottles, straws, shampoo flasks etc. I already banned straws, bags and bottles, but realised that was about it. Ready for the next step! I took my tupperware to the roti-restaurant and my mug to my favourite coffee bar. As a sympathetic gesture they gave me 5 cent discount. Do you know you get €0,25 discount at train stations when you bring your reusable mug?!

WEEK 3: REPLACE

The past two weeks I avoided to buy things wrapped in plastics, like dairy products or cosmetics. But my stash was running out and I didn’t want to live on fruits, veggies, rice and bread forever. I switched to glass bottles (with €0,40 deposit) for yoghurt and milk (at EkoPlaza) and went to a bunch of speciality stores (e.g. cheese, nuts) with my own bags and jars. What a treat! It tastes amazing. I must admit the glass bottles are heavy and visiting all these stores is pretty time consuming. Luckily, you can find an overview of bulk stores in the Netherlands here.

Furthermore I experimented with cosmetics. I washed my hair with a soap bar. It took forever to rinse, so I’m not sure what’s actually better for the environment. My home-made deodorant (coconut oil, lavender oil and baking soda) was okay but got too fluid above 25°C. Making my own body-scrub (sea salt, olive oil and honey) turned out to be more successful, my skin felt super smooth and smelled great.

WEEK 4: SOCIAL SITUATIONS

Besides bringing my own cup, bags and jars, I started friendly chats with the waiters or other staff about single use-plastics and alternatives. This led to some interesting conversations and new insights. Two restaurants said they would eliminate plastic straws ASAP. Hurray!

WHAT DID I LEARN?

I thought I was doing pretty okay in plastic reduction, but during this month I realised I’m not even halfway there. When the plastic diet was finished, I felt relieved. And a bit sad. On one hand I had cravings to everything wrapped in plastic, on the other hand I did not feel like buying any plastics anymore. I feel I’m not ready for a complete zero waste lifestyle, like Jessie and Nicky Kroon (hetzerowasteproject) or Elisah Pals (ZeroWasteNederland). But I managed to change some aspects of my daily routines and that’s something to be proud of.

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I AM ON A PLASTIC DIET

This week I was one of the speakers at the “Plastic Dieet Kickoff” (Plastic diet) in Rotterdam. A great opportunity to present Refill Ambassadors and to share tips on where to refill your bottle. I also got inspired myself. How much plastic packaging do I use? And what can I do to reduce this?

WE ARE ADDICTED TO SINGLE-USE PLASTICS

Plastic bags, coffee cups to go, plastic straws. Plastic packaging is everywhere. The idea of the plastic diet is to avoid single-use plastics as much as possible for one month. By doing so, we raise awareness and hopefully change our addiction to plastics.

Some pioneers show it is possible. Nienke Binnendijk from BlueCity has been living almost entirely “plastic-free” for about two years, while Jesse and Nicky Kroon from Het Zero Waste Project adopted a zero waste lifestyle.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

Time for some self-reflection… Some measures to avoid single-use plastics are already part of my daily routine. As refill ambassador I use my BBF (Best Bottle Forever) instead of buying plastic bottles. When shopping, I try to bring my own bags and jars. These are baby steps. The amount of plastic packaging still entering my house or used on the go is considerable. Some of the groceries I buy are pre-packed, magazines come in a plastic wrapper, and almost all caring and cleaning products come in plastics. Plastic is also inside some products I use on a daily base, like facial scrubs or toothpaste.

For the first time of my life, it’s time to go on a diet. This month I will try to avoid products involving single-use plastics. That’s going to be hard, but I’m really excited to join this challenge!

READY TO START YOUR PLASTIC-FREE MONTH?

It’s the first week of September and you can still sign up for the challenge. You will receive tips and exercises to reduce the amount of single-use plastics. All communication is in Dutch. Looking for another language? Find your free tips here:

Spanish: 30 Días Sin Plástico

English: Plastic Free July; MyZeroWaste

German: Stadtkind; Otto; Kein Plastik für die Tonne

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REFILL AMBASSADORS X WORLD CLEANUP DAY

World Cleanup Day is coming… In exactly one month, millions of volunteers will come together to clean up litter and waste from cities, beaches, rivers and  forests.

STARTING BOTTOM-UP

The idea for World Cleanup Day started ten years ago in Estonia, when thousands of people cleaned the entire country of illegally dumped waste within in a few hours. Other countries got inspired to start a similar ‘one country, one day’ formula. The movement has grown and nowadays unites people from all over the planet. Besides the cleaning of trash, awareness is raised on the problem.

World Cleanup Day Movement is a big network of local cleanup teams. Within the Netherlands, the movement is led by the Plastic Soup Foundation and Nudge.

WHY IS THIS AN IMPORTANT DAY?

No one likes trash such as plastic packaging scattered on the streets or in nature. This alone would be enough reason to clean, but let’s take a look at the bigger problem. In nature, water bottles can survive up to 450 years. When not disposed properly, large particles fragment into microplastics (<5mm), causing serious harm to marine environments. Currently 95% of plastic packaging worldwide is lost (burned or dumped) after single use. Plastics in the oceans are expected to treble in the next 10 years. So we’d better pick it from the land before it reaches our rivers and seas.

JOIN

Refill Ambassadors will take part in this initiative. Want to join our cleaning team in Amsterdam on September 15th? Send us a message. It will be fun!

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IN 450 YEARS FROM NOW…

We humans nowadays live up to around 80 – 90 years. This is peanuts for plastic bottles. They need around 450 years to decompose. 450 years? That means an empty bottle disposed today could still be alive until the year 2468.

PET FOR DUMMIES

Water bottles are made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is a thermoplastic polymer. PET belongs to the polyester family. Parts made from PET can be recognised by resin code number 1. The material can be found in different states: white (semi-crystalline), transparent (amorphous), or coloured (using additives). PET is very suitable for storing and conserving of beverages. Furthermore it is easy to process, widely available and cheap. It is possible to recycle PET, either by chemical or mechanical recycling.

So far, so good. What about the difficulties?

PET is a non-degradable polymer. It consists of relatively large molecules that decay very slowly. That’s why plastic bottles can survive up to 450 years. Presently, the majority of empty PET bottles is not recycled. One reason is that bottles are not properly disposed. For example, because consumers don’t properly seperate plastics from general waste. Secondly, the infrastructure for recycling is still limited. As a result most bottles end up in landfill or are being incinerated. Valuable material is wasted. Incineration also causes air pollution and contributes to acid rain.

YOUR DEED FOR THE DAY

Your mum may have told you not to pick up things from the street, but… Next time you see a roaming PET bottle, pick it up and dispose it in a proper place. So it won’t celebrate its 450th birthday in our nature. Believe me, it becomes quite entertaining and rewarding when you do so!

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