Its products are aimed at companies that want to reduce their dependence on plastic water bottles. For example, sports clubs and construction companies that supply disposable plastic water bottles on site for their staff.
To make it more relatable, think of seminars, hotels, or car dealerships that provide guests with the same plastic water bottles. Watertree’s goal is to essentially replace them with its recyclable water cartons as a practical approach to reducing a company’s carbon footprint and plastic waste.
The quick fix
To get an idea of the scope of this problem, Watertree co-founder and CEO Paul shared that the consumption of disposable plastic bottles in Malaysia is estimated at between 11 and 12 million ‘bottles a month.
And understanding the impact of plastic on ecosystems is not a rocket science. Plastic leaching from landfills into our rivers, which feed into our oceans, where marine life absorbs microplastics, which humans consume indirectly.
“Most NGOs are trying to deal with the consequences of plastic pollution, we are trying to stop it at the source,” Paul told Vulcan Post. The quickest approach to doing this is to help large companies that use plastic water bottles move to a more sustainable option. This includes the provision of collection and recycling services, but more on that later.
Since its launch in 2019, Watertree has convinced several companies to make the change, which Paul finds encouraging. Some names include redONE, Allianz, Teknicast and the Royal Malaysia Police Football Club (PDRM FC).
“All of them have a senior management that recognizes their role as agents of change. It is a very positive indicator for our collective future, where companies take on the burden of solving problems, governments do not wait, ”shared Paul.
Do cartons still not contain plastics?
Paul claimed that Watertree cardboard boxes are made of 75% paper, which degrades naturally even if they are buried. So as not to damage our forests, Tetrapak, the manufacturer of the product, comes from the paper of fast-growing trees that were planted specifically for paper production.
The plastic cap of the sheath is also made of sugar cane, which it generates less carbon emissions during production. However, there are still thin layers of plastic and aluminum foil inside the box to contain water and protect the paper from soaking.
“Our solution isn’t perfect, but it’s the best option we’ve seen so far,” Paul admitted. “Its manufacture has a much smaller carbon footprint than plastic, glass or metal. And even in a landfill, paper boxes are still 75% better than pure plastic solutions.
To encourage companies to dispose of paperboard responsibly, Watertree and Tetrapak have created a closed-loop delivery, collection and recycling service.
Here’s how it works: Companies will collect the emptied Watertree Pods from customers who have drunk water on site. The company’s staff will then order the cartons, compile them and pass them on to Watertree’s recycling service, which will deliver them to KPT, your recycling partner.
Paul assured that the cartons can in fact be recycled even though they contain mixed materials. “KPT has created a handy recycling process where they can capture paper fibers from the package for use in high-quality paper products such as industrial paper, cardboard, paper bags or notepads,” he explained.
“They also capture the remaining plastic and aluminum and then create a new hybrid board material that can be used to make a range of products (e.g., tiles and collection containers).”
Otherwise, customers could also cut off the top of the cardboard and reuse the base to plant seedlings or other types of DIY crafts.
We are not the complete solution [the plastic waste] problem, but we can give people a chance to acknowledge the problem, make a small positive contribution (even taking out 1 plastic bottle), and hopefully help them think about ways they can adapt their lifestyle to include more responsible uses of plastic.
CEO and co-founder of The Watertree Project, Paul Rogers.
There is a new problem
Looking to the future, Paul is confident that with the combined pressure from shareholders, NGOs, the government and their customers, more companies will adopt plastic alternatives. Executing the figures, he said that in 5 years, he expected the number of disposable plastics to be less than 1 million a month, with most container alternatives being truly recyclable.
In a related note, Paul added that disposable plastic water bottles were a major culprit in the supply of Malaysian landfills when they started two years ago. Since then, the pandemic and its blockades have facilitated an impressive increase in disposable plastic packaging.
Therefore, they plan to expand their team to find solutions to this problem. With companies like Circlepac already showing that it is possible, we will soon be able to see Watertree enter this space.
- You can find more information about The Watertree Project here.
- You can read other startups we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: The Watertree Project