For the Better Good: The Kiwi company making water bottles from plantsby Kate Milliken
Meet the Kiwi tackling the world's plastic problem head-on.
His frustrating realisation was that customers don't have the option to buy bottles not made of oil and that don't have the ability to disappear after their useful life. “They don’t have refilling stations at petrol stations, and I’m not exactly going to stick my head under the sink,” says Klinac. So he decided to take on what could arguably be labelled the pinnacle of our wasteful culture: oil-based plastic water bottles.
His social enterprise For the Better Good is helping to tackle one of the environment's greatest threats - single-use plastic. The company produces water bottles made entirely of plants - renewable crops to be exact - including corn, sugarcane and potatoes. The plants are broken down, their starch fermented, extracted and mixed into a polymer used to make the bottles. As if that wasn't environmentally-friendly enough, the company takes responsibility for the entire life-cycle of the bottles they make. If you take a bottle back to any distributor, they send it back to the company which arranges for it to be composted.
When it comes to marketing the eco-product, festivals have been invaluable. Klinac believes they're like mini communities, which make them a great way to trial a product and how people are going to react to them. For the Better Good agreed to supply Wanaka’s ‘Tuki festival’ with water bottles last year. It wasn't smooth sailing. The product only arrived two days prior, resulting in the team hand-labelling 4,080 water bottles in a frantic bid to prepare for the 3,000 festival goers. But what really blew the team away was the reception: “People were walking around with them all day and refilling them, they weren’t throwing them away,” recalls Klinac.
The team had set up special bins for the bottles too, except, “There were no bottles left on the ground at the end, not one.” For Klinac this was evidence of how a disruptive idea can make a business competitive and successful; if you give people the chance to do the right thing, most will. The bottles are now available in a number of cafés and yoga studios around the country, the owners of which see clear commercial value in supporting the eco-bottle product.
It’s taken three years to produce the tangible product, and it hasn’t been without its challenges. During the creation process, Klinac decided to move to Arrowtown so he could put his head down surrounded by the nature he is working so hard to preserve. After a long time investigating hemp as a possible material, he learned that although it's an incredible product – it can't be made into water bottles. He and his team are happy with the finished product and it's been welcomed into a market hungry for a sustainable alternative. For the Better Good are now working on a bio-degradable water bottle lid too, which would be a world-first. They don't want to be pigeon-holed as a water bottle company – the water bottles are a billboard for a much larger goal; replacing oil-based plastic entirely.
“I’ve met enough people who have made a lot of money in their life, Klinac says, "but still don’t feel they’ve lived a fulfilled one.”
The young entrepreneur and environmentalist is trying to do just that - one plant-based bottle at a time.
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