Purposeful Plastics

Since our founding in 2012, Globelet has sought to offer a new way of thinking about the everyday products we use. After all, products are more than just products. They have implications and effects far beyond the box or bag they come in. Each one carries a cost. Globelet offers better products—ones that look good, do their job well and require no compromise from our customers or our planet.

Plastics have radically transformed the kinds of products available for use in our daily lives, from cars to cell phones to cups to candy wrappers—but they’re also curious and sometimes confusing materials. From our first days as a company, we have used only recycled plastic to make our Globelet products. We use plastic because it is a widely available and useful material. And more importantly, by using only recycled plastics, we keep them from piling up in landfills, we save resources like energy and water, and we reduce carbon emissions and other impacts.

Plastics are coded with numbers 1-7, not to categorize which plastics are more or less benign or recyclable, but simply to differentiate them.

To date, we’ve used only one kind of plastic in Globelet products—recycled #5 polypropylene. We use this material because we have confidence in its performance, health and safety. As concerns over the health and safety of plastics have mounted, we have taken steps to scrutinize our choice to use recycled #5 polypropylene plastic in our products and have conducted tests to ensure the safety of this material. 

#5 polypropylene is a benign plastic and does not leach any chemicals. However all plastics are not created equal. Some plastics contain chemicals that can be harmful to humans if ingested. Some additives in plastics, such as BPA, are increasingly being shown to have interactions with the body’s hormone system (specifically, the endocrine system).

While our plastics do not contain harmful additives, we follow the scientific research and debate closely, and hold the precautionary principle as our goal. For this reason, we don’t allow any possible endocrine disrupters into our plastics. Furthermore, we’ve refined our systems to source and produce all of our Globelet plastics from recycled products and packaging materials that have never had these chemicals introduced to them.

The effects of plastics on humans can depend on the ways in which the plastics are used. For example, most plastics begin to degrade when exposed to heat, which means additives and monomers are more likely to leach out of the plastics and/or potentially combine with other chemicals in the environment. Dishwashers, for example, apply a low level of heat for a long duration, which can cause this kind of degradation. For this reason, we’ve made sure that all Globelet plastics are dishwasher-safe.

Recycled plastics offer a variety of benefits. They decrease waste sent to landfills, reduce use of non-renewable resources, like natural gas and oil, decrease energy use and decrease emissions of carbon dioxide. Because of all this, Globelet products are better for the Earth—and, because of the care we take in selecting and testing the materials we use, we ensure that Globelet products are free of BPA and are safe for use by your families and ours.

As part of our mission as a company, we strive to increase the day-to-day smart choices we all make that benefit the environment. One way we do that is by increasing the demand for recycled materials. Another way we do it is by providing opportunities and incentives to easily recycle our products when you’re finished with them. To learn how to recycle your Globelet products, visit our Gimme 5 page.

Recycling Revealed

We think the Globelet recycling process, from yogurt cup to toothbrush, is a pretty perfect combination of elements that make us unique as a company: grassroots environmental ingenuity and savvy entrepreneurial instincts.

While we recycle a wide range of #5 plastics, let’s focus on the path a yogurt cup takes to become a toothbrush. Here’s how it works:

We source yogurt cups in two ways.

  • We collect used yogurt cups (post-consumer) from consumer mail-ins and via our Gimme 5 retail recycling program. We also collect unused yogurt cups (post-industrial; also called “pre-consumer”) directly from Stonyfield.
  • At our Gimme 5 recycling facility, the cups are sorted along with the other #5 plastics we collect.
  • The cups are washed and ground into flakes, then heated up and extruded into little plastic beads.
  • We take those little beads to our manufacturing facility and injection-mold them into handles. Then we just add bristles and presto: new Globelet toothbrushes!

We know that not everyone finds recycling as fascinating as we do, so feel free to stop here. (But if the nitty-gritty details of recycling systems appeal to your inner enviro-nerd, please read on!)

The #5 Plastic Ecosystem: The Journey of a Recycled Yogurt Cup

Let’s zoom out and look at the broader recycling system, still following the journey of a yogurt cup if it were to go into the municipal recycling stream.

Collection

When we think about recycling, we generally think about the products we buy (and their packaging). But some #5 polypropylene plastic products and packages (including yogurt cups) never make it into the consumer’s hands. These “post-industrial” or “pre-consumer” products may be defective, printed improperly, or simply overstock that was never used. Globelet and our recycling companies collect these cups and other materials directly from the manufacturers, where they’re taken directly to the reprocessing or extrusion step (see below). Many manufacturers reuse these materials on site, but this is not always possible because of regulations or available resources.

Most yogurt cups, though, are filled with yogurt, transported to stores and taken home, where their contents are happily eaten by hungry adults and children. The majority of these “post-consumer” cups can be collected in municipal curbside recycling programs. In fact, in 2013 the ACC (American Chemistry Council) calculated that 61% of US consumers had access to programs to recycle #5 plastic. (By comparison, #1 and #2 plastics had even more impressive numbers—topping 90%.)

Sorting

But collection is just the beginning. The majority of curbside collection programs are single-stream programs where all plastics (and other recyclables) are commingled. These single streams are typically brought to large Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs; pronounced “Murfs”), which specialize in culling the valuable recyclables from the stream. Plastics are separated by type using infrared systems that detect the unique chemical structure of each plastic.  Little puffs of air are then used to push similar materials into the appropriate container.  

Unfortunately, most MRFs currently separate only #1 and #2 plastics, as these are the only ones that yield enough profit to pay for the separation. That leaves the rest of the plastics (numbers 3 through 7) going into mixed buckets for export to unknown ends—often including landfills and incineration.
But the life cycle of #5 plastics is changing. Thanks to programs like ours and others, more MRFs are finding that they have markets for their #5 plastics. They are taking steps to separate the #5s and selling those to a plastic reprocessor.

Reprocessing and Extrusion

#5 plastics recyclers (called “reprocessors”) receive bales of #5 plastics from MRFs. They wash the plastic and grind it up into dime-sized flakes. Strong surfactants (i.e., soaps) are used to remove inks, adhesives and other possible contaminants that adhere to the plastics. These flakes are also put into a water tank to further purify the plastic based on density, since some plastics float and others don’t. From there, some reprocessors also separate the flakes by color.

The last step in the process is to extrude the plastic flakes. Extrusion machines heat them to very high temperatures and pressures while mixing in processing and decorative aids. The flakes are then extruded into little plastic beads ready to be molded into new products.

Side Note: Are all #5 plastics recycled this way?

No. Bottle caps are an interesting exception. Many municipalities accept #1 (PET) plastic bottles with their caps attached. These bottles are separated at MRFs and then sold to plastics reprocessors that specialize in #1 plastics, where the bottles and caps are washed and ground up, as described above. When the ground materials are placed in the water tank, the flakes from the caps float to the top and the flakes from the bottles sink to the bottom, resulting in two different streams of plastic. In fact, if these caps are left off the bottles they are most often not recycled at all as they are too small for the recycling processes at MRFs. Some plastic caps don't have a corresponding bottle, such as those on pouches or juice cartons. For these cases, and in cases where select municipalities have said that they don't want caps left on bottles, Globelet accepts plastic caps for recycling through the Gimme 5 program.

Our Sources

Globelet obtains our plastics from a network of trusted sourcing partners and we test each new source that we reprocess. Our providers range from other consumer products companies to retail and community partners. As a result, the plastic in our Globelet products represents a mixture of pre- and post-consumer materials.

We identify the origins and intended use of all our plastics and work with our material suppliers to assure that we know the first application of each material source. We follow strict guidelines for use of post-consumer plastics in our products and all our sources of recycled plastic are tested for foreign elements, such as heavy metals, to ensure that there are no harmful chemicals migrating from the plastics that we use.

BPA Free

  • Globelet does not contain Bisphenol A (known more widely as BPA)—and it never has.

  • We obtain our plastics from a network of trusted providers and test every source 

  • Our mission of environmental conservation and preservation drives our company and we are committed to meeting the highest safety standards for all of our products.

Microwave & Dishwasher Durable

 

Microwave

  • Globelet products are made with plastics approved for use at temperatures consistent with reheating food in the microwave. We’ve also conducted microwave durability testing on our food storage containers with a leading consumer products testing agency. This test confirms that Globelet products do not melt, get too hot or otherwise deform when used to reheat foods in the microwave; it’s the same testing that other leading consumer products use to determine that their products can be labeled “microwave safe.”
  • We chose to use the term “microwave durable” rather than “microwave safe” because we believe that even though polypropylene is one of the safest plastics in use, the decision of whether or not to microwave plastic is ultimately a personal one.

Dishwasher

  • Globelet products do not get too hot, melt, or otherwise deform during repeated dishwashing. They have been tested in commercial and home dishwashers. The plastics from which our products are made are also approved by the FDA for use at temperatures typically reached in home dishwashers.

All of our Globelet products are made in New Zealand*. 

We choose to manufacture here because:

  • Most of our retailers are in the USA; we can ship products shorter distances, which reduces our carbon footprint.
  • We believe in the power and talent that drives US manufacturing.
  • We can control the quality and purity of our plastics, thereby ensuring their safety for our customers.

*Globelet vino's and bottles are made in Australasia and printed in New Zealand