What we’ve learned about using recycled plastic

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What we’ve learned about using recycled plastic

When we launched our beautiful, strong alphabet magnets on Kickstarter late last year one of Wordbits key product attributes was that the pieces would be made from recycled plastic. We were even featured in Kickstarter’s own Shapeshift campaign promoting products made using waste materials.

From the beginning we have always designed our product to be produced from recycled plastic. Pre-Kickstarter we had confirmed multiple times with our manufacturer that we would be using a minimum of 50% post-consumer recycled plastic and this had already been factored into our costs and marketing materials.

Post Kickstarter there has been much to do, however recycled plastic has flown under the radar because, y’know, we’d covered it. It wasn’t until speaking with our new manufacturing partner regarding European Union REACH safety regulations — essentially a lab test of every individual component of our product (such as glues, magnets and each colour of plastic) to ensure there are no harmful chemicals or toxins. Our new partner raised the fact that using recycled plastic meant that we could not guarantee passing REACH tests because there was no way to know whether dangerous chemicals had been used in production of the original plastic, or whether the package had contained hazardous material.

Additionally we were advised that some countries such as Russia do not allow the sale of products using recycled plastic (seems weird…). Lastly, we were informed that recycled plastic could lead to inferior product strength, although this is not such a concern for us as our product doesn’t have high levels of strain on it during regular use.

In a world literally awash with plastic, we are not able to easily secure a safe supply of recycled plastic for use in production. Somewhat deflated we have spent the last two months (in between other Wordbits business) contacting experts, searching for possible solutions and trying to understand more about this nonsensical situation.

(Side-note: thank goodness for the Kickstarter platform and the support of our amazing Backers who understand that bringing products to life is never an easy or smooth process. Thank you for allowing us to learn as we attempt to make the best possible product we can).

There are some amazing brands who produce their products using recycled plastic (Green Toys are one of our favourites), however to do this their entire business is geared around the mission — including sourcing the raw recycled material themselves and manufacturing locally. For Wordbits in our current state this is not feasible. Firstly, producing locally in Denmark would price us completely out of the market, or at least completely blow the budget for what we have already collected through Kickstarter pledges. Second, because Wordbits is currently a side-project we do not have the resources (or the risk-profile) to create an entirely new business model and secure our own steady supply of recycled ABS plastic which we can confirm the previous contents of (i.e Green Toys use recycled milk bottles from the US).

We believe that a steady stream of safe, recycled plastic should be easily accessible to manufacturers and brands all over the world. We can’t understand why it isn’t already. Perhaps it does and we just don’t know about it? If you happen to know of a way that already exists or can give us some advice please do get in touch with me: annabel(at)wordbits.co

Because the health and safety of customers is of primary concern as well as the quality of our product, it looks like we will unfortunately not be able to use recycled plastic in Wordbits initially. We do however plan to make use of recycled materials as soon as feasible in the future.

We understand that this will be disappointing news to many of you, and we apologise sincerely. We take heart in the fact that Wordbits have been well designed and are intended to last a lifetime, therefore using quality (and of course, safe) materials is critical. As we get our business up and running we plan to work towards becoming increasingly sustainable in all areas of the business — it’s work-in-progress.

Thanks again for all of your continued support and inspiration as we find our way in the dark.