"When we [began using recycled] polyethylene our supplier was a trucking company that started by recycling batteries before it began collecting milk bottles and a stream of black plastic" recalls the vice president of package development for Aveda a division of New York NY-based cosmetics maker Estée Lauder.
"They were saying in order to be competitive and to make a market for their recycled material they actually sold at a discount or close to the same price as virgin PE" Delfausse says. "They’re able to do that because they’re a trucking company. Instead of bringing trucks back empty they’re bringing them back with recycled bottles now. So we can buy the resin at a discount or for about the same price [as virgin resin]."
Aveda initially used the recycled material for a coextruded bottle trapping the recycled material between virgin layers. "When you coextrude versus extruding a bottle costs a little bit more in processing" he says. "We were able to do this because we redesigned and went into a competitive bidding process. We had a supplier that wanted to get the business. I found that by getting a competitive bidding situation involving a number of different suppliers we could usually make things come out at the same cost if not less cost. That’s good old purchasing savvy" says Delfausse.
Competitive bidding is nothing new but it’s proven effective for Aveda. "When we repackaged our whole hair-care bottling line we went into a competitive bidding process" Delfausse says. "By doing that we doubled our use of postconsumer-recycled resin and saved about $1 million a year."
Delfausse says "[Industry] has to make it to their economic advantage" to use renewable resources in their packaging. Another tip: material pooling. Aveda has been involved in the formation of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. "One of the things we’re talking about doing with a sustainable packaging network is getting a critical mass of companies such as Unilever Estée Lauder Pepsi and others to push the market and make it worthwhile for companies to collect that material."
Although cost is a constant concern for Aveda it plays second fiddle to designing packages with environmental concerns in mind and sharing those findings with industry. "A lot of people might see it as a competitive advantage to market an environmentally friendly package" Delfausse states "but from Aveda’s standpoint we’re going to share our technology because it’s the right thing to do.
"I think the key to getting into this whole concept is to understand your mission as a company and have senior management buyoff" he concludes. "The reason we’re so successful is because we have a president who supports the mission and gives direction that the environment is important."