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“The bottle from a bottle” – From a vision to concrete action

“We just wanted to give it a try and take a step towards a circular economy with such a pilot project,” says Hannah Rasel, as we approach her on her project called “Recyclist”. And indeed, it is a new approach that the senior packaging specialist together with her colleague Adrian Przybill, also Senior Packaging Specialist, put into action. “Our aim was to make Beiersdorf employees aware that plastic is not waste, but a valuable raw material that should not be used just once. And we wanted to show that it is possible to re-use our own packaging materials, in this case polyethylene (PE), via a material loop several times for the same application – similar to the recycling of the PET beverage bottles,” explains the 34 year-old packaging engineer. 

However, in contrast to recycled PET, the recycled PE material available still has some qualitative issues for the use in high quality packaging, such as our cosmetic packagings. Therefore, we were looking for a way to get the highest quality of recycled material possible. The idea “bottle from a bottle” was born. In an internal campaign, Hannah and Adrian activated their colleagues at the Hamburg site and the German plants to bring back their empty Beiersdorf product bottles made from polyethylene (PE) into special collection boxes to create the first post-consumer, purely Beiersdorf own-polyethylene granulate.

Pilot project for the future

“With this pilot project, we wanted to test the feasibility and challenges of PE bottle recycling in real conditions and get out of the theoretical discussion. And we were surprised and excited how many of our colleagues supported us with the campaign! More than 2,600 bottles were collected in less than two months, and we received a lot of positive, motivating feedback,” says 30-year-old packaging developer Adrian Przybill. The project has now been completed and the vision brought to life: almost 2,500 bottles of the first edition of “Recyclist” have been produced and filled with a shower gel formula. “As a thank you for the great support, we distributed the bottles to our colleagues and used this as a chance to give insight into the project and share our learnings,” explains Hannah.

But holding the first “self-made” bottle in your hands is actually not the end of this initiative, it’s rather the beginning. An intensive evaluation came next to collect the user-feedbacks: How do you like the color? How is the scent perceived? And more important questions that need answers in order to move forward on the way to a closed packaging cycle, which Beiersdorf has set as a vision. The first “milestone” on this journey has been defined: the target for 2025 is to have a share of 25% recycled content across all Beiersdorf plastic packaging in Europe.

The two project managers sum up: “We are very thankful that we had the opportunity and confidence to implement this exciting project. That is really a great thing about our job and the topic of sustainability: there are so many opportunities to contribute with your own ideas and actively shape the way to the future.”

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Katrin Selzer

About the editor: Katrin Selzer

Katrin has been working at Beiersdorf since 2003. After various positions in marketing, strategy, digital and PR, she is since September 2018 Senior Communication Manager and responsible for the topic of sustainability. For Katrin, sustainability has a high personal relevance, since it changes the world for the better – and she contributes by communicating about it. Her communication is very passionate and she tries to also push the topic forward. In her private life, she is constantly seeking new ways and means to live a more sustainable lifestyle and inspire others with it.