New Eco Shirts and Packaging Can Make Claim of ‘100% Recycled Everything’

Posted: March 4, 2010

What would possess a man to scour the planet obsessively to make every aspect of his new business venture ecoconscious? The answer is simple, according to entrepreneur Robert Ziegler, founder of the Eight Bottles company: “To show people it could be done.”
Eight Bottles began as a collaborative effort between Ziegler and his wife, a creative designer, his stepdad, whose family runs a 100-year-old textile mill, and a new friend/manufacturing partner who figured out how to make high-quality yarn using only recycled bottles. The company name refers to how many bottles it takes to create the yarn for one polo shirt.
But the yarn is just the beginning. Every part of the shirt—the collar, the trim, the buttons, the neck tags—are all made from 100% recycled content. And the packaging follows suit with nearly all components consisting of 100% post-consumer recycled content (two components have a small percentage of post-industrial recycled content). That includes the button hangtag, the hangtag string, the shirt folding insert, the translucent plastic shirt bag, the shipping slip, the shipping label, and the packaging tape. The company even transacts its business with eco-friendly envelopes and 100% recycled content checks.

Packaging your body
The Eight Bottles shirts are pale green because the source material is recycled green PET bottles, separated out from the clear bottles. No extra dye of any kind is added. When woven, the resulting microfiber (smooth to the touch and also moisture wicking) reflects most of the light to create the green color that reinforces the “green” message. “It says what it is,” emphasizes Ziegler, whose primary occupation is still founder and
principal of the Brandimation design firm.
The 100% recycled PET yarn used to make all the components in the shirts has received Level 1 certification from Oeko-Tex, the world’s leading textile testing organization. Level 1 certification means it is safe to be worn next to the skin by infants every day. The shirts require no different care from any other high quality polyester or permanent press garment, and the color will not fade.
“We have a wealth of material out there that is being discarded,” Ziegler continues. “We are at a tipping point where sourcing prices may soon make recycled content more economically desirable.” He goes on to explain that one of the biggest hurdles in the recycling stream is multi-component products and packages that have to be disassembled before proper recycling. He envisions a time not so far off when more packages will be “mono-material” to address this cradle-to-cradle shortcoming.
Eight Bottles’ goal is making the most environmentally friendly products affordable. The shirts are available at for $39.95 each, and there is a satisfaction-guaranteed money-back guarantee. The goal is to garner large corporate orders that will launch the company into other 100% recycled content products in the works. For the shirts, finding a company that could take large batches of bottles and produce a highly functional yarn was not easy, but the results exceeded expectations in color and functionality. “The knitting is actually more forgiving than high speed looms,” Ziegler remarks.

Packaging the shirts
When you order shirts for home delivery, all of the Eight Bottles packaging materials are toxin-free, undyed, unbleached, and have minimal printing with soy-based inks. The thin, rigid mailer is 100% recycled Kraft board. The shipping slip, folding insert, and button hangtag are all made from 100% PCR paper.
Surprisingly, one of the most difficult components to source was one of the smallest—the button hangtag string. String and yarn are two different things so Eight Bottles found a company to custom-make their string specifically for this purpose. The shirt bag, on the other hand, is readily available 100% recycled LDPE, which comes mainly from the ubiquitous plastic supermarket shopping bags.
One of the trickiest parts of the whole project was the two adhesives that are required in mail-order shipping—for the shipping label and the packing tape. The tape is 100% Kraft material with recycling-friendly, starch-based, water-activated adhesive. When applied, the starch and water bind the fibers of the tape to the mailer, becoming part of the package. This “gummed tape,” as it was once commonly known, is an old-school process with a renewed bright future in these sustainability- minded times. And finally, the 100% recycled content shipping labels use the first recycling-friendly pressure-sensitive adhesive to go onto paper.
The packaging also preaches the eco-friendly message by reminding users of the recycled content, no virgin material content, and recyclability of the packages. The company is a member of 1% For the Planet, which means that 1% of all sales is contributed to environmental relief efforts around the globe. The Eight Bottles website even has a page to guide end-users how best to recycle their packaging.