Case Study Sources ALMA - A natural product in sustainable packaging

 

The French bottled water company Sources ALMA has launched a unique stopper system for its PET bottles. With this system, the stoppers no longer end up as litter. Instead, they are recycled at the same time as the bottles. But this company also takes an interest in what happens further on in the chain. Which is why it has invested in a bottle-to-bottle recycling plant, in cooperation with Suez. ‘Why should we go and buy our raw materials on the other side of the world when we can recover the materials we need locally?’, asks Agnès Jacquot, CSR Manager at Sources ALMA.

Sources ALMA is a French company that bottles mineral water from 18 natural springs in France. In Belgium, the company is known mainly under the Cristaline brand, but Sources ALMA also produces bottled water for a number of large chains that market this water under their own brand name. Sources ALMA can even pride itself on being the leader on the bottled water market in Belgium.

Reducing the impact

Given that it works with a natural product, Sources ALMA attaches great importance to sustainability. ‘We limit the environmental impact of our packaging as much as possible’, Agnès Jacquot asserts. ‘Over the years, we have succeeded in reducing the quantity of plastic needed to manufacture a bottle. Our Cristaline bottles are by far the lightest on the French market.’ Moreover, the company markets exclusively transparent, non-coloured bottles, which makes recycling for new bottles easier.

Attached stoppers

In 2016, Sources ALMA launched a unique stopper attached to its bottles of still water. ‘The principle is actually very simple. Instead of a stopper that can be screwed off completely, we use a flap system: the stopper remains attached to the bottle once it has been opened. This way, we can be sure that the stopper will not end up as litter. In addition, the stopper can be recycled by the consumer at the same time as the bottle.’

When watching a documentary, the company chairman had seen pictures of birds and marine animals that had ingested pieces of plastic. ‘He was determined to make sure that did not happen with our stoppers, so he launched an internal mission to find a solution within 18 months.’

The attached stopper has now become the standard for bottles of water in France. Better still, the European Commission is considering making this stopper mandatory for all plastic bottles. ‘This is an excellent example showing that an individual company really can have an impact and make the market as a whole more sustainable, with a little goodwill.’

An ingenious system

In 2020 Sources ALMA continued along this path and launched an attached stopper for the sparkling water bottles. ‘To do that, we developed a totally new stopper system: the Déviss’Clic’, Agnès Jacquot explains. ‘Users start by slightly unscrewing the stopper, which lets a little carbon dioxide escape, as you would with an ordinary screw top. They then click the stopper backwards to block it open and pour the water into a glass or drink directly from the bottle. Once they’ve finished, they can close the stopper again and screw it back on.’

The development of this new stopper was a real master stroke. ‘This ingenious system preserves as much carbon dioxide as possible while remaining easy to use for the consumer. It’s the result of close collaboration with our supplier. Various departments in the company were also involved in the pilot projects and in perfecting the system.’ The first (small) bottles have already been sold to the hospitality sector, and bottles with these new stoppers will reach the stores during 2021.

Unique bottle-to-bottle recycling

The quantity of recycled materials in the Sources ALMA bottles is also steadily increasing. Cristaline bottles contain at least 25% of recycled materials, while with the Montcalm brand, the bottles are made entirely of recycled PET. ‘Unlike what a lot of people think, plastic bottles are perfect for recycling. Both the PET used to make the bottle and the PEHD in the stopper can be perfectly recycled to produce new raw materials. This means that recycled bottles can be used to make new bottles’, Agnès Jacquot stresses.

Sources ALMA recently went even further and with Suez, invested in a recycling plant near Charleroi, named FILAO. This plant, under construction, will be able to recycle 40,000 tonnes of PET bottles collected via the Fost Plus PMD bags every year. Sources ALMA will then use these recycled bottles as raw materials to make new bottles, intended mainly for the Belgian market. The bottle-to-bottle recycling avoids the emission of three tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of r-PET produced.
 

Unlike what a lot of people think, plastic bottles are perfect for recycling. Both the PET used to make the bottle and the PEHD in the stopper can be perfectly recycled to produce new raw materials. This means that recycled bottles can be used to make new bottles

‘This way, we aim to take our responsibility upstream in the chain and promote sustainable recycling as close as possible to the place of consumption and production. Why buy raw materials from the other side of the world if they are perfectly well available here? And it's reassuring, as a company, to know exactly where the materials used for our bottles come from. Finally, it sends out a strong message to Belgian consumers: the bottles that you sort so carefully at home can be recycled and returned to your own supermarket a few weeks or months later’, Agnès Jacquot concludes.