The Urban Bottle by 24 Bottles is an excellent way to reduce plastic consumption. Their commitment to sustainability and the environment is nothing short of praiseworthy. Planting trees to offset their impacts is indeed commendable, but it is important that they continue to evolve to reduce emissions in the product design and production processes. They should shy away from hiding behind certifications, because they guarantee nothing and mean zilch to the average consumer. Nevertheless, their bottles encourage good habits in line with their motto “today, for tomorrow”.
The Urban Bottle is mostly made of 18/8 food grade stainless steel, composed on 18% chromium and 8% nickel. The steel is Austenitic Stainless Steel AISI type 304, which is commonly used in food wares. The key thing here is that it is environmentally efficient. Although it has a carbon footprint, due to its energy intensive production process and the long distance travelled by its components, it is 100% recyclable. In fact, most steel is made from about 65% recycled material, limited only by global availability of scrap steel. Moreover, the individual materials in steel are easily separated and recyclable. For this reason, steel is considered to be the ideal alternative to plastic, at least in food wares. The reason steel is used by 24 Bottles is because their products are designed to last a very long time, thereby reducing the amount of waste produced per consumer.
Urban Bottles are also 100% BPA free, Phthalates free and toxins free. This means that the materials that make the bottles do not release harmful chemicals. The only plastic that is used is in the lid, which is polypropylene no. 5. This type of plastic is 100% recyclable. They also use food grade silicon. A slight concern here is that I was unable to find any specific information about where and how they source their materials or why they use them. All they state is that all their products are in compliance with MOCA (GMP 2023 decree). This is a European Commission regulation regarding the manufacture of products for food. As for the packaging, it is all recyclable, pending local municipality regulation. Even though they use recyclable materials, the actual recycling is dependent on consumers and local municipalities.
What is commendable is that they calculate the carbon footprints of their products. They team up with TÜV Rheinland, a world leading testing service, to conduct cradle-to-gate Life Cycle Assessments for greenhouse gas emissions. One 500ml Urban Bottle produces 1,78 kg of C02, including transport and packaging. To put this into perspective, the average carbon footprint per person per year in the UK is 12.7 tonnes C02e. This is a lot. But fear not, because according to the company, each time an Urban Bottle gets refilled, the consumer is preventing 0.08 kg of C02 from entering the atmosphere.
The Urban Bottle is designed in Italy but is produced in China in the Zhejiang province. They use certified partners, with whom they maintain constant dialogue to ensure that a mutually agreed code of conduct is enforced. Their website states that they work hard to ensure their partners implement certifications that ensure worker, product and environmental safety. For reference, these include the Quality Management System (ISO 9001), Environmental Management System (ISO 14001), Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSAS 18001) and the Greenhouse Gases – Carbon Footprint of Products (ISO 14067:2018). The requirements for these certifications are designed for any size and type of organisation, meaning that they are extremely general. By themselves, they mean nothing, especially to the average consumer.
As previously mentioned, they calculate the carbon footprint of each product. They also undertake regular social and environmental assessments, as well as materials and product safety tests. Despite assurances that their production process is heavily monitored and certified, the assessment and test reports are not made public. This means that I was unable to find any information on the energy and water consumption of the factories, what kind of mode of transportation they use, the emissions produced by their offices, where and how the materials used are sourced etc.
They do offset the entirety of the carbon emissions of their products by planting trees in the forest they called Oxygen. So far, they have planted 8,654 trees that absorb 2,025,865 kg of C02 eq. Oxygen spans 11 different countries, involves 986 people and 3 forests. They plant cacao, orange, coffee, avocado, and mango trees among others. This means that their bottles are zero emission bottles.
24 Bottles was founded by former bankers Giovanni Randazzo and Matteo Melotti in 2013 in Bologna, Italy. They wanted to reduce plastic consumption by creating reusable bottles that transcended the outdoor sporting world into every day and professional life. They don’t want to dominate the market for reusable bottles. Their plans for the future see them becoming more efficient, specialised and a point of reference for the steel bottle industry. This implies continued efforts to continue to reduce emissions along the entire supply chain of their products.
24 Bottles is a certified B corporation. B corporation is a new way of doing business where companies are legally required to consider the impact their decisions have on their workers, the community, consumers, suppliers, and the environment. Their actions also supposedly aim to contribute to the SDGs. However, B Corporation is not legally enforceable, and companies can easily walk away. Essentially, this alone does not guarantee that a company actually cares about the environment or its workers.
On the other hand, they have made valuable commitments to the environment that go beyond the mission of their company. For example, in 2021, in honour of Oceans Day, they partnered with Sea Shepard’s to create an Urban Bottle collection. Sea Shepard’s is an Italian charity that works with the Jairo Med Project to protect sea turtles (in particular the Caretta Caretta species – almost extinct) in the Mediterranean. All proceeds from the sale of this collection go towards the project. Their website is very informative in this regard, telling readers that 95% of marine pollution is plastics.
24 Bottles has also worked in collaboration with luxury fashion houses to create collections that reduce their emissions. Some include Dior, Fendi, Vivienne Westwood, Nike, Reebok, Chiara Ferragni, Diesel and Woolrich. They have been featured in popular magazines such as Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair and Marie Claire. Despite this, the price of a 500ml Urban Bottle is £17.90. This is completely reasonable when compared to the Amazon best seller equivalent - Chilly’s Bottles – which are £15.00.