You can imagine that owners of a Wasteboards skateboard don’t get to ride in peace for very long. The deck of each board, created entirely from used plastic bottle caps, can’t help but grab your attention. Up close you really get to appreciate that these visually pleasing objects are made from what is usually considered waste material.
Their instant appeal isn’t lost on Jonathan Morrison, Head of Operations at Wasteboards. It’s exactly what drew him in, initially.
Morrison, who has been skateboarding since he was a teenager, was asked to test a new cruiser board 3 years ago. “I thought ‘whoah, this is cool’.” After that first ride he learnt more about how the boards came into being and was hooked. “3 months later I quit my job and dived into the Wasteboards story,” he says.
Storytelling comes up often, which is no surprise as each board wears its history clearly. Even when ‘baked’ flat, most of the bottle caps retain the branding from their former life, which was a deliberate choice by Wasteboards.
I don’t need to talk about sustainability. It tells that story, visibly.
“I see a lot of products that are recycled that are just not quite it. They don’t tell a story. Always when you have a recycled product, someone needs to tell you it’s recycled ‘oh, we made it from this and this’,” says Morrison.
He points at a Wasteboard. “This is a storyteller. I don’t need to talk about sustainability. It tells that story, visibly. That’s a big part, and that the board is 100 percent made of bottle caps and a 100 percent circular. If it breaks, I can shred it and make a new one. It’s a fully closed loop.”
In the terminology of the Circular Economy, closing the loop is the gold standard. This means that the materials that make up the product are never lost, even after the product stops serving its purpose. In other words, they continue to circulate as useful and valuable material.
Beyond their circular credentials, the story of the boards’ creation seems to connect with people instinctively. The brand collaborates with music festivals to collect its raw materials, and during our conversation, a woman drops by to hand over a bag of bottle caps she’s saved. It’s a common event, says Morrison.
“We have a lot of fans, like little kids collecting bottle caps. Also, here in the Netherlands, we have the Guide Dogs for the Blind Foundation, and they collect 100,000 kilos of bottle caps every year and sell it to recycling companies.
“We also work with a foundation that works with people who are outside society in some way; they are trying to get these people back in and give them purpose. They came to us and said, ‘we can clean the bottle caps and select the bottle caps you need’.
So they collect a lot of bottle caps, they clean it and they filter it, and we double the price they get from a normal recycling company.”
For Wasteboards’ purposes, the type of plastic caps they use are specific: Only HDPE (high density polyethylene) will do. The plastic is baked into a mould and melts at the lower temperature needed to retain some flex and bounce in the final board – a quality necessary for a good ride in skateboarding.
It’s still early days but Wasteboards is a brand with ambition that wants to be a serious contender, while shouldering the responsibility of sustainability on behalf of their customers.
“We want to be a proper skateboard brand; the first 100 percent recyclable and 100 percent circular skateboard brand in the world. We want to have our boards in Venice Beach, Barcelona everywhere.”
Even so, Morrison is realistic about introducing circularity to consumers. “You can’t flip a market overnight. It’s in transition and it’s going to take a while but people need to know what you can make. We had a concept, and we’ve adapted our production process and everything we do to stick to the concept.
For him, uptake of circular goods by consumers will always come back to the quality and appeal of a product. “It looks great and that makes it a little easier [for Wasteboards]. We need sexy products to get the recycling message further. But only good products!”
Check out wasteboards.com for more details.