Why did you first decide to launch your eco range?
Our first eco launch was the Georgi, after working hard to make the business more sustainable behind the scenes we decided to bring this ethos to our products as well. Sourcing a material made from recycled plastics that is just as durable and lightweight as our other materials, we were able to launch our first eco collection in 2019.
What was the initial reaction to including an eco element into the range?
Everyone loved the eco story, but we launched this collection in completely new styles. Meaning the styles had to be desired for this range to perform. We had 2 completely new shapes, one of which became a best-seller and is still in the range today - the other sadly didn’t have quite the same reaction and was discontinued after just one production run. So the recycled message isn’t everything - parents still need their bag to have all the features, function and look they want.
What is an ‘eco bag’ and how is the material made?
For us, an ‘eco bag’ is a bag that has been developed and brought to market in an environmentally conscious way. The main material is a RPET which is a type of polyester, but instead of using chemicals to make a ‘virgin’ polyester, plastic bottles are chipped down, melted and then spun into a recycled yarn. Choosing to use recycled materials is only one part of our eco journey. We also made mindful decisions about how the styles are manufactured, packaged, and transported, knowing the end result is an item a parent will use everyday for (potentially) years to come - not just a use once and discard kind of purchase. This holistic approach ensures we are confident our eco collection is full of sustainable choices for new parents.
Today half the Babymel collection is made in eco, what made you change the material of some of your best-selling styles?
The recycled material has all the same attributes as the materials we were previously using, so changing to this material was relatively simple. With only a small cost impact we were able to change to a more sustainable material option, as well as all the other aspects of these bags that make them an eco choice. All the other eco credentials of these styles are in a way more important than the main material, as the RPET material is only a viable option while there is an abundance of plastic bottles that can be recycled. Hopefully as time goes on people will use fewer and fewer plastic bottles so we will have to find an alternative sustainable material, maybe one that is even more eco friendly.
Did you have to change or adapt any of your best sellers to make them successful in an eco material?
The only real change we made was removing lamination from the main material, although the lamination we use is always free of harmful chemicals, we felt it was still a plastic that was not needed as all our bags have a strong water resistant treatment to ensure the contents of your bag stays dry and protected.
Is working with recycled plastic more expensive than common materials such as virgin polyester?
Most people would not be able to tell the difference between a virgin polyester and RPET. The look, weight and hand-feel are remarkably similar and in most cases they are classed as exactly the same material. When we started using this material it was not as common so we were paying a premium. Over the years, the demand for RPET has grown as more and more brands choose it as an eco alternative to virgin polyester. Today, the manufacture of RPET is on a much bigger scale making it more affordable.
Do you think the future for Babymel is to become an eco brand?
I think what makes a brand eco friendly is so much more than the materials they use. It starts with the product and if it is something necessary, will get a lot of use and will last. Babymel changing bags definitely gets 3 ticks for these, we are not fast fashion and we want parents to use our bags day in day out - we’re not trying to persuade them they need a new one every month. Then all our packaging is kept to a minimum, bags arrived flat packed so we’re not using unnecessary paper pillows to stuff them out and we always use environmentally friendly packaging for shipping. We also only use couriers that pledge to a low or no carbon emissions promise, as well as offsetting our own emissions through our partnership with Ecologi. So yes - for now, only half our range is made from recycled materials, but our entire range vegan and we are always looking for innovation in sustainable materials that could work for Babymel while still being able to offer parents unbeatable value for money. So I’d say all in all, we ARE an eco brand.