The average rising temperatures of the earth were first theorized in the early 90s. Since then, scientists and researchers have gathered enough evidence to prove this theory right and have also drawn the connection of human activities to this global temperature rise. The UN, along with the majority of the countries all over the world, has conducted several environmental conferences since 1972 to come up with strategies and make pledges to reduce the impact of industrial activities on the environment.
Organizations in various economic sectors of the world have recognized this climate emergency and are making deliberate and sincere efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and achieve ‘net-zero by 2050’ roadmap.
Founded in 1995, Ice River Sustainable Solutions is a Canadian, family-owned and operated company with a unique perspective on the circular economy. Being involved in each step of the value chain, from recycling to brand ownership, allows them to understand the impact that one process has on the next and drives them to produce environmentally friendly products and packaging.
Nature is the ultimate circular economy. Everything has a purpose, and nothing goes to waste. This was the inspiration for Jamie Gott, CEO, and Sandy Gott, Executive Vice President, to develop a bottle made out of 100% recycled PET (rPET) back in 2010 and continues to drive their business development.
Facing all the challenges with the utmost determination that came along the way of their eco-friendly venture, the executives of Ice River Sustainable Solutions have proved their green intention every step of the way. From facilitating meaningful partnerships with companies whose values aligned with theirs to building and operating their own recycling facility in a closed loop, the company stands as a prominent example today for those who wish to walk on the same sustainable path.
Pride of Ice River Sustainable Solutions
It is astonishing to know that they are the first beverage company in North America to operate a recycling facility in a closed loop – from curbside collection to recycled bottle manufacturing to fresh, natural spring water products and back again. Being a recycler, a brand owner, a manufacturer, and a consumer of recycled content, the organization is committed to recycling.
They design and produce innovative sustainable products and packaging that can be recycled repeatedly. It is important to build a thriving circular economy where each piece of plastic remains part of the value chain and out of the environment.
On top of that, they have recycled over 500 million pounds of post-consumer curbside collected material. They recycle beverage containers, food containers, thermoforms, and other PET packaging while also finding uses for other materials they receive in the bales.
The green PET is now used in their brand Ice River Green Bottle Co. The polyolefin flake (cap material) is collected during the PET recycling process and sent to their sister company C.R. Plastic Products to be made into highquality, recycled outdoor furniture. Always recycle with the cap on so that caps can be harvested!
In 2018 the Ice River team started BMP Extrusion in order to add recycled content to their LDPE collated shrink film. They are at 20% PIR (post-industrial recycled) content with a goal of 30% by the end of this year and currently running trials to incorporate PCR (post-consumer recycled) content.
Ice River Sustainable Solutions’ Innovative Products and Services
With a diverse portfolio of companies committed to sustainability, their products add value and continue to develop the growing circular economy in Canada while achieving reductions in waste, carbon, and energy use.
Ice River Green Bottle Co and Major Canadian Retailers Private Label Brands:
They produce 100% recycled water bottles for their brand and large retailers across Canada.
According to a third-party life-cycle assessment, using 100% recycled PET instead of virgin PET bottles results in a 76% reduction in energy, 78% reduction in emissions, and 99% reduction in water consumption.
Along with these extraordinary numbers, they have provided a consistent end market for collected materials in Ontario, and they don’t just take bottles. They have also developed an end market for green PET and thermoforms in order to maximize the recovery of plastic packaging and simplify sortation at material recovery facilities (MRFs).
- Blue Mountain Plastics Recycling:
Blue Mountain Plastics Recycling (BMPR) is a sister company to Ice River that produces PET flakes from curbside materials. They recycle approximately 65 million pounds per year with up to 40% thermoform content.
In order to expand their production and support other brands who want to incorporate recycled PET, they purchased Urban Polymers increasing production by approximately 50%.
- Blue Mountain Plastics Extrusion:
Blue Mountain Plastics Extrusion (BMPE) is a state-of-the-art film extrusion and printing facility developing eco-friendly packaging. This thin gauge, high-strength engineered film reduces the plastic required to package heavy products and eliminates the need for cardboard trays or pads. Because they own and operate their own facility, they can test and develop new processes and technologies to help them support closed-loop recycling in the LDPE (low-density polyethylene) film industry.
They are able to maintain 20% post-industrial recycled content (PIR) consistently while working towards post-consumer recycled content (PCR). A stable end-market keeps the flexible film in the value chain and out of the environment.
- Blue Mountain Plastics Packaging:
The newest addition to the Ice River Sustainable Solutions family of companies, BMP Packaging manufactures up to 100% recycled content sheet for clamshells and trays (thermoforming).
The goal of Blue Mountain Plastics Packaging is to transform some of the more difficult to recycle PET, finding a home for packaging that currently goes to landfills or waste to energy facilities.
- C.R. Plastic Products Inc.:
C.R. Plastic Products Inc. utilizes polyolefin flake (cap material from curbside collection) from BMPR to manufacture high-quality recycled outdoor furniture. The company recently installed a cleaning and pelletizing line so they can manufacture their own rHDPE resin from curbside or industrial sources.
While transitioning to the recycled content in 2009, Ice River Sustainable Solutions found inconsistencies in the quality of rPET they could source on the open market. By starting BMPR, they were able to manage the quality themselves and produce high-quality rPET that met the standards required to manufacture a lightweight water bottle.
In order to fast-track the transition to recycled content, they had to get their customers on board. It took one major retailer to support the new recycled bottle, and now most large retailers across Canada sell their Private Label brand in 100 % recycled PET.
Today, the current challenge in front of the company is managing the multitude of government regulations being placed on recycling programs and plastics by Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments. “We find that regulation between different levels of government is not harmonized and creates an added burden for small to medium size businesses trying to navigate the requirements.”
Advising the Budding Entrepreneurs
Referring to the aforementioned obstacle and the resulting learning received, Crystal Howe, Director, Sustainability expresses on the ecological checks and balances and says, “Government at all levels understand the need for a circular economy in plastics. We need to support existing and developing recycling infrastructure.” Imparting the Keys to Excellence, The entrepreneurs behind IRSS, Jamie and Sandy Gott have offered some valuable sustainability advice; “Be honest, be able to 100% back up your claims, and don’t take part in greenwashing”. Consumers are bombarded daily with environmental claims and are becoming more and more educated.
“Know your supply chain; support local sourcing, ethical practices, and collaboration that moves your entire industry forward,” says Jamie Gott.
“We believe we can make a difference. And we believe we can inspire others to do the same.”
Opinions that Matter
The evolution of technology in recycling helped them to improve sortation, energy efficiency, water efficiency, and recovery rates, among other things. They feel that the early adoption of modern technology helps supports a circular economy and improvements in waste management.
Towards a More Sustainable and Greener Future
With all the changes they have experienced over the last 27 years, the team genuinely looks forward to what the future will bring and what the next project will be. Many businesses shy away from sustainable practices due to the perceived increase in cost; IRSS encourages everyone to reevaluate those costs with environmental impact in mind.
When Jamie and Sandy set out to develop the 100% recycled content bottle, they were told it would not be possible. So, to motivate future entrepreneurs, Jamie says.
“When someone tells you it can’t be done, don’t give up.”
About the Leaders
Jamie and Sandy Gott, a Canadian husband and wife team, grew up in the country knowing they wanted to work for themselves and create rural job opportunities for others. With a passion for the environment, they have always kept sustainability at the core of each of their businesses.
With a background in farming and environmental stewardship, they wanted to reduce the environmental impact of their bottled water. They trialed other packaging types such as carton and PLA but found that neither one was as environmentally friendly as rPET. They built their Ontario-based recycling facility to support a local circular economy for PET and began looking at waste as a valuable raw material.
This led to the development of more businesses designed to find value in what others consider waste.
Exhibiting True Excellence
“Ice River Sustainable Solutions’ commitment to sustainability is shown in their business practices, innovations, and passionate people.
- 2011 – Walmart Sustainability /Vendor Sustainability
- 2014 – Dupont Innovation in Packaging / Responsible Packaging Category
- 2015 – Loblaw Corporate Sustainability Award / Corporate Social Responsibility Supplier of the Year
- 2017 – Grocery Headquarters Trailblazer Award / Innovation in the Private Label Category
- 2017 – Store Brands Magazine Editor’s Pick/ Bronze Award- The Best New Ready-to-Drink Beverage Product Category
- 2017 – Zenith Global Bottled Water Award / Best Packaging Solution
- 2021 – UGI Award – Best Private Label