How Rebottled is challenging traditional linear economy systems by doing things differently.
Rebottled is a Dutch company that transforms empty wine bottles into drinking glasses. In addition to creating good-looking products, the firm is reducing the need for the energy-intensive processes involved in making and recycling glass. In a country committed to realising a circular economy by 2050, Rebottled is blazing a trail in upcycling, supported by dedicated advice from Strategy&. With a workforce largely comprised of individuals with barriers to employment, Rebottled is having a genuine impact in relation to People, Profit and Planet.
Jermain van der Graaf initially set up Rebottled in early 2016 during his time as an economics student. His concept originated from the fact that Dutch shoppers pay a deposit on empty beer bottles, which are refilled, while wine bottles are for single use only. “I knew it was possible to make drinking glasses out of wine bottles as it has been done on a small craft scale since the 1940s. Talking to machine suppliers, I found that significant upscaling was possible with the right equipment. It was a key moment in the decision to launch Rebottled.”
While most such university-related start-ups remain at the project stage, Rebottled grew from making several hundred glasses a month in 2016 to several thousand by early 2017. The company then won the PwC Social Impact Lab prize in September 2017, by which time Jermain had graduated and was running Rebottled full time. Increasing media interest attracted potential investors and partnerships, and Jermain knew he had to seek professional advice on how to step production up to the next level.
“Strategy& helped create a strategic plan with a timeline focused on both drinking glasses now and new products later, how best to market our glasses and which customer segments to approach,” explains Jermain. “I was genuinely surprised at how well they understood the business within a couple of days and knew where we should go both strategically and in terms of impact. The Strategy& team, consisting of Roderik van Houtert, Senior Manager, and Roland Daamen, Associate, really knew what Rebottled means to us and the message we wish to convey. We still follow the roadmap as it gave us a more professional insight into processes.” Roland comments: “I find it motivating to hear that our advice is still being used to expand Rebottled and that in this way we can make a positive contribution to the environment and to people with barriers to employment".
Strategy& helped create a strategic plan with a timeline focused on both drinking glasses now and new products later, how best to market our glasses and which customer segments to approach.
Our medium-term goal is to extend the reach of Rebottled to other European countries and Strategy& has proved adept at showing us which markets to approach with our products and how to plan the structure.
As of summer 2019, Rebottled is making 10,000 glasses a month and has just entered into a new partnership that will allow for a tenfold increase in capacity. “Strategy& also advised us on how best to prepare for this new set-up so that there was a positive vibe from the outset,” Jermain continues. “Our medium-term goal is to extend the reach of Rebottled to other European countries and Strategy& has proved adept at showing us which markets to approach with our products and how to plan the structure.” “It is very motivating to accelerate an entrepreneurial initiative like Rebottled to truly make a difference in upcycling. It’s very satisfying that Rebottled has called us on all strategy related topics since the initial project showing the edge we can provide to support the management team”, according to Roderik.
Jermain has an ambition for Rebottled to become a symbol for the circular economy and the next household name in social entrepreneurship in the Netherlands, following in the footsteps of success stories like Tony Chocolonely and Dopper. “Every product we make reduces the waste stream and enables us to take on more people with barriers to employment. This is a degree of direct impact that you don’t see with many social starts-ups and I’ve been very inspired by the individual testimonies of people whose lives have been turned around by working for Rebottled. This is why it is so crucial for us to be commercially successful: the more glasses we sell the greater the influence we can have on everyday lives.”
Every product we make reduces the waste stream and enables us to take on more people with barriers to employment.
Roderik van Houtert
Director, Strategy& Netherlands
Senior Associate, Strategy& Netherlands