The greening of the pet industry has taken place parallel with the environmental sustainability movement in general – with an eye toward reclaiming, recycling and profiting from what previously was categorized as trash, trillions of pounds of which has gone unchecked in industrial society in the last 100 years. And one UK-based pet company walks the walk more than most.
Canine Culture talks to George Bramble co-founder of UK-based Beco Pets about his company and its ethical manufacturing practices. Beco make products that are either made from recycled, natural or degradable materials. The company distributes to 43 markets worldwide – Canada and the US being two of their most active markets.
How did you get into the business?
George Bramble: I studied geography and environmental sciences in university (Birmingham). My business partner Toby Massey, studied product design – in particular, sustainable product design.
Back in 2009-10, we launched Beco Pets. We were in the middle of the recession at that time, and we looked into two markets – baby and pet – both of which were fairly recession proof. However hard-times are, the EU doesn’t stop spending on pets.
We both had pets growing up, we loved dogs, and we saw a great opportunity looking around the competition in the market. There weren’t many nice, eco-friendly natural toys and accessories in the market.
Our first product we came up with in 2009 was a bamboo feed bowl, made from the off-cuts of bamboo chopsticks. We’d go to the chopstick factories and buy the off-cuts from them, the end-bits they would normally throw away or burn.
We would take the pieces and ground it down to a powder to produce a bio-plastic bowl that’s non-toxic and BPA free. If it goes into the landfill or compost – it will biodegrade within three to 10 years, depending on the conditions. You can compare that to plastic, which would take 100 years or more to biodegrade… if at all.
Tell us about the materials in Beco’s product line.
GB: Moving on with the bamboo cutoffs, we make litter trays, cat litter scoops, poop bag dispensers and also make a large range of toys with from different materials. Our first toy material is natural rubber – we make the Beco Flyer out of this material.
It’s pet-friendly, from sustainable rubber plantations. We tapped the natural rubber from the tree. It’s completely natural, no toxins, BPA and Phylaphate free.
“And, most importantly, natural rubber is really tough. If you dig your fingernail into it, you’ll notice you really can’t dent it – it just pops out. It has this natural elasticity that makes our toys really durable. Durability is really what dog owners are looking for, and it actually compares favorably to the strongest synthetic toys on the market.“
What are the Beco plush toys stuffed with?
GB: We also make of toys out of recycled plastic bottles. Everyone in our company gets an animal (named after them). So… I am George, the Giraffe. We’ve decided to produce dog toys for each person in the company – so, we’ve got giraffes, teddies, cats, parrots, and alligators.
They’re all made from recycled plastic bottles. It takes five to 15 plastic bottles to turn them into pet toys. Obviously, plastic goes into landfills, or ends up in the ocean.
It’s a serious environmental problem. So we’re trying to find sustainable ways to reuse those materials. We also make rope toys; they’re made from 98% Hemp and 2% recycled cotton. Hemp is a very eco material as it grows very quickly and no pesticides or fertilizers are used in the growing process. Most importantly though, it’s better for your dog as – unlike cotton and synthetic ropes – it has very short fibres which are more easily digestible.
The short fibres mean that hemp is tougher than cotton or synthetic ropes, making it harder for the dog to pull apart. We do use 2% recycled cotton strands, to add a bit of colour, which makes the ropes more appealing to the owners. This is a very small percentage though. And we use recycled cotton, which also has shorter fibres, which means it is safer than conventional rope toys for your pooch. Beco Hemp rope toys are better for you dog and better for the environment.
To find more information about their products in North America: www.becopets-usa.com
US distributor: Pet Products Innovations: www.petppi.com