Plastics and especially single-use packaging are at the bull's-eye center of an ongoing public-relations nightmare of unfavorable environmental news. An inventor offers a solution for what may be considered the biggest poster child of the bad press onslaught: single-use PET water bottles. And today, Earth Day 2019, is the perfect time to report on this unique bottle design intended to be reused when empty—not refilled—as something completely different and practical.
Steven Klein, President & CEO of Kleincepts, Inc., is the inventor of the reusable Eco Connect Bottle, a patented bottle design that permits empty plastic bottles to be directly reused and repurposed as practical items including tables, desks, toys, storage cubes, trash bins and building insulation.
Some eco-highlights of his bottle:
- The Eco Connect Bottle System turns trash into useful household items.
- The Eco Connect Bottle System can reduce plastic waste in our landfills and waterways.
- The Eco Connect Bottle System can benefit every household, and will be even more valuable in countries that do little or no recycling.
Provide us a summary of what it is and what’s happened since you announced the Eco Connect Bottle System in 2017.
Klein: The Eco Connect Bottle System is a simple packaging design technology that helps to address the critical global problem of how to reduce the more than one billion durable plastic containers a day that are not currently being recycled. After only a single use, they are destined to spend the next 400-500 years littering our streets, landfills and waterways.
The Eco Connect Bottle System’s patented container coupling technology connects any brand’s empty single-serve water bottles to each other, utilizing a proprietary connecting recess molded into the bottle’s base, and a to variety of functional, threaded connector pieces.
This simple design technology enables the connected empties to be constructed into an unlimited number of useful household items enabling them to have a repurposed new life as something else…like tables, storage cubes, toys and even building insulation.
I formally introduced the Eco Connect Bottle System in 2017 after 10 years in development. It began with a simple idea, developing prototypes, gauging interest, creating the media and tools to share my story and applying for patents. Then, I needed to find a technology that was capable of blowmolding my precise recess in high-speed machinery so I could realistically test the bottles for proof of concept. And finally, I had to develop and test connector pieces, find a manufacturer and develop pricing.
My goal, in everything I do, is always to help people and to make the world a better place. Although I’m still in the process of bringing the Eco Connect Bottle System to market, the global response of support for the Eco Connect Bottle System has exceeded all of my expectations. I have developed wonderful, new relationships in the United States, Africa, Mexico, China, Europe, Southeast Asia, New Zealand and in so many other places. Strangers have volunteered to write articles to help me spread the word.
I have been asked to join many groups and organizations that support sustainability. I was even asked to directly contract with a Middle Eastern Country because their recycling program was failing and they liked the idea of additional uses for the empties.
What specific type of bottle does this address?
Klein: At the present time, the System is designed to work with any shape single-serve PET water or still beverage bottle. Since the connecting recess is underneath the bottles, participating brands can continue to use their existing, familiar bottle designs.
Just a few weeks ago you received a Notice of Allowance that the proprietary base recess, which connects the bottles and develops a strong “vacuum seal” connection, was awarded its own separate utility patent. What are the implications of that?
Klein: The Notice of Allowance for the proprietary “vacuum seal” connecting recess is the second utility patent supporting the Eco Connect Bottle System. It is a strong patent that I believe will make it difficult, and almost impossible, for a competitor to reengineer or duplicate the Eco Connect Bottle System’s connecting features.
I have seen other ways to connect containers utilizing bottles with awkward shapes. The vacuum seal connector creates a strong vacuum seal grip, is hidden under the bottle base and enables participating brands to continue using their existing, familiar bottle design.
Next: Brand R&D connection, lessons and advice
I understand that you’ve made a connection with a familiar drink brand; what can you tell us?
Klein: I’m now 75, and my plan is to continue to market my repurposing initiative for as long as I can. Or perhaps, this could be the opportune time for me to pass the baton to an iconic brand with well-established global resources. Only time will tell.
As a coincidence, the engineer who helped me to develop the Eco Connect Bottle is a member of a major beverage company’s R&D Team and is confident he can develop existing, in-house machines to economically produce Eco Connect Bottles and reduce the conversion costs by up to 90%. This would enable the brand to control all Eco Connect Bottle production in-house, establish focus groups, select the most appropriate markets, incubate growth and to globally scale the System as they see fit.
What have you learned these past months and about plastics and packaging?
Klein: Plastic is an amazing resource that meets all of the requirements good packaging should have. Unfortunately, when you take a widely used, durable PET resource, that can take up to 500 years to decompose, and you throw it away after a single use, that’s wasted potential. The Eco Connect Bottle System is a proprietary technology that was created to design out the waste and to keep the PET resource in continuous, practical use long after the water has been consumed.
The packaging industry appears to be relying on recycling and lightweighting to alleviate the problem, and the costs to operate a well-organized recycling infrastructure is spiraling out of control. Making matters worse, the recycling industry has recently lost China, its largest buyer of plastic waste. With lightweighting we’re simply stretching out the problem by using and throwing away less.
What have you learned about the invention and commercialization process?
Klein: It is not an easy process to bring a new invention to the commercial market. When you give birth to an idea it’s almost like giving birth to a child and you want everyone to welcome it and love it like you do. Since that rarely happens, it’s important for all inventors to develop a thick skin, be able to handle rejection and be persistent. Although companies always need to reinvent themselves to remain on top, they can also be very resistant to change, and keep in mind, they are constantly being bombarded by inventors who are in love with their own creations.
Given the present environmental and business climate for Circular Economy and related initiatives along with regulations current and potential and of course the controversy that surrounds plastics: is the timing now ideal for your solution?
Klein: The Eco Connect Bottle System is more timely now than ever because China, which purchased 70% of the world’s plastic waste, has cut back almost all imports of trash. This has created a serious problem for the recycling industry because in addition to rising recycling costs, the recycling industry has also lost their major buyer of recycled trash. As a result, some U.S. cities have stopped their recycling programs.
The System is also timely because there is a lack of coordinated recycling infrastructure in many underdeveloped countries, and in countries that have experienced a natural disaster.
It saves dollars and energy because the empties don’t have to be collected, broken down or remanufactured to avoid the waste stream. The proprietary connecting design enables the empties to be repurposed “as is,” and provide every end-user with a secondary, new, rewarding, sustainable, hands-on option to reduce plastic waste.
In countries without a recycling program, repurposing the empties may be the only option to effectively reduce plastic water bottle waste.
Eco Connect Bottles support The Circular Economy and Extended Producer Responsibility.
What advice do you have for would-be inventors?
Klein: Our planet is currently fighting a war against plastic waste, and we need to create as many new weapons as we can to help our planet win. The Eco Connect Bottle System is just one new weapon to help fight this important battle. It is my hope that inventors can develop new solutions in addition to light weighting, plant bottles, recycling and repurposing that will have a collective impact to dramatically reduce the problem.
What else do you wish to mention?
Klein: I envision a bioplastic bottle made with my simple design feature that enables consumers to either recycle or repurpose their empties.
This would be the world’s first water bottle that reduces the use of fossil fuels and utilizes two sustainable technologies—recycling & repurposing—working in harmony to keep PET resources in use for as long as possible after the water has been consumed.
Since repurposing constructions are limitless, end-users would be invited to share their inventive repurposing ideas on social media, turning a negative plastic waste situation into a positive, useful solution.
Eco Connect Bottles also have the ability to create new jobs in emerging markets, as entrepreneurs and artists open small businesses marketing useful items from repurposed water bottles.
Even the optional connector pieces have benefits. In addition to providing participating brands with an additional revenue stream, the connectors can also be earned by purchasing a brand’s related products, driving additional sales for the entire product line. New connectors, plus lights, stickers and motors will be developed to continually grow the System. A portion of connector sales will be donated to water conservation programs, and to provide free connectors in the event of a natural disaster.
The Eco Connect Bottle System was developed to work in harmony with all other sustainable options like recycling, lightweighting and plant bottles. We need to continually add new weapons, working together, to win the war on plastic waste.
You can connect with Steven Klein via through the following:
O: 925-263 8955 or M: 925 683 7278
LinkedIn – Steven Klein or Eco Connect Bottle
Twitter – Steven Klein @ecbottle
Facebook – Eco Connect Bottle System