Elho: The journey to 100% recycled products

Dutch producer of sustainable flower pots and accessories, achieved their goal to produce all their products from 100% recycled plastic – their impressive sustainability journey merited further investigation.

Elho indoor plant pots

Successful companies realise that action on climate is critical to their future and success. Environmental proactivity will require investment, but companies will reap the rewards of increased revenue, reduced costs, engaging stakeholders and reduced risks.

Founded in 1964, the family-owned elho, produces sustainable, synthetic pottery and related products for indoor (40%) and outdoor (60%) use. The company, a Certified B Corporation since 2021, is making its mark in the sustainable plant pot market, across Europe and the UK.

Headquartered in Tilburg in the Netherlands, the company has an annual turnover of 117 million euros in 2022, working ambitiously towards an annual target of 200 million euros. Elho employs 300 people, their products are sold in over 75 countries to 8000 customers. Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the UK are their biggest markets, with the UK accounting for over 10% share of elho overall. In the UK and Ireland, elho products are sold through 600 stockists, which include companies such as Conran, Crocus, Dobbies, Blue Diamond Garden Centres and Haskins.

As of January 2024, the company produces all their products from 100% recycled plastic. Using 100% recycled plastic in manufacturing is complicated. Producing long lasting, high quality products, from waste is a challenge. Often, the recycled material is not ‘clean’ enough for the high standards of the final product. Furthermore, the dirty regranulate (recycled material) can harm established production processes, for example by damaging the moulds. To overcome these problems, elho invested in the latest, modern machinery to be able to not only process, but also mould recycled materials as efficiently as possible. New machinery, subsequently required additional technical expertise both in usage as well as maintenance. ‘Learning on the job’ became their motto, as they had to quickly gain the necessary expertise and knowledge to not only process the recycled plastic material, but also to enable innovation in product design to achieve the desired market differentiation. By means of their newly streamlined production processes, the company have also been able to organise their waste management processes so that they don’t produce any residual waste themselves.

Olaf Elderenbosch, family member, co-founder and CEO of Elho said: “For us, it’s not just about business decisions, but also about a responsibility towards our planet and future generations. By making all our products from 100% recycled plastic, we create a positive impact that benefits us all. And that makes us happy.”

Annually, the company transforms 12 million kilograms of plastic waste in to their products – derived from consumer (58%) and industrial (42%) waste. They also use maritime sourced waste, such as fishing nets and ropes for specific product lines. In addition to plastic waste, the company is also looking into using alternative sources of waste for their production. New for 2024, is their coffee collection made from used coffee grounds. According to the company, each pot is made using at least three cups coffee waste. The world’s growing love of coffee results in millions of tonnes of used coffee grounds being dumped in landfills every year – decomposing and emit methane, contributing to global warming.

Even though elho’s products are 100% recyclable, they are designed to be long lasting to ensure a long lifecycle. Made to be ultimately practical, the pots are lightweight, unbreakable, frost resistant and cater for various plant and gardener’s needs. They’re also kitted out with special UV and weather protection to ensure the pots retain their colour and vibrancy.

The Tilburg based, elho production process is 100% driven by wind energy. Energy generated from their own wind turbines, is (where necessary) supplemented with additional kilowatts from certified Dutch wind farms. The production process is consistently monitored and evaluated to ensure optimum energy efficiency in their production and reduce energy needed where possible. Their new distribution centre is the most circular in Europe, featuring light-sensitive, automatic movement controlled LED lighting (reducing energy usage by 75%), and over 9,000 solar panels contributing to the largest energy storage system in the Netherlands. As of 2023, 68% of elho owned vehicles are electric. Electric charging points have been introduced to charge not just elho’s lorries, but also for employees to charge their cars. The company also has an electric bus to transport employees from one site to the other.

elho’s environmental credentials are truly impressive and set the bar high for fellow corporates. The company is now working to becoming a carbon neutral business. A business is considered ‘carbon neutral’ when all of the scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon emissions produced by the business operations are equal to or ‘neutralised’ by the carbon emissions avoided or removed from the atmosphere. The evidence suggests that this company, is well on its way to become a 100% circular company.