Richard Gabriel is the founder of sustainable enterprise Retulp. Next to creating products that reduce single-use plastics, he’s always trying to inspire others by organizing sustainable plastic programs at schools and supporting organisations that try to reduce plastic waste. Richard lives and works in Apeldoorn, where he’s part of the ‘Creating Heroes’-movement as an Antiplastic Hero.

Interview Retulp

Richard Gabriel

When did you create your company?

I had a well-payed job in employment agency sector for many years until i decided to change my life. As I got older, I decided that I really wanted to make a difference with my work. when i heard about the Ocean Cleanup project by Boyan Slat on the news, i realized that thát was the area where i could contribute. My original idea was to make new products from all the litter Boyan was collecting. However, i soon realised that that wasn’t going to help as long as we keep producing and consuming low-quality plastics. I asked for advice at many different organisations working in the field of plastics and marine litter and they all suggested the same thing: find a solution for the source of the problem, not for the end result. it opened my eyes: i wanted to create a product that would help to prevent all the plastics in the ocean! in 2015, i started with the concept to deliver reusable products against single use plastics and turned it into my company Retulp. I’m a real go-getter, so in 2016 I could already start selling my first products to eco shops in the Netherlands, like Ekoplaza and WAAR.

Why did you decide to sell products as part of the solution?

First it seemed a bit odd to create a product in order to prevent litter. But i soon realised that we use a lot of disposable plastics right now, and that it’s completely unnecessary. Therefore, I started with the first biobased sports bottle in the Netherlands. I teamed up with design students to make them stand out and made a logo out of two water droplets. My main goal was to promote reusing instead of single-using! i really believe that prevention is better than recycling. However, i soon realised that, because my products were made out of biobased and biodegradable plastics, people often said “Oh, so i can throw this in nature without harming the environment then?”. I was shocked; that was not at all what I wanted the message to be! I decided to look at different production manners and set up awareness programs at schools to tackle this challenge.

My Motto is: “Love water, Leave pLastic”.

How do you make your bottles and bags? Where does the material to make them come from?

I’m constantly further developing my products in order to stimulate the idea of reusing. My new bottles are made from stainless steel and bamboo, which is something that is not as sustainable in the production process as biobased plastics, but is more likely to be reused for a very long time. Next to bottles I have different products like bags as well. However, i notice that people are already more used to bring their own bag then to bring their own bottle somewhere. i always use durable and bio based materials for my bottles and bags. However, every material has disadvantages. therefore i’m always looking at what’s the best durable material to prevent the use of single use plastics. Less single use plastics is our main goal.

For which targets are your products?

I have different types of people using the Retulp products and they all use it in a different way. Some people like to use the bottles on the go or when they are at the train station. For those people, I also made insulated bottles for coffee and tea and tried to promote refilling options at railway stations. Next to that, we also have a lot of people with inter- est in nature and outdoor living that like our products. And last but not least, the bottles are a really nice souvenir for tourists. the bottles with a typical Dutch print are sold at Schiphol Airport and in several shops in Amsterdam. i notice that a lot of people like to take this sustainable souvenir home. For me, it’s also an extra way to promote aware- ness for plastic pollution worldwide. In every bottle, you will find a ‘message in a bottle’: a piece of paper with all the facts and figures about our plastic pollution.

Where can we buy your products?

i’m mainly a wholesale reseller, so i don’t have my own webshop. However, my main customers are Ekoplaza, WAAR, Schiphol and Bever Outdoor. You can find these stores all over the country so they are actually widely available! Look for bottles with cool prints and a good message, and it’s most likely Retulp bottles, haha!

Why do you think people should change their habits by buying reusable/ sustainable products?

My motto is: “Love water, leave plastic”. i don’t understand why you would want to use single-use plastics if you know that you will only use it for a few seconds and then throw it away. My biggest frustration and the perfect example for our disposable society is the plastic stirring spoon that people use to stir their coffee and the straws for cold drinks. it’s so useless! But bottles are a big problem when it comes to single-use items as well. Therefore, I’m always stimulating people to bring their own bottle to refill. ‘Refill to fulfill’ is how I like to describe it! Next to offer products that are easily refillable, I’m also trying to promote refill options at stations and schools. When I see something that frustrates me, a water tank with plastic cups and plastic caps next to it in a school where i give awareness programs for example, i make pictures of it with my phone and share it as an example in my presentations. in short, my motivation is quite clear: love water, leave plastic. Because there is no planet B!