Cover Story

Ancient clay bottles make a comeback

October 16 - 22, 2019

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora

Gulf Weekly Ancient clay bottles make a comeback

The Can Company team, validated by their INJAZ award, needed to find a way to mass-produce their bottles and perhaps more importantly, market them, writes Naman Arora.

The team started researching the benefits of using clay to store water and found age-old wisdom that shaped their modern business.

From improving metabolism to homeopathic healing properties, one can find various texts alluding to its benefits, but the innovators needed to find something with scientific evidence.

“We did some primary research and found that water in Bahrain, which sometimes can be acidic, is neutralised by the alkaline properties of clay,” Ahmed added.  “This prevents and treats many stomach issues and also tastes better!”

Clay also provides a natural way of keeping water cool, instead of refrigerating it. Not only does this mean a smaller carbon footprint, it also means the water is just cool and refreshing, instead of chilled and more likely to cause a sore throat.

Whilst new shiny metal bottles are touted as the end of climate change and single-use plastics, each bottle often has a huge carbon footprint. According to a 2009 New York Times op-ed by Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris, a single stainless steel bottle requires seven times as much fossil fuel, releases 14 times more greenhouse gases, demands the extraction of hundreds of times more metal resources and causes hundreds of times more toxic risk to people and ecosystems than making a 32-gram plastic bottle.

While, over a period of time, stainless steel is more sustainable than plastic, clay pottery has a relatively negligible footprint.

Equipped with their scientific foundation, the team approached a pottery shop in A’Ali and using a traditional method passed down through generations, crafted their first clay bottle.

Since they didn’t use any industrial processes, they also realised that there would be no risk of toxic chemicals, like Bisphenol A (BPA). But this was just the start of their testing process.

One significant disadvantage of clay bottles is how easily one might break. The team countered that with a leather satchel.

“We found these leather satchels that we could adapt to the size of the bottle,” said Zainab, “And while they don’t make them unbreakable, there is something to absorb the impact.”

The team has been selling these pots on a small scale via Instagram and pop-up markets, like the one hosted by Cult Bahrain a few weeks ago. 

While studying full-time, the team has moved more than 300 bottles since they launched late last year.  For the group of scientists, figuring out marketing was its own challenge.

“We have some friends helping with social media, but we wanted to come up with ideas to make people feel delighted and excited about their purchase,” Ohood added excitedly as the GulfWeekly caught up with them at their latest pop-up market. “So we have these tags, which can double as bookmarks, with some quotes hand-written by us, just so people know how unique each piece is. And the best part is, with non-toxic paints, people can further personalise their bottles!

“More importantly, we want people to treasure their heritage and be smart about decisions that impact the environment. By using Bahraini clay, we wanted to stay local and make people think about how to reduce plastic, protect the environment and never forget their heritage.”

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