50 Years of Rain Barrels: From Mastermind to World Market Leader

In 1974, we launched the first rain barrel on the market - a wonderful coincidence to which our company owes a great deal. A tribute...

Rainwater costs nothing. This was the slogan we used to advertise the very first plastic rain barrels when we launched them on the market in Teningen exactly 50 years ago. The goal of the inventor and our company founder, Otto F. Graf, was to make use of the many hundreds of liters of rainwater that fall from the sky every year per square meter in this country. Our GRAF rain barrels actually came about by chance. But let's start from the beginning ...

From barrel to barrel

The basic idea was not new: people were already collecting rainwater and using it to supply water in the Middle Ages and in antiquity. The idea of using a barrel (then still made of wood or sheet metal) for this purpose finally came about in 1874 and was immediately patented. It was the birth of the rain barrel itself. 

The rain barrel as we know it today was then developed exactly 100 years after the first patent, when our company founder Otto F. Graf entered the scene and revolutionized rainwater harvesting with the first plastic rain barrel. "At that time, plastic was on the rise. Little by little, the old wooden and sheet metal products were being replaced everywhere and then I thought: This could be something for me," he remembers. After founding Otto Graf GmbH in 1962, he initially sold winery items. To do this, he cleared out the barn behind his parents' house in Emmendingen and began to sell tubs for grape harvesting and later plastic wine barrels. This is how the former hardware merchant became the "Fässle"-Graf.

Together with his wife Elfriede, the young businessman invested up to 100 hours a week in his business and kept returning to the bank to ask for new injections of funds. One day, he decided to also accept second-choice barrels, which he obtained from Bötzingen. "Not for the cellar, but for rainwater," he says. At the time, he could not have foreseen that this idea would eventually make him the market leader for rainwater harvesting products. Another step was needed: innovative and unique rotary machines from Israel, which transformed Otto Graf GmbH from a dealer into a manufacturer in the mid-1970s. In order to utilize the machines to capacity, Otto F. Graf now started with his own rain barrels. The success story began!

What Happened Next

From then on, GRAF grew rapidly and expanded. In 1990, the largest rotary machines in the world were already installed at our GRAF site in Alsace. In addition, Otto F. Graf had a groundbreaking brainwave during a family breakfast in a Swiss chalet: "Why not design rainwater tanks so that they are stackable, like yoghurt pots?" This idea led to the development of the Herkules tank in 1997, which radically changed the logistics of rainwater tanks - from five to fifty tanks per truckload. When Otto P. Graf joined the company in 1996, the topic of recycling also gained momentum: Our GRAF rain barrels are now made from 100 percent recycled waste. "At our competence center in Herbolzheim, we filter waste into plastics for our products. We simply have to go the extra mile for our planet," says Otto P. Graf. 

In 2000, we at GRAF finally launched our GARANTIA brand. Initially, only tanks and the first complete rainwater harvesting packages were sold under this name, but the range was later expanded to include numerous stylish designer rainwater storage tanks. Today, half a century after Otto F. Graf invented the plastic rainwater barrel, the family business has become the global market leader. Not only with sustainable rain barrels and recycling management, but also with underground tanks, column tanks, XXL tanks, rainwater infiltration and retention systems and much more. Rain barrels reloaded, so to speak. And we are already working on the next innovations. So it remains exciting ...

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