14, June 2022
Our plastic use (and everything we’re doing about it…)
We’re living in the ‘anthropocene’ — the epoch in which human activities have come to dominate the planet. And years from now our descendants will know precisely when it started by looking at the layers of plastic in the fossil record.
It’s not a legacy any of us want to leave. It’s not something we’re personally comfortable with and we know you’re not either.
But what can we do about it?
We wish we had the answer. Instead, what we do have are lots of half answers. Measures that we hope add up to something meaningful, whilst forever continuing our search for better, truer solutions.
Plastic free bars
The most obvious solution to the plastic problem is using plastic free products. And our shampoo bars, conditioner bars and soaps are all entirely plastic free. We even offer a plastic free shampoo bar for dogs!
We really love them and we can imagine (/hope for!) a day when they become the norm. But we’re not there yet. So when you’re ready for them, we’ve got them.
Until then, we’ll keep trying to tackle the plastic problem in as many other ways as we can too.
In trying not to use plastic, one of the most effective solutions is simply not to use any new plastic. There is so much of the stuff already out there, it’s almost irresponsible not to use it.
Our standard (400ml) sized bottles have been 100% recycled plastic since 1999 — long before most other companies got on board (though we’re not so interested in point scoring here as actually getting something done about the problem).
Our newest bottles are also 5g lighter than our old bottles (hooray!), because the grams add up to kilos pretty quickly. (Fun fact: in an attempt to use as little plastic as possible, we once made our bottles so thin they all fell over. Hmmmm…)
Our bigger refill sized bottles are also recycled, though supply of these bottles is sometimes hard to come by and there have been times when as a result, we’ve needed to switch into virgin plastic. (Grrrr).
As for caps and pumps, these are always a bit tricky. Often the problem with caps is that recycled plastic is more brittle than virgin plastic so recycled caps snap. Likewise, pumps often have metal springs inside them, making them non-recyclable (unless you pull the pump apart).
But if you're thinking our caps and pumps look a little... weird (!), it’s because we’ve switched to the most widely recyclable solutions we can. The new pumps are free from metal springs and the new caps lock closed, meaning we don’t need to ‘under-seal’ the bottle with yet another piece of (non recyclable) plastic coated metal.
Gosh, it’s complicated isn’t it?
You might also have noticed that our newest bottles have ‘Recycling is good, refilling is better’ embossed around their tops. Fundamentally, we believe the thing that’s going to have the biggest impact on plastic outputs is behaviour change. Alongside switching to solid bars (see above) the other big change that makes an even bigger difference is refill.
Our bigger bottles come in 2.5l, 5l and 20l sizes and each one uses substantially less plastic than the equivalent number of smaller bottles that contain the same amount of liquid.
To put it in numbers, sales of our bigger bottles over the last 5 years have meant a saving of 92,790 kilos of plastic had that same product instead been sold in smaller bottles. That’s equivalent to over 7 London buses or 618,600 avocados. Holy guacamole!
So whether you’re refilling at home, or from one of our many refill stockists around the country, this is a switch we’re trying to make as easy for you as possible.
The next question that follows on from our suggestion to refill your smaller bottles from bigger ones is ‘but what happens to the bigger bottles when they’re empty’?
Good question. And it’s one a lot of you ask us. We used to offer a closed loop scheme, until the partner we used stopped being able to meet our needs. So we’ve since taken matters into our own hands and are in the process of developing ways of closing the loop ourselves. The complexity comes in washing out old bottles to such a degree that they are so free of microbes that they meet our super high quality standards, ready to be filled again with new product.
But we’re really close now. We hope to have an update for you very, very soon. In the meantime, if you would like to send your empty refill bottles back to us, you can do. And as soon as we can reuse them, we will.
Yep, the other obvious way to use less plastic is to use other materials. Trust us, we’ve looked far and wide for ones that keep our products as affordable as possible, whilst offering genuinely sustainable solutions.
Unfortunately, glass is a bit smashy in bathrooms (which are often tiled and full of hard surfaces). Those bag in a box cartons? Not as great as you’d think as the inner liner is virgin plastic because recycled plastic is too brittle. Then once the liner is empty, you’re left with a soft plastic bag which is less widely recycled than solid plastic bottles. We’ve seen paper bottles too, though they also come with hidden plastic liners. And bio-plastics require landmass to grow whichever crop is used to produce the plastic — which, ultimately, still ends up as plastic.
Aluminium might actually work, but we’re still investigating whether canned shampoo is really an option. In the meantime, we’ve launched an aluminium bottle — which can be refilled from our bigger bottles.
On materials in general, it’s not just the material itself that is the problem but our attitude towards it. If we just switch to alternatives (say, bamboo) but then use it in exactly the same way we use plastic, we’ll chop down every last tree in order to grow it. So whatever the material, the key is that we reuse it. That’s why we’ve sent nothing to landfill for five years.
What can we say? Only that in years to come, when our descendants do stumble upon that layer of plastic in their fossil records, we hope it will be so thin that it’s seen to have passed in a comparative blink of an eye.
It’s a dream we’re all working hard towards and we’ll keep you updated all the way.
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