Better Bathing; Going Plastic-Free in 2020 (2 of 2)

Last week, we explored why we have crafted toxin-free Better Bathing products for the BnB community since 2014. This week, we explore the second half of our Better Bathing commitment; going plastic-free for our Planet in 2020.

Since our first sale in 2014, guilt-free packaging has been a tough nut to crack. Packaging is easy to source, but the choices are often limited to plastic and glass. Glass is easy to love for being infinitely reusable and recyclable. But when we tracked our packaging from start to finish, we started to not feel so great.

Compared to plastic, glass is 6-7x heavier to transport, more energy-intensive to produce, and far more breakable. We've often thought that a refill program could offset the greater upfront climate impact of glass, and tried it with our Artisanal Bath Salts over 2016-2017. We did see a lot of jars coming back, but only about a quarter of our Salt sales were refills, and we came to understand why.

In order to be able to easily refill, someone needs to be within a reasonable distance, needs to retain the jar, clean the jar, store the jar, return the jar, and remember to bring it with them that day. It is not convenient and requires a change in everyday behaviour. We wanted to simplify life for our BnB Community, not add more to an already busy routine. 

We tried shipping refills at one point, which required a plastic bag for transport, so didn't really meet our mission. We also knew that returnables were accepted in local recycling programs, but not deposit-free glass. This meant that glass packaging was less convenient, and impossible to dispose of without landfilling it. For context, according to the EPA, 60% of glass produced in the US in 2017 was single-use, equating to 13,740,000,000 pounds of glass being 2017 the US alone. 

On to Plastics.

Plastics require less background, as we all know plastic is a material that in three generations has gone from obscurity to over 8.3 billion tons having been manufactured...with 91% of that not having been recycled. We tried to source the easiest to recycle plastics (numbers 2 and 5 on the bottom of any plastic packaging), and soothe ourselves with knowing that our packaging was at least it COULD end up in a place other than a landfill. But according to the EPA, in the same year that 13 billion pounds of glass was landfilled, so was nearly 54 billion pounds of plastic.

We tried to source a biodegradable option in 2017, and again in 2018, with no luck. We could find sources, but we were small, so minimum order quantities and pricing made it impossible to transition our full line of dozens of products. We thought we could offset our plastic output, but actively searching for and participating in community cleanups! We did this, and still do, but it didn't make us feel any better about burdening our BnB Community and our Planet with packaging waste.

After collecting plastic waste (including a shampoo bottle oddly enough) from our back yard after our brook flooded last year, and watching the secondary market for recyclable plastic completely collapsing, we realized we had to make the shift or forever feel like our line was incomplete.

We searched again in late 2019 and finally connected with a company that produced options that would work! We connected with 9 suppliers, and 1 became our dream partner. It would still be a major investment, and we wouldn't be able to transition all products, but we could still offer the majority of our line. Their packaging, soon to become our packaging, is post-consumer paper board, layered in opposing directions for strength, and lined with a vegetable wax to ensure that the oil-based products do not biodegrade the packaging from the inside out. This packaging is recyclable, compostable, or if landfilled, will biodegrade in just a few years.

We will be making our transition over the summer of 2020, with the end result being a plastic-free line, save for the droppers and tops on our essential oil bottles and the zippers and windows in our Bath Salt bags. We will have;

  • removed any burden on our BnB Community to deal with the packaging of their Better Bathing products;
  • taken ownership of the full life-cycle of our products, from sourcing to disposal, and ensured it is the best option for People & Planet;
  • created a complete personal care line (save for toothpaste) that will allow our BnB community to eliminate troublesome packaging from their daily body care routines;
  • helped to create a market shift, where we stop accepting environmentally harmful packaging and vote with our purchases and practices for a future without needless waste.

We are small, but our BnB community is growing every day. We hear your concerns about what is going on your bodies, down your drains, and into your garbage. If we all consciously reach for better, and look to #RaiseTheBar on personal care everyday, we can help push this movement further along. More makers will provide what the market demands. Until one day, when we walk down the supermarket aisle, we see a wall of responsibly-packaged goods, rather than a sea of plastic waste waiting to slowly erode our environmental and personal health.

Thank you for being a part of our BnB community, and being a part of our Better Bathing journey. 

We can do this.