This article discusses plastic's usefulness, its impacts on our environment, the challenges we face as a small business in being plastic free, and how we tackle it.
We started Washla to reduce single-use plastic from our everyday life. Formulating an excellent shampoo and conditioner bar was only the start of the challenge for Washla.
Most packaging and business supplies come in plastic, and the challenge for us is to deliver our shampoo and conditioner bars in perfect condition to you.
Why do we see plastic used everywhere?
Benefits of using plastic
Without thinking of the terrible effect plastic brings to our environment, plastic as a whole is quite astonishing. Plastic is cheap to produce and easy to mould to almost any shape and density.
- Plastic is lightweight and very durable.
- Strong, solid, and durable.
- Plastic is resistant to corrosion and rot.
- Waterproof and weatherproof.
- An excellent insulator for heat and electricity.
It is not surprising to see plastic used in every industry:
- Planes, trains, cars, and bikes.
- Medical equipment.
- Sports equipment.
- Wet wipes, toiletries, and accessories.
- Kitchenware and home furniture.
- Electrical equipment.
- Power and hand tools.
- Windows and building materials.
- Packaging of all kinds.
The list of plastic use is almost endless, and for good reasons. What about the impact of using plastic?
Plastic waste and the environment
As useful as plastic is to our everyday life, the consequences to our environment when plastic is disposed of are destroying our marine and wildlife and increasing pollution.
Over 5 million tonnes of plastic are used in the UK each year, nearly half of which is packaging, and demand is rising.
Approx 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the UK.
Marine plastic pollution is set to treble worldwide to 150 million tonnes. ☹️
It takes up to 500 years for plastic to fully decompose.
Challenges of being plastic free
To reduce the amount of plastic we use in our daily life, reducing or stopping the need for single-use plastic is a great place to start.
Creating a solid shampoo and conditioner bar removes the need for plastic bottles, commonly associated with liquid shampoos. We wrap all our shampoo and conditioner bars in coffee-wrapped paper.
Packaging is necessary to protect our goods from being damaged, especially during transportation from manufacturers to the end consumer. It is unavoidable that excess packaging will need to remain for more fragile items, but many products can do without it.
The only thing we can do about the packaging is to make it greener, reducing the use of plastic and replacing it with materials that are biodegradable, compostable or recyclable.
The biggest challenge of removing all plastic packaging from your operation is the supply and cost. It is gradually improving; Packaging companies are increasing their range of supplying "Green" packaging. However, the cost associated with being Green is always a lot higher than using a plastic alternative.
What can we do?
Small things consumers could do is to buy products with zero or minimal packaging and reuse the packaging that we already received. I am a box hoarder, especially the fancy sturdy mobile phone boxes. I can't bear to throw it in the recycle bin, but I also have no use for it, so it just sits in the drawer for years!
I'd rather goods were cheaper by reducing the pretty packaging. Unfortunately, the majority of us enjoy the "unboxing" experience. Essentially you are paying additional for extra recycling or wastage! We need to change how we think and accept many things that don't need to be packaged in excessive tissue paper or have that additional aesthetic ribbon.
The expectation is that the product isn't enjoyable if something isn't dressed up.
At Washla we have been asked before if we could supply our bars "naked". Due to the nature of the shampoo and conditioner bars, it needs to be protected from dust, moisture and dirt/grease from fingers, so packaging is a must.
Our shampoo and conditioner bars were packaged in kraft cards, but we can do better. I started exploring with something lighter and came across coffee filter paper. Not only is it more lightweight to transport it still looks aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
It also means it takes up less space in shipping boxes, which is a bonus as the final packaging is lighter and, in turn, reduces the overall packaging!