Five businesses attempting to cut UK household plastic waste

Do you know how much household waste ends up in landfill and in our oceans?

According to a report by the National Audit Office in 2019, more than half of the packaging reported as recycled is sent abroad for processing – with little guarantee it won’t be incinerated, buried in landfill or dumped in the natural environment.

The good news is that there are a growing number of entrepreneurs that are building businesses with sustainability in mind and in some cases are claiming to save households time and money in the process.

A plastic planet: could we save money, time and save the planet as well by switching to refill and plastic free products?

A plastic planet: could we save money, time and save the planet as well by switching to refill and plastic free products?

A plastic planet: could we save money, time and save the planet as well by switching to refill and plastic free products? 

Instead of recycling, many get consumers to make use of refills and some encourage a subscription model to ensure loyalty and enable customers to purchase goods online.

While this may sound like an extra step in the shopping process it does, in certain cases, result in a saving as well as a lighter grocery load from the supermarket.

Here we profile a five entrepreneurs whose businesses are set out to make the public better at preserving the environment.

Bower Collective

The duo behind start up, Bower Collective, say they have a simple mission: to help households eliminate plastic waste from the home and live more sustainably.

They are actively developing more products in the hair and body space where one of the biggest demands for eliminating single-use plastic is.

Co-founders Nick Torday and Marcus Hill launched it in January and estimate they can help each customer save around 100kg of plastic waste from landfill and incineration each year via their start up’s ‘closed loop’ refill model.

Co-founders Nick Torday (right) and Marcus Hill (left) who started Bower Collective in 2018 estimate that they can help each customer save around 100kg

Co-founders Nick Torday (right) and Marcus Hill (left) who started Bower Collective in 2018 estimate that they can help each customer save around 100kg

Co-founders Nick Torday (right) and Marcus Hill (left) who started Bower Collective in 2018 estimate that they can help each customer save around 100kg

The model is simple – it’s about convincing consumers to buy the company’s ‘reuse and refill’ products as its needed. Essentially, you receive refills in plastic-free packaging, and top up your existing container of soap, shampoo or shower gel. 

Bower Collective believes its a simple idea that delivers significant plastic waste reduction in single-use plastics across home and beauty products.

Investors and environmentalists appear taken by the company’s business practice. Bower Collective initially raised £250,000 in venture capital funding and launched with B Corp status.

It has also received praise from one of the world’s leading specialists on marine science and from Kristian Teleki a personal adviser to Prince Charles on ocean sustainability.

Back in March the company closed another funding round of over £100,000, after growing by 350 per cent.

What does Bower Collective do differently? They have recently launched a plastic waste calculator which can show households how much plastic they use and offers tips on how to reduce such consumption. 

Bower Collective allows customers to buy refills online and get 15% off their first order. The business started in January 2020

Bower Collective allows customers to buy refills online and get 15% off their first order. The business started in January 2020

Bower Collective allows customers to buy refills online and get 15% off their first order. The business started in January 2020

Refill Larder

The founder behind Refill Larder, Kate Chesshyre, which launched in September 2018, was also motivated to address the lack of plastic-free options available for day-to-day household items and food in the local supermarkets.

Consumers can shop online or in store at their Teddington base and buy refill cleaning products as well as organic foods and snacks that can be put in their own containers.

In addition, the company sells sustainable water bottles, handmade shampoos, moisturisers and soaps that are not wrapped in plastic

They say: ‘We believe there is an appetite for change and since opening we’ve met many people locally that are fed up with the limited options available to cut back on plastic reliance.

‘We need to do more than ban plastic straws and bags and show supermarkets that consumers are keen for more plastic-free options.’

Many of these types of shop are opening up around the country – it is worth hunting around if yours does, as it can be a key way to tackle packaging waste. 

What does Refill Larder do differently: You can go in-store and refill your cans and containers with snacks and foods or shop online.

Chesshyre says: ‘We want to be inclusive and make the shop approachable to everyone, we encourage new visitors to pick four items at home they want to start refilling eg washing up liquid, pasta, shampoo, etc. 

‘This makes switching to refill habits more accessible than saying stop all your current shopping habits and come here.’

Besides the usual refill products they also sell eco-glitter – plastic free bio glitter – and beeswax wraps which they say are a great alternative to plastic cling film.

Refill Larder allows shoppers to refill their own containers in its Teddington store

Refill Larder allows shoppers to refill their own containers in its Teddington store

Refill Larder allows shoppers to refill their own containers in its Teddington store

Homethings

Household cleaning company, Homethings, has launched a range of non-toxic household sprays to tackle plastic pollution and reduce carbon emissions from the unnecessary transport of water.

They point out that traditional household cleaning sprays comprise of 90 per cent water and only a mere nine per cent of plastic ever created being recycled.

To solve this problem, Homethings are selling glass spray bottles and non-toxic ‘drop tab’ cleaning tablets which can be activated by using tap water.

The company says: ‘This removes the need to ship water and eliminates single-use plastics, creating a new zero-waste, circular approach to domestic cleaning.’

Cost savings can be made too. Homethings point out that their cleaning solutions are cheaper per litre than some of the leading brands, except for Cif which it claims it is working on (see below).

Source: Homethings. The company compares itself to other products on its website, such as Cif. Correct as at 27 August, 2020

Source: Homethings. The company compares itself to other products on its website, such as Cif. Correct as at 27 August, 2020

Source: Homethings. The company compares itself to other products on its website, such as Cif. Correct as at 27 August, 2020

The company claims that if every household switched to their products they’d prevent 300million single use plastic bottles from going to landfill and polluting oceans.

What does Homethings do differently: The company offers a ‘Keep it Clean’ kit for £25 or consumers can get a flexible subscription service priced at £6. 

There’s free delivery to the UK mainland and subscribers get their first refill free. 

Sprout World

Michael Stausholm is the founder of Sprout World, which claims to have created the world’s only plantable pencil that grows into vegetables, herbs and flowers after use.

Sprout World pencils can be offered as a unique end of year gift.

Sprout World pencils can be offered as a unique end of year gift.

Sprout World pencils can be offered as a unique end of year gift. 

The idea behind the patented Sprout Pencil is to plant it when it becomes too small to write with, with the seed capsule facing down so it starts to germinate – the capsule cleverly dissolves and sprouts into herbs, vegetables and flowers.

Stausholm sees Covid-19 as a reset for us all to make sustainability a priority. Over 26 million Sprout Pencils have been sold in over 80 countries to date.

Celebrity supporters include Michelle Obama (who used the pencils to promote the publication of her book Becoming) and Richard Branson (who gifts the pencils as a souvenir to his guests on Necker Island).

Companies such as Disney, Coca-Cola, Marriott, Toyota and L’Oreal also make use of the pencils.

The pencils are available through its own website as well as Amazon.

What does Sprout World do differently? The pencils are multi-purpose. They are a writing implement, can be given as an unusual gift and can then transform into a flower or herb. 

Chewsy Gum

If you like chewing gum, then British start-up Chewsy has created a plastic-free biodegradable gum brand.

The company has just recently struck a deal with Canada for its products. 

The deal confirmed before the coronavirus lockdown and is worth an estimated £125,000 over the next five years.

Chewsy gum flavours include peppermint, cinnamon, spearmint and lemon, with new flavours coming out in summer 2021.

Following the Canada addition, Chewsy gum will now be sold in 17 countries with exports now accounting for 40 per cent of its turnover.

Many popular brands contain plastic and once spat out are hard to break down. It is also the second most common litter item in Britain, after cigarette butts.  

What does Chewsy do differently: Their gum is sugar free, vegan and 100 per cent plastic free. A pack costs £1.25, while a twelve pack case costs £15. 

Chewsy's plant based plastic free gum is now sold in 17 countries including the UK

Chewsy's plant based plastic free gum is now sold in 17 countries including the UK

Chewsy’s plant based plastic free gum is now sold in 17 countries including the UK

5 Key facts on household waste 

• The average UK household (four people) generates 84kg of single use home and personal care plastic waste every year. 

Nick Torday of Bower Collective, says: ‘This number rises significantly when you include food packaging, but we don’t cover food in our business’.

• Every plastic toothbrush manufactured since 1930, still exists somewhere in the world unless they have been incinerated.

• Worldwide, it’s estimated that over 100billion menstrual hygiene products are disposed of annually. The plastic back-strip of a sanitary napkin, as well as plastic tampon applicators ― both of which are typically made from low-density polyethylene ― are particularly damaging to the planet. These products will live on for at least 500 years.

• Most trigger spray bottles are made out of HDPE, which has a low recycling rate. It also generates sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide during the manufacturing process.

• Dishwasher tablets are often wrapped in PET plastic. The collection, separation and reprocessing of household plastic film is not widely implemented in the UK, generating significant waste.

 Source: Bower Collective 

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