Plastics are made to last forever. And that’s the problem!

Plastics are made to last forever. And that’s the problem. They do. Plastic bottles are found on bathroom shelves around the world. If those bottles are disposed of in the recycling bin (and that happens less than 50% of the time), they can only be recycled once or twice before the material becomes unusable. From there, they end up in landfills or littering land and waterways.

That’s why Plaine Products is on a mission to eliminate single-use plastic from the bathroom with reusable, refillable aluminium bottles. The personal care products inside our containers are important, too, so each of our bottles is filled with vegan, non-GMO, cruelty-free, biodegradable ingredients, free of sulphates, paragons, and toxins. We’re proud to be reducing waste and doing our part to stop the spread of single-use plastics. But why plastic and why personal care?

Plaine Products’ Inspiration: Island Life:

Plaine Products was inspired by the decade I spent living on the islands of The Bahamas. A beautiful backdrop for sure but living on an island requires planning when it comes to both consumption and disposal. Forget Amazon next day delivery—even our access to a grocery or hardware store was a boat ride away.

Instead of purchasing, our focus was on reusing and repurposing. Buying new was considered, planned and often a last resort. The convenience factor that drives so many purchases in the U.S. wasn’t part of our mindset.

The logistics of transportation that made it more difficult to purchase, also made it more difficult to throw away. Unlike in the mainland United States, where trash seems to just disappear, in The Bahamas litter, wind and waves placed our discarded shopping bags, water bottles and flip flops on the side of the roads, in the waterways and across beaches.

A visit to “Junk Beach” on a nearby island showed us the reality that every piece of plastic ever made still exists. The evidence of plastic’s persistence was everywhere. Just because you may not see where your trash goes, that does not mean it just disappears. And once you’ve seen the impact of our convenience-driven, disposable habits, it’s hard to forget.

My career in environmental education coupled with the island backdrop gave me heightened awareness about the issue of plastics. I began to actively seek out ways to stop plastic use. I carried a reusable water bottle and grocery bags and skipped the straws at restaurants. But the bathroom remained one room where I could not find plastic-free options that worked for me and my hair.

I saw my opportunity to solve my own problem, and to help others use less plastics as well. When my family relocated to the States, I joined forces with my sister, Alison Webster, who has a design background and a keen sense of style, to help me create the Netflix of shampoo. Our concept was simple: customers order a bottle and then send it back when it’s empty so it can be cleaned, refilled, and reused.

Launching the Dream:

Although the concept was simple, it took nearly two years to bring Plaine Products to life. We worked with our shampoo manufacturer to develop natural shampoo that worked for the hair and the environment, which took some tweaking. Next, we had to convince our manufacturer partner to refill our bottles once we had cleaned and sanitized them. It took some explaining, but we knew we’d found the right partner when they said they’d be willing to give it a try.

Our vision for Plaine Products was to give customers an easy way to eliminate plastics from their lives, so our challenge was to make our process simple. Our customers order their preferred products in our aluminium boxes. When the bottles are running low, it’s time to order a refill, or subscribe and we’ll send out new bottles automatically every few months.

When the refill arrives, our customers switch over the pumps, and send the empty bottles back in the refill box. Plaine Products covers the cost of our carbon neutral shipping. We clean the empty bottles, refill them, and send them out for reuse. We continue to refine our process to make it even more eco-friendly, with over 300,000 plastic bottles eliminated from the waste stream thus far.

Looking forward:

Our initial product line included shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Since then, we’ve added hand wash and body lotion in two different scents: citrus lavender and rosemary mint vanilla. Our concept, though, has applications for so many different products. We have to grow carefully and thoughtfully-- all of our products must meet our strict standards, as we are natural, toxin-free, and cruelty-free.

Upon customer demand, our first expansion was with a skincare line, which we were able to launch with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. Whenever we talk about the difference we are making, we recognize that it is possible because of the partnership we have with our customers, who are equally as committed to stopping single use plastics for the sake of the environment and to ensure future generations aren’t buried in plastic.

We believe we were the first company to take responsibility for our packaging in this way. And we take this responsibility seriously as we explain the concept—and the importance—of our concept of reuse. We initially invited our audience to “join the packaging revolution,” using this as our tagline. We realized, though, that packaging does not necessarily excite people; however, reducing plastic use does spark interest. The idea of all of us--the team at Plaine Products and our customers-- working together to make a difference for the Earth is even more appealing.

Our mission to provide earth-friendly products and packaging continues. It’s more than a business to us—it’s a partnership with our customers. When I started Plaine Products, I was looking for a solution in my own journey to become plastic-free, and realized that others might be interested, too. As much as an individual pathway to become more sustainably minded is important, it’s the collective effort that really makes a difference.

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