Blueland delivers home cleaning products in the form of tablets

If you quickly skim through the products under your sink — countertop spray, glass cleaner, dish soap — they all have one thing in common: water is their main ingredient. Until now, few consumers thought this was a problem. But as more and more people become more aware of climate change and plastic pollution, the outsized environmental impact of everyday products is becoming hard to ignore.

“We basically ship water across the country,” says Heather Kauffman, co-founder and COO of Full Circle, which has watched the home care industry since her company created complementary products, like dish brushes and sponges. “Water is something that we all have readily available at home. If you think about the carbon emissions needed to ship bottles that are largely filled with water from the manufacturer to the retailer and then to the consumer’s doorstep, it goes downhill. really adds up.

Then there is the question of plastic packaging. A new study in the scientific journal Nature found that at the current rate of production, the global plastics industry will contribute 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. According to Euromonitor, the homecare industry generated $29.5 billion plastic containers in 2015, while the personal care industry generated 60 billion. units. This translates to 8.9 million tonnes of plastic generated by the two industries, and only a small percentage of this was recycled. The vast majority ended up in a landfill, or worse, in the ocean, where it could be consumed by marine animals and end up in our food. “While the life cycle impacts of plastic on the climate are significant, its impacts on the health of marine life and human health are equally significant,” says Jaqueline Savitz, director of policy at Oceana, a committed organization. to save the oceans.

All of this research shows that we need to take drastic measures to reduce our consumption of plastic, including the products that fill our homes. “We can’t recycle our solution to this problem,” says Sanders Defruyt, head of the new plastics economy at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which aims to make the economy more circular. “We need to completely rethink our products to focus on reusable packaging.”

An incredibly simple way to solve all these problems? Remove the water. And several companies have found a way to do just that, spurring a small but growing design revolution in the consumer packaged goods industry.

The tablet revolution

Today, a new direct-to-consumer e-commerce brand called Blueland is launching with a set of cleaning products that come in the form of small tablets, which the customer mixes with water at home. It joins a handful of other brands replacing liquid products with tablets, including Dazz and Bottle Bright, which makes tablet cleaning sprays.

Blueland debuts with a $29 starter kit that includes three acrylic spray bottles designed to last forever, plus three tablets that you mix with water to create multi-surface, bathroom, and bathroom cleaners. windows. When you need a refill, you simply order new tablets, which cost $2 a pop. Over the next few months, the startup will launch other sustainable cleaning and personal care products.

“A lot of people see sustainable products on the market and automatically assume they’re going to be more labor intensive, more expensive, and much less efficient,” says Sarah Paiji, founder of Blueland, who previously worked at McKinsey and commerce startups. electronics like Awesome Rockets and M.Gemi. “Our goal is to dispel all these ideas by designing products that are actually easier to use, cheaper and more effective. When you put a new tablet in the bottle, you don’t even have to shake it, because it dissolves on its own.

Today, even eco-friendly brands still use disposable plastic containers and create products in fluid form. For example, Seventh Generation makes concentrated liquid laundry detergents, which means your bottle will last longer, and Grove sells dish soap refills in plastic bags that use 60% less plastic than a similar bottle. cut. But the tablets are plastic-free and radically lighter, which means a significant saving in shipping emissions.

“It’s a bit odd that tablets aren’t more prevalent because we’re comfortable with tablets in our dishwashers and washing machines,” Kauffman says. “It’s not really that big a leap than using it in other cleaning products.”

[Photo: Dazz]

The tableting challenge

It may seem easy to compress a liquid into a small tablet that would dissolve in water, but it is not. Paiji has spent the past two years in continuous R&D to create the Blueland tablets.

The first step was to develop the formula. Blueland has a lab in Montana where scientists have worked to ensure that the tablet version of the cleaner is just as effective as the liquid version. This is an achievement. Many ingredients in cleaning products do not come in solid form. Take fragrances: Essential oils and synthetic fragrances mostly come in liquid form, so it was difficult to compress them. Eventually, the lab found a way to encapsulate the fragrance in silica. “When exposed to water, it blooms and releases the fragrance,” says Paiji.

Then there was the issue of contaminants. Paiji thought it was important that consumers could use tap water, rather than filtered or bottled water, to make the process as easy as possible. But the quality of tap water varies across the country, and contamination can also occur when the customer adds water to the bottle. It was therefore crucial that the tablet formula contained a preservative that would eliminate any bacterial growth. “As you can imagine, if there are bacteria in the water and it sits in a bottle for two years, things will grow,” she says. “We wanted to implement a 100% foolproof method, so we had to develop a unique preservation method.” Ultimately, Paiji and his team believe they have nailed the formula, which currently has 12 patents pending. In several studies conducted by the EPA, Blueland sprays outperformed Windex and Method, removing more dirt and streaks with each wipe than these competitors.

But then there was the matter of making the tablets. As this is a relatively new approach to cleaning products, Paiji scoured the market for a supplier, visiting 50 manufacturers that tablet products ranging from laundry detergents to medicines, before finding the good solution. “We had to get creative,” she says. “We even visited a candy factory.

Finally, Paiji had to work on creating the bottle that would come in the starter pack, another major challenge. After doing a lot of consumer research, Paiji found that many customers, especially moms, didn’t want a glass bottle because it was breakable. Aluminum was also absent as many consumers wanted to see the tablet fizz in the bottle and see the final liquid. Paiji finally opted for acrylic, a completely recyclable transparent plastic. They created the first bottle certified platinum by Cradle to Cradle, which tracks the reuse of products, as well as their carbon and water footprints. “We needed these bottles to be infinitely reusable,” she says. “But we also wanted to drive mass adoption, because that’s how we can really maximize sustainability.”

[Photo: Blueland]

“We need to change mentalities”

Blueland isn’t alone in taking up the tableting challenge. Other smaller startups, like Dazz and Bright Home, are working on similar tablets for cleaning sprays, and By Humankind has just released mouthwash tablets to replace the traditional bottled version; companies like Bite also offer toothpaste in tablets.

But what will it take for tablets to gain wider adoption in the cleaning and personal care industries? “We see a lot of small innovators, but this is a massive industry,” says Defruyt, of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “We have to convince the big players that this effort is worth it. And to do that, we need to make it clear that it could be good for business, not just good for the planet. »

Currently, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is committed to demonstrating that reusable packaging can actually be more profitable for a business. For example, when a customer invests in buying a reusable bottle from a brand, they are more likely to return to that brand for refills in the future, which could build brand loyalty. There are also interesting possibilities to create personalized bottles for the customer. “Brands could be creative and invite customers to design bottles with their name on them or in whatever color they want,” he says.

Defruyt points out that things will only start to change if huge consumer packaged goods conglomerates, like Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble, start making sustainability a bigger priority. Both of these organizations seem open to sustainable solutions as they are part of a group of companies participating in a pilot program called Loop that would send reusable bottles to customers, which would be sent back to be cleaned and refilled. (One of the products designed for Loop was toothpaste in tablet form.) That’s encouraging, says Defruyt, but far from enough. To reduce our plastic and carbon pollution, we need to develop a range of solutions and implement them quickly.

[Photo: Bite]

It is also important to convince consumers that a more durable system can be more practical. For example, buying products in tablet form means not having to carry large bottles of cleaning supplies home from the grocery store, or having large boxes shipped to your doorstep. Reusable bottles are also generally higher quality, as brands often invest more in creating products that have long-term use. “There’s something about reusable packaging that feels so old-fashioned, like stepping back to the days of the milkman,” he says. “We need to change people’s minds and show them that reusable products can be more convenient and fun to use than disposable products.”

From my own personal experience with these tablets, I don’t think it will take consumers very long to see the benefits. When Blueland’s kit arrived at my doorstep, I took out the bottles, put the pills inside, and watched them fizz. Then I used spray to clean the sticky fingerprints my daughter left on our shiny aluminum fridge. The whole system was easy to use and, as a bonus, it was good to know that my clean house didn’t come at the expense of polluting the planet.

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