Plaine Products: Turning bathrooms plastic-free with their Return, Refill, Reuse model

A bathroom free of plastic bottles and containers is becoming so, thanks to a new beauty brand and service, Plaine Products. Plaine Products, focused on eliminating the use of plastic, has created a unique service providing environmentally friendly bathroom products – which currently consists of all natural shampoo, conditioner and body wash – to customers in returnable, refillable and reusable bottles.

The idea is that customers purchase products via Plaine Products’ online store. The bathroom products come in sustainable packaging including aluminium containers, and are shipped in recycled cardboard boxes. Once a customer has finished using their products, Plaine Products will send a refill, and the exact same box, which they are delivered in, can then be used to return the empty bottles for free.

Plaine Products then clean, sterilise and refill the bottles, before sending them out to customers for use, creating a loop that has minimal waste. When the environmentally friendly aluminium bottles have lived out their current lives, they are then turned into new bottles to start the cycle once more, therefore meaning less waste in landfills and oceans.

What’s more, the full product range at Plaine Products is all natural – biodegradable, paraben free, SLS-free, toxin free and palm oil-free. A key ingredient used throughout Plaine Products is aloe vera. The range is small, limited to the shower and bathroom bare necessities – shampoo, conditioner and body wash. The packaging is simple. It’s Plaine Products’ simplicity, no frills approach to packaging which is respectful of the planet and its limited product range where it shines, making it a smart choice for consumers in the US.

Plaine Products can be purchased via a subscription, where products are sent out to customers once every two months, three months or four months. Or consumers can buy products whenever they require them at their convenience. Plaine Products is currently only available in the US. However, their products can be purchased in Canada via Amazon.

This environmentally friendly alternative to shop-bought bathroom products packaged in single-use plastics is the creation of two sisters, Lindsey McCoy and Alison Webster. As with anyone who strives to adopt a lifestyle that is in harmony with nature, including reducing their use of plastics, their journey is one that has been natural and organic.

The sisters grew up in the US with parents who nurtured their entrepreneurial side and love of the ocean. A heart-felt connection to the environment led to Lindsey McCoy living in The Bahamas where she worked for an environmental education non-profit. Home for her and her family for 10 years, it is where Lindsey McCoy’s awareness of plastic pollution and its effects became most apparent.

“While I loved living in The Bahamas,” she explains. “It wasn’t all rum drinks on the beach. On a small island there’s no first world infrastructure to insulate you from the piles of plastic we are creating. You see plastic bags, bottles and flip flops on the beaches, in the water, spilling out of the landfills, along the side of the road.”

The reality of plastic pollution showed itself in its entirety to the Bahamas and its inhabitants at a local beach, which went by the name of Junk Beach. “It’s so full of plastic its called Junk Beach,” Lindsey McCoy says. “The message that plastic last forever, no matter how long we use it, is much more obvious living in the Bahamas than it is here in the US.”

Americans discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year. Only eight per cent of that gets recycled. Around 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 268,940 tons pollute the world’s oceans.

While working and living in the Bahamas, Lindsey McCoy was inspired to take action by reducing her use of plastic, implementing changes throughout her daily life. “I wanted to start using less plastic in my life,” she explains. “I started taking action: carrying a reusable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, skipping the straw at restaurants and bars. I looked for other ways to use less plastic.”

The one change that did not come so easily for Lindsey McCoy to implement was eliminating plastic bottles in the bathroom. This was due to the lack of choice, as a consumer, for bathroom products that were not packaged in plastic bottles. “I couldn’t figure out how to get those plastic bottles out of my shower,” she says. “I couldn’t find any alternatives that worked for me and my hair.”

As her and her family contemplated a move back to the United States, Lindsey McCoy envisaged a solution to her bathroom plastic woes. “I realised that I might be able to solve my own problem,” she says. “Even better, I might be able to help other people use less plastic in their lives.”

Back in the US, she joined forces with her sister, Alison Webster. Alison Webster, with her design degree and “strong opinions about the quality of her products”, and Lindsey McCoy, with her non-profit background having made a career out of “finding solutions”, formed a dream partnership. “Together we spent two years working hard to making it easier for people to get quality products without having to buy single-use plastic bottles,” Lindsey McCoy adds.

Plaine Products launched in February this year. As far as Lindsey McCoy is aware, there are no other companies doing what Plaine Products is doing or offering environmentally friendly products in the unique way that they do. “There are some brick and mortar zero waste refill shops, but not quite like our model,” she explains. “As far we know we are the only company that pays for you to send your bottles back to be cleaned, refilled, and reused. Once the bottles have gone through several cycles we’ll send them off to be recycled. The nice thing about aluminium, as opposed to plastic, is that when it’s recycled there’s no loss in quality. It just turns right back into more aluminium. When plastic is recycled it is downgraded into a lower form of plastic until it becomes unusable and ends up in a landfill or the ocean.”

As with anything in life, including setting up your own business it requires persistency, consistency and perserverance. When asked about how important the environment and sustainability is to Plaine Products, Lindsey McCoy honestly replies: “Important enough to spend two years trying to figure out how to get this business up and running”.

“It was tricky not only starting a business, but starting one using a new model,” Lindsey McCoy adds. “We didn’t fit the normal boxes for most of the suppliers we were working with, so everything took a lot of time and energy. We made lots of mistakes.”

Just as she expresses herself, speaking her inner truth, it is that energy that Lindsey McCoy and her sister Alison Webster have put forward in their brand that makes it so appealing. Plaine Products has integrity. It offers great natural products that are just as kind to the environment as it is to the skin. Looking at the ingredients in their products is refreshing to see. Anyone who resonates with Mother Nature’s living plants will be drawn to Plaine Products. Ingredients include essential oils, fruit pulp extracts and flower essences. The ingredients lists are transparent and easy to read, and include “no nasties” or chemicals.

Lindsey McCoy has always been inclined towards natural beauty products herself, using her intuition to guide her towards the products that are right for her. In setting up Plaine Products, she admits to having “been on a huge learning curve” in terms of her awareness and knowledge of the hair and beauty industry and market.

“Only when I started doing research for Plaine Products did I realise how many chemicals were in mainstream beauty products,” she says. “It was an eye opening experience to read about the toxins, detergents and pollutants I was putting on my skin and in my body. While I started this business out of concern for all of the plastic we’re putting into the environment, and the fact that there might soon be more plastic than fish in the ocean, it’s also become important to me to educate people about the importance of natural ingredients to their health. I’m still learning every day.”

In the research and development stage of the business, the sisters spent just as much time figuring out how to make sure their products are as environmentally friendly and of good quality as the packaging. Sourcing ingredients, the sisters were determined to find businesses to work with who were just as committed as they are about the environment, natural products and consumers. They also had to take into consideration people with allergies as well as vegans. “Happily we finally found a manufacturer that is as committed as we are to natural products and ingredients,” Lindsey McCoy says. “An example, originally our products had wheat and silk proteins, which were of concern to vegans and those with gluten allergies. While the silk proteins were from a biological source, our manufacturer was able to tweak the formula to remove those ingredients so that we could move forward without any concern from either of those groups. Our success thus far is not only because of the innovative packaging, it has also been because people genuinely like the products.”

With the business less than six months old, Plaine Products is fast creating a name for itself and a loyal customer base. Plaine Products customers are people who want natural products and who want to use less plastic in their lives, but haven’t found another solution that works for them, according to the sisters and founders of Plaine Products. Lindsey McCoy explains so far their customer base has been across the board – “young and old, moms, dads, singles and college students”. She adds: “It’s actually been really fun to see the diversity. I would say only common denominator is excitement around good products with refillable containers. Hopefully we are making it easier for people who want to use less plastic but have never taken the step due to time constraints, or the lack of available options.”

The company has been working with like-minded individuals, including bloggers specialising in zero waste and health and beauty, and using social media to spread the word about their products and unique business model. “For me it’s important that we provide a product that empowers people to make a choice that’s good for them and the planet. We have a hashtag: #easywins for the environment,” Lindsey McCoy says. “I want people to feel good about positive choices they make instead of feeling guilty about the times they weren’t able to find non plastic, or natural, items. I hope as we continue to grow we can engage people around those positive choices and help inspire others to take steps in that direction, however big or small they are.”

In the coming months, Plaine Products will be adding a second scent, hand wash and body lotion to their product range. A retail outlet where people could come in with their own bottles to fill up has not been ruled out. “It’s definitely on the larger game plan,” Lindsey McCoy says. “But we need to get big enough and see where we have the support to figure out where those places are going to be. I’d also love to see us expand into home cleaning products. I’ve got lots of plans!”

Plaine Products

Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer specialising in sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com

 

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