Dove’s latest deodorant is refillable as part of the brand’s efforts to reduce plastic waste.
The Unilever-owned personal care brand has pledged to cut its use of new plastic by 50 percent by 2025. Unilever, and the beauty industry in general, are currently leading contributors to plastic waste worldwide, and typical deodorant packaging is no exception.
Working closely with anti-plastic advocacy group A Plastic Planet and the Dutch design company VanBerlo, Unilever developed its first-ever circular-by-design product using a stainless steel case and refill system.
Previously, Unilever trialed refillable deodorants for its brands AXE, Rexona, and Dove on zero-waste shopping platform LOOP. But the upcoming Dove launch represents its first large-scale introduction via mainstream supermarkets and stores.
The refillable deodorant requires an initial investment in the stainless steel case, after which customers can buy refills as and when needed. This design — which is similar to those produced by other sustainable deodorant producers — is not entirely plastic-free, but uses 54 percent less than Dove’s typical deodorant products, such as the popular Zero stick.
Ninety-eight percent of this plastic is also recycled, leaving just two percent virgin plastic ingredients. Eventually, the design may be entirely plastic-free, but the current model still represents a significant reduction in overall and new plastic components. According to Dove, it has reduced its use of virgin plastic in the last decade by more than 10,000 tons.
“It isn’t perfect yet, but it is a big step for the No 5 global polluter to try to reinvent a market where they own 50% share with 1 billion people using a Unilever deodorant,” commented A Plastic Planet.
When launched, each item will be packaged and shipped in FSC-graded paper from “well-managed” forests. Customers can choose from Cucumber & Green Tea, Coconut & Pink Jasmine, and Sensitive varieties. Dove’s refillable deodorant will be available from mid-January from Walmart and Target’s websites, and in stores across the U.S. from February.
Unilever trials refill stations
In addition to refillable deodorant, Unilever is also working on sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging on various other beauty and general products. Last year, the company introduced “refill trials” in partnership with sustainable cosmetic and toiletries brand Beauty Kitchen.
This refill station included seven of its most popular overall brands and launched to a single Asda supermarket in Leeds, UK. Products included various tea bags, cleaning products, and laundry detergent, as well as Radox handwash, shower gel, and shampoo. All also contribute to excessive household plastic waste.
In 2019, circular economy advocacy group the Ellen MacArthur Foundation published a report containing Unilever’s plastic production. The company admitted to producing 610,000 tonnes per year, while other major brands — including French personal care brand L’Oréal and American multinational Johnson and Johnson — declined to reveal their output.
Despite this, Unilever is currently on track to achieve its commitment to 100 percent reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging by 2025. The brand also aims to help collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells, and reduce its absolute use of plastic packaging by 100,000 tonnes.
“Plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment. We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the plastic cycle,” said Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever.
“This demands a fundamental rethink in our approach to our packaging and products,” he continued. “It requires us to introduce new and innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, like re-use and re-fill formats, at an unprecedented speed and intensity.”
Other brands ditching plastic
Unilever is not the only company working towards refillable deodorants and other low-impact beauty products. Smaller companies such as by Humankind, Wild, Myro, Native, The Lekker Company, Fussy, and more, produce refillable or low-plastic, natural, vegan deodorants.
UK-based company Lush has now been producing and selling sustainable beauty products for over 25 years. Shampoo bars, bath bombs, and returnable pots have minimized its use of packaging and made a significant impact on the beauty industry as a whole. Now, even larger companies than Lush are moving towards sustainable packaging.
Much like Unilever, L’Oréal — which is the world’s largest cosmetics company — also aims to replace 100 percent of its virgin plastic with recycled or natural alternatives by 2030. In 2019, the company launched a Source Essentielle range that can be refilled up to three times at participating salons.
Both L’Oréal and Unilever are currently members of the Ellen McArthur Foundation’s “New Plastics Economy” pledge, which aims for a circular economy in which plastic never becomes a waste product. All affiliated companies are working towards 100 percent recycled, recyclable, and compostable packaging, to varying degrees.
In 2020, American multinational corporation Procter & Gamble (P&G) launched a paper packaging edition of its popular Old Spice deodorants. The company aims to use 100 percent recyclable packaging — and cut petroleum-based plastics by 50 percent — by 2030. P&G also plans to launch refillable shampoo bottles in 2021. While its Olay brand trialed moisturizer in a refillable jar for a three-month period.
In general, the mainstream beauty industry relies on plastic in a big way. And even forward-looking products such as Dove’s refillable deodorant still include plastic to some extent. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), up to 70 percent of all the plastic waste generated by cosmetics and personal care brands ends up in landfill. A small proportion is incinerated, and an even smaller amount is recycled.
Data from Zero Waste Week indicates that over 120 billion pieces of packaging were produced by the industry globally in 2018. And according to advocacy group Beat the Micro Bead, 95 percent of beauty packaging is discarded after just one use, and 14 percent of this plastic is recycled. In general, just nine percent of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled.
The best earth-friendly and refillable deodorants: 10 to try
If you don’t feel like making it yourself, these 10 vegan deodorants emphasize natural ingredients and recycled, recyclable, refillable, and otherwise sustainable packaging and ingredients. They are all aluminum-free, and generally deodorize rather than prevent natural perspiration entirely.
New Zealand-based company Ethique produces bathroom essentials with zero-waste. Inspired by the incredible amount of excess packaging that comes with typical shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, founder Brianne West developed her own bar-shaped body-care products especially.
Since then, the range has expanded to include solid deodorants. Ethique guarantees 100 percent plastic-free shipping and even plants a tree for every order received. While not technically a “refillable” product, bar-shaped deodorants present a clever plastic-free solution to the packaging problem.
Check them out here.
Salt of the Earth balm
The award-winning Salt of the Earth range is also vegan, aluminium-free, and environmentally-friendly. The company offers a range of entirely plastic-free options, including balms and a deodorizing crystal stick. Also available are refillable spray bottles, and each variety is available both unscented or in a variety of essential oil-infused fragrances.
Check out the plastic-free crystal here.
According to Nuud, its range of vegan and cruelty-free deodorants offer protection from three to seven days with just one application. They contain no aluminium, artificial fragrances, or alcohol. So if you’re looking for a strong, natural, vegan deodorant, Nuud might be the company for you.
It also offers a super-concentrated formula that comes in a bioplastic sugarcane tube and biodegradable cardboard box, maximizing longevity and significantly reducing excess packaging overall.
Check out Nuud here.
If you’re ready to revolutionize your entire bathroom routine, By Humankind offers a wide range of entirely plastic-free products. All initial purchases of deodorant and mouthwash come in refillable, recyclable containers with a lifetime guarantee.
While refill packaging combines biodegradable paper pods and recycled envelopes. By Humankind products are available individually or as packages, including the complete dental routine, shower routine, and daily routine sets.
Check out the deodorant here.
Lush deodorant bar
Lush offers a variety of natural deodorant products, including dusting powders and the Aromaco bar. The best selling solid deodorant combines witch hazel, chamomile, and vinegar, with a fragrant patchouli scent.
The Aromaco bar can be purchased entirely packaging-free, as can the company’s various other Naked Range products. These include shampoo, face creams, makeup, and more.
Currently Lush is a 100 percent vegetarian company, but only 80 percent vegan, so be sure to check the ingredients on each item.
Check out Lush’s deodorants here.
Wild refillable deodorant
Wild’s deodorant cases are customizable and made with anodised aluminium and recycled plastic. They are designed to last, and all subsequent refills are 100 percent plastic free.
The deodorant itself is available in several varieties and scents, but contains no parabens, artificial fragrances, or aluminium. The company also offsets each deodorant by contributing a percentage of sales to reforestation charity On A Mission.
Order Wild deodorant here.
Deodorant cream presents another alternative to plastic-heavy deodorant, as well as for those with sensitive skin. Aurelia’s Botanical Cream deodorant is Vegan Society registered, multi award-winning, and aluminium-free.
According to the brand itself, the deodorizing cream retains dryness, inhibits bacteria, and even moisturizes your skin. While not refillable, Aurelia’s deodorant comes in glass jars with recyclable packaging. And the fingertip application bypasses the need for a roll-on-style case or spray applicator.
Check it out here.
London-based brand Wearth stocks various zero-waste household, lifestyle, and beauty items, including a completely plastic-free deodorant stick from Your Nature. Available in five distinct scents, the deodorant sticks are handmade in the UK with natural ingredients.
Wearth delivers all its products entirely plastic-free, and Your Nature’s deodorant uses a fully recyclable push-up applicator.
Check them out here.
Myro produces refillable deodorant pods made with easily recycled #2 plastic. While not plastic-free, they also use 50 percent less plastic than traditional roll-on deodorants and can be easily refilled via the company’s website. Each scent is vegan, gluten-free, and made with “renewably sourced” ingredients.
Check out Myro’s refills here.
UK-based company PROVERB combines organic ingredients for its sustainably produced skincare products. The company began with its flagship hand sanitizer and deodorant products, both of which are refillable.
PROVERB currently stocks two distinct fragrances, available individually, together, or as part of starter sets containing both cases and refills. Each deodorant is vegan, contains natural ingredients, and comes with minimal, 100 percent recyclable packaging.
Check them out here.
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