There are simple things you can do to reduce your plastic footprint. You can carry around a reusable water bottle to avoid single-use bottles, buy a tote bag to hold your groceries, and steer clear of plastic cutlery.
But some plastic products resist easy and sustainable alternatives.
Unless you’re committed to DIY projects, chances are you probably buy cleaning and beauty products that come encased in plastic packaging. Over the course of the year, this plastic adds up and very little of it ever gets recycled.
A new company called Cleanyst wants to help you cut the majority of this kind of plastic from your life.
Similar to the SodaStream, the appliance that lets you carbonate water, the Cleanyst appliance allows you to create 10 different body care and cleaning products in your home, including shampoos, conditioners, body washes, hand soaps, dish soaps, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, all-purpose cleaners, glass cleaners, and tub and tile cleaners.
The company, which has a Kickstarter page, claims that the system can help consumers reduce 80% of the plastic waste from these categories by vastly reducing the need for plastic packaging.
The Cleanyst system involves an at-home appliance; small plastic pouches that contain highly concentrated cleaning ingredients, which are 98% to 99% plant-based; reusable glass bottles for mixing ingredients; and reusable pump-containers for holding the final product.
To make a body wash or glass cleaner, you simply pour water into the appliance like a coffee machine, strap in the plastic pouch, add customizable ingredients, and then let the machine do the mixing.
“Among the 3 Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle — recycling tends to get most of the attention,” Nick Gunia, co-founder and CEO of Cleanyst, told Global Citizen.
“But reduce is the first R and it’s the most important,” he added. “If you reduce the need for a plastic packaging, it doesn’t need to be recycled, forget about working on how to dispose of it in a sustainable way. If you can reduce the amounts of packaging, then that’s the best possible scenario.”
It’s not that the Cleanyst system involves no plastic waste. Instead, by letting customers add the water to products, the company is able to fit the essential ingredients into smaller containers, which reduces the overall amount of plastic required.
“[Store-bought] products are very voluminous,” Gunia said. “There’s a lot of water in these products, so you need a big container to package it. In the case of Cleanyst, we’re stripping out most of the water and empowering the consumer to add that water at home, and that shrinks the amount of product we need to deliver and it shrinks our package.”
In recent years, the problem of plastic waste has become a fraught issue around the world. Scenes of beaches and mountains crowded with bags and straws, reports of marine animals dying from ingesting plastic, and studies showing how microplastic pervades water, air, and food, have sparked global awareness and demands for sustainability.
Recently, a group of companies agreed to pursue a “milkman model” of business in which companies retrieve packaging for reuse.
The Cleanyst system seems to fit into this paradigm shift, and Gunia said the company is open to partnering with companies that want to integrate their products into the system, similar to how coffee brands have partnered with Keurig.
“We’ve always dreamed that Cleanyst would have an open-source platform for other brands that want to leverage our environmental benefits,” Gunia said. “We’re actively working with a couple of multinational brands in an effort to have more than just the Cleanyst brand of concentrates to offer to the marketplace.”