Across many international housing districts, the traditional ‘milkman concept’ is getting revived for a more sustainable practice of distributing milk. A distribution practice involving packaging milk in glass bottles that are home delivered and the used glass bottles are collected for reuse post mechanized cleaning. Some other dairy products are also getting delivered through this delivery mechanism using plastic-free packaging.

Many global brands are now actively engaged in developing packaging options for FMCG and Personal Care products that have high frequency of usage resulting in big proportion of plastic waste generation. These examples should be replicated in Indian context to reduce a much larger magnitude of plastic use.

Cleaning Product Concentrates

Concentrate products contain only active ingredients and are combined with tap water in reusable bottles, minimizing the packaging and transport of containers filled mostly with water. This concept can be practically introduced in Indian market with tangible benefits of reducing use of large sized HDPE and PET containers and bottles. The added benefits are lesser volume and weight loading on transportation infrastructure, better utilization of retail shelf space and waste disposal systems.

Some of the major MNC brands like SC Johnson, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble have introduced concentrates in international markets to promote this concept. Few consumer product startups have built their brands on such environment friendly options, supported by active social media ‘reduce plastic waste’ campaigns. The product usage is encouraged using reusable spray bottles made from aluminum that further adds to the appeal.

Refillables for Beauty Products

Beauty products have the most ostentatious packaging all for the purpose of vanity. Many of the packaging designs used multiple layers of plastic-coated sheets, plastic jars or tubes, plastic holders, dispensing systems which has single-use purpose. Some niche boutique international brands like Stila, MAC and Jane Iredale did experiment with refillable cosmetic compacts in the early part of the decade (and still do). But the practice largely fell out of fashion as influencer culture drove brands toward more extravagant packaging that stands out in social media feeds.

With the pandemic induced awakening, sustainability emerged as a top purchasing driver, and more companies seemed keen to revive refillables. Brands including Yves Saint Laurent, Bond No. 9, L’Oréal Professionnel and Kat Von D Beauty launched refillable products in 2019. Olay also piloted a refillable version of its Regenerist Whip moisturizer.

Milkman Model

An e-commerce company selling ‘daily-use consumer products’ called LOOP has built on the ‘milkman’ distribution model to deliver products like cereals, sauces, jams, tea, coffee, juices, toothpaste, shampoo, detergents, body lotion, sanitizers etc. The products are sold in containers that can be reused and delivered in a tote-bag that is also used collecting back the used containers of previous order. The brand originated in the US and with its growing success, now also operates in Canada, France and UK. Loop partners include Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Mondelēz, Danone and a dozen or so smaller brands.

Image Source: LOOP

Shopping @Kirana Store

LOOP may soon get an Indian version, but then we do have a homegrown sustainable option that is widely used in neighbourhood markets across the country. Even today at our local kirana store, the packaging of rice, wheat, spices & masala, pulses, fruits and vegetables are done in ‘kagaz ka thaila’ / paper bags or pouches. These are no fancy craft paper bags but made of old newspapers and magazines, the best form of recycling. The shopping bags to carry these products are also many times made out of used fabric at home, another great example of recycling. Much of these sustainable practices were abandoned with proliferation of cheap single-use plastic pouches & bags.

Several cities have taken determined efforts to ban these single-use plastic packaging and we can see revival of paper bags and cloth shopping totes. Consumers are also embracing this change, and hopefully will become ‘right way’.

Sustainable Products on OurBetterPlanet

As a curated marketplace for sustainable products, OurBetterPlanet strives to offer brands like BHOOMI & CO supplying bio-degradable baby diapers made of bamboo fibre; Eco Femme, a women-led social enterprise producing washable cloth pads and providing menstrual health education; SHECUP a brand of menstrual cup, and contributing to Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) through their educational programs for girls/women both in the Rural & Urban sector.

Sustainable packaging is integral to ethos at OurBetterPlanet. We work with our vendor partners to ensure plastic free packaging of products using sustainable alternatives like bio-plastic, recycled paperboxes, starch activated paper tapes, cloth bags etc.

June 01, 2021 — Our Better Planet