Horrific waste - plastic in the laundry detergent industry. Why and how to completely avoid it
It's worse than you can imagine....Think of laundry detergent and brightly coloured plastic bottles, boxes, and pouches, lined up in endless rows on supermarket shelves
Bulky and heavy, they are responsible for putting thousands more tonnes of plastic into circulation every year.
So, what happens to all this plastic, what effect is it having on us and the planet, and what can we do to stop the cycle?
Why is traditional laundry detergent packaged in so much plastic?
Laundry detergent has evolved from soap to powder to liquid over the years. The first commercially formulated powder was produced in 1946 and was designed to avoid the scum that forms when using soap for laundry.
Fast forward to 1984 and scientists produced a liquid version: not an easy proposition because the individual elements need to remain stable when mixed, through manufacture to consumer use. Liquid laundry detergents fulfilled various roles. They were easy to use, dissolved faster and could pre-treat stains. Most significantly, the return for manufacturers was much higher for liquids than powders.
Liquids are sold in plastic bottles. The move to ‘convenience’ has meant that marketers decided even pouring your own dose of detergent could be too much mess and effort and have created pods. These are individual doses of detergent, wrapped in dissolvable plastic and packaged in rigid plastic containers or flexible plastic pouches.
Why the laundry detergent industry needs to stop producing virgin plastic
While manufacturers may be promoting their use of reduced packaging, recyclable plastics, and greater use of recycled plastics, a 2017 research article found that of the estimated 8,300 million metric tons of virgin plastics ever produced, “79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050”.
Why recycling plastic can be bad for the environment too
While recycling plastic may be better than producing virgin plastic it doesn’t stop it getting into the food chain. And don’t forget that the laundry detergent industry was exempt from the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 as it didn’t cover the use of microbeads for industrial purposes. Shockingly, a Columbia Climate School study found microbeads and microplastic fragments in all the detergents they tested, including organic ones.
And for a double-whammy, plastic is often recycled into polyester for clothing and plastic fragments can break off during washing. When washed, clothing made from recycled plastic can “release plastic microfibres, of which around half a million tonnes every year contribute to ocean pollution – 16 times more than plastic microbeads from cosmetics”, according to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation report.
How to avoid using any plastic when doing your laundry
Instead of liquid laundry detergents, try the strips from the Melt Laundry range. They are entirely plastic-free. There is no plastic in our environmentally friendly formulation or packaging. It’s a zero-waste product.
Our strips dissolve fully in the wash and do not need to come into contact with the right micro-organisms to fully degrade, unlike the soluble PVA plastic membranes that wrap pods.
Our cardboard boxes are made of recycled cardboard and are a fraction of the size of a plastic detergent bottle. They can be recycled through your domestic recycling collection or put to use anywhere you need a handy box in the house or garden. They are fully biodegradable so can be torn up for the compost heap or used to inhibit weeds, as mulch, and so on.