Bathing With Plastics
Our shower & bathing routines have developed an enormous plastics problem. From shampoos, conditioners, soaps, facewashes, and scrubs to even most sponges, they are all packaged with or contain plastics. This was not always the case, but rising demand in the personal care market and changes in how we bathe have helped create this new plastic landscape. What began as a well-intentioned effort to improve personal hygiene and access to cleaning products quickly transformed into a booming market segment.
The twentieth century saw tremendous growth in the personal care industry, with the U.S. market alone estimated to be a $90 billion industry.
The twentieth century saw tremendous growth in the personal care industry, with the U.S. market alone estimated to be a $90 billion industry. Consumers were presented with continually evolving options, and supermarket shelves quickly burst at the seams expanding into entire aisles dedicated to the myriad of products on offer. Yet, with the exponential growth in demand for shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and more also came the rise in plastic packaging. What had been previously sold as bars, or in glass jars, or tins shifted to being “conveniently” delivered in plastic containers. Shampoos and conditioners were early adopters of new plastic containers. These changes laid the groundwork for the problems we now face.
Impact of Shower Products
So how big is our plastics problem in our bathrooms? For context, in the United States alone, 550 million empty shampoo bottles are thrown away each year. This figure does not include conditioner, body wash, or other bathing products -just shampoo bottles. Compounding this problem is the fact that only a fraction of these bottles are recycled. Instead, most end up directly into our rubbish bins. Most people don’t keep separate recycling bins in their bathroom, so empty plastic containers from the bathroom tend to miss out on recycling. With the average American using 11 bottles of shampoo a year, these large, bulky plastic containers are a significant contributor to many households’ annual waste.
In the United States alone, 550 million empty shampoo bottles are thrown away each year.
Shampoo or Bottle of Water?
Would you like some shampoo with your bottle of water? Yes, you read that correctly - the majority of your shampoos and conditioners are water, with only about 10% being actual products. When cleaning products changed from solid bars to liquids, water was added and thus creating the need to be stored in a plastic container. While shampoo bottles are not quite single-use plastic bottles, they are not far off.
In addition to the plastic waste produced by the bottles, the increased carbon footprint also needs to be considered. Larger and heavier bottles that need to be shipped create a bigger carbon footprint than lighter weight smaller bars and solid products.
Addressing The Problem
The global demand for personal care products is only going to continue to increase. However, the good news is that there are now a number of zero-waste shampoos and conditioners available. These sustainable products eliminate plastic bottles, reduce carbon emissions from shipping, and provide an equivalent (and arguably better) cleaning experience. Eco-friendly products like HiBAR go a step further and eliminate all unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals and produce a plastic-free shampoo and conditioner bar with 100% natural ingredients that leave your hair and the environment thanking you.
The developments in shampoos and conditioners during the 20th century was, without a doubt, a great step forward for personal hygiene and cleanliness. We learned a tremendous about along the way, but what is clear now is that we need to actively address how these products are packaged and the environmental impact they have. The positive news is that we can have zero-waste shampoos and conditioners that help reduce needless the amount of plastic waste while simultaneously meeting our high personal care standards.
Written by Henry Palmer