Have you ever stopped to think about how much plastic is in your home at this very moment? What about in your kitchen and bathroom? Now think about how many of those plastic products are a single use item. I’d venture a guess to say that most of them are. I think we can all agree that plastic, while convenient, is taking a huge tole on the environment, and the amount of plastic pollution in our oceans is staggering.
A product that the majority of us use, many on a daily basis, is hair and body care products. Most of these types of products are packaged in plastic, and are designed for us to use one time and then either throw in the trash or into our recycling bins. While recycling is definitely a great thing, I have been surprised to learn that even if you recycle plastic, it may still end up in a landfill. So, there has to be a better solution, right? There IS, and it is a company called Plaine Products.
Plaine Products is a one of a kind company that is truly revolutionizing an industry. While many companies continue to use plastic and hope consumers will recycle it, Plaine Products is doing something different – they are taking responsibility for their packaging. By opting to use aluminum (which is able to be completely recycled without any loss in quality at a fraction of the initial production costs and energy requirements) instead of plastic, and offering a refill program, you can rest assured that their bottles will not end up in our oceans. And, to make it even easier for you, they will also send you a prepaid postage label so you can send your bottles back, where they will then be sanitized and reused over and over again.
I have been beyond thrilled to learn about Plaine Products, and was so excited to have the opportunity to interview one of the founders of the company, Lindsey McCoy. She is sharing all about her background in environmental education and what her struggles have been in bringing Plaine Products to the market. I hope you will enjoy the full interview with Lindsey below.
The Greenly Guide: You worked for 10 years in environmental education and advocacy in the Bahamas – can you talk about your environmental work there and how it led to your decision to start Plaine Products?
Lindsey: While in The Bahamas I was lucky enough to run and work with a great environmental education group called Friends of the Environment. They are located in Abaco, in the northern Bahamas and do great work with local students and visiting scientists, as well as raising awareness generally about the fragility and interdependence of their environment. Because The Bahamas has low population density they’ve been able to take their environment for granted in the past, but the signs of wear and tear are starting to show. There are less and less fish and marine life. We also sponsored a lot of clean ups. On small islands there’s no first world infrastructure to insulate you from the piles of plastic we are creating. You see plastic bags, bottles and flip flops on the beaches, in the water, spilling out of the landfills, along the side of the road. There’s even a place so full of plastic its called Junk Beach. The message that plastic last forever, no matter how long we use it, is much more obvious living there than it is here.
Seeing that I wanted to start using less plastic in my life. I started taking action: carrying a reusable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, skipping the straw at restaurants and bars. I looked for other ways to use less plastic. But I couldn’t figure out how to get those plastic bottles out of my shower. I couldn’t find any alternatives that worked for me and my hair.
As we contemplated a move back to the States, I realized that I might be able to solve my own problem. Even better, I might be able to help other people use less plastic in their lives. I pulled in my sister, Alison Webster, who has a design degree and strong opinions about the quality of her products. Together we spent two years working hard to making it easier for people to get quality products without having to buy single-use plastic bottles.
The Greenly Guide: When I first heard about your company, I was so excited, as it is very unique, and not many (if any at all!) others are doing what you are by taking responsibility for your packaging. Can you explain the process for the consumer when purchasing your products?
Lindsey: As far as I know we’re the only company using this model, but we’re hoping it will catch on! Here’s how Plaine Products works: When the consumer buys shampoo, conditioner or body wash online it’s delivered in an aluminum bottle and comes with a pump. When a product starts running low the consumer purchases a refill, or if they sign up for a subscription the refills will be delivered automatically. When the bottle is empty they will switch the pump over to the refill and continue using the product. Then they just put the empty bottle in the same package that the refill bottle came in and send it back to Plaine Products – for free! When Plaine Products receives the bottle, it will be cleaned, sterilized, refilled and sent out again.
The Greenly Guide: Why aluminum bottles? What are the benefits of this material over others?
Lindsey: The nice thing abut aluminum, as opposed to plastic, is that when it’s recycled there’s no loss in quality. It just turns right back into more aluminum. When plastic is recycled it is downgraded into a lower form of plastic until it becomes unusable and ends up in a landfill or the ocean.
The Greenly Guide: Along with being great for the environment, your products have also been formulated with all natural ingredients, free from many potentially harmful ingredients such as sulfates, parabens and phthalates – can you share a little more about how you source your ingredients and how you keep sustainability in mind?
Lindsey: When I started doing research for Plaine Products I was shocked to realize how many chemicals were in mainstream beauty products. It was an eye opening experience to read about the toxins, detergents and pollutants I was putting on my skin and in my body. While I started this business out of concern for all of the plastic we’re putting into the environment, it’s become important to me to educate people about the importance of natural ingredients to their health. I’m still learning every day.
We spent a lot of time figuring out how to make sure the product was as environmentally friendly and as quality as the packaging. Happily we finally found a manufacturer that is as committed as we are to natural products and ingredients. An example, originally our products had wheat and silk proteins, which were of concern to vegans and those with gluten allergies. While the silk proteins were from a biological source, our manufacturer was able to tweak the formula to remove those ingredients so that we could move forward without any concern from either of those groups. Our success thus far is not only because of the innovative packaging, it has also been because people genuinely like the products.
The Greenly Guide: In your environmental work and journey to creating Plaine Products, is there a fact or statistic that sticks out to you about how we as consumers impact the environment that many would find surprising or shocking?
Lindsey: I was shocked when I found out that around half of all of the plastic we use is single use. That, coupled with the concept that every piece of plastic ever made still exists, pushed me into action. I just hate the thought of using something plastic for a few moments and then throwing it out to sit somewhere for hundreds of years. Since we started Plaine Products it’s come out that by 2050 there maybe more plastic than fish in the ocean. If I hadn’t already started down this path, that fact would have gotten me going.
The Greenly Guide: What has been your biggest struggle in bringing your products to the market?
Lindsey: It took us two years to get the business started. Since no one has ever done this before it took a lot of trial and error. We made mistakes and learned from them. Since we’ve gotten started our challenge has been awareness, both of the products and the reason for it. We’ve become so accustomed to cheap, disposable products it’s challenging to get people to think about the results of our consumer habits.
The Greenly Guide: What has brought you the greatest joy in your business?
Lindsey: The support we have gotten and the genuine enthusiasm from people who have found our products. It’s so rewarding when people are as excited as we are about our refillable model.
The Greenly Guide: Currently in your product collection, you are offering shampoo, conditioner, and body wash – can you share any plans to expand your line in the future?
Lindsey: We’ve added travel size, we are about to add hand wash, along with a second scent of shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Before the end of the year we hope to add lotion. I’d love to see us expand into natural cleaning products one day.
*All photos in this post are courtesy of and belong to Plaine Products.