Henrik Møller Jørgensen
Henrik is a Global Analyst for Household Products; conducting research, leveraging his extensive knowledge and creating reports and customised client serveys for Mintel.

Globally, 80 billion plastic bottles are produced every year, and around 80% of those will end up in landfills or oceans where they will remain for several hundreds of years creating an environmental catastrophe. Retailers’ implementation of plastic reducing and recycling measures, and political discussions of legal measures, have created media attention, raising consumer awareness of the immense problem plastics can pose to wildlife and the environment.

An easy way for consumers to reduce their plastic consumption is to stop buying home care products in plastic bottles. This might have seemed impossible just a few years ago, but has now become a new opportunity for companies and brands to boost their investment in sustainable packaging solutions, such as biodegradable bio-plastics and compostable compressed paper bottles.

Paper bottles have opportunities beyond fabric care

Seventh Generation launched the first laundry detergent packaged in a paper bottle (a bag-in-box concept) nearly a decade ago. Recently, the world of packaging has changed and more companies have started to use paper bottles. These paper bottles claim to save 60-70% of plastic material compared to a regular plastic bottle of the same size, and are both compostable and recyclable.

Most marketers highlight paper bottles that are made of 100% recycled material. Biokleen claims to use recycled cardboard and newspapers while other paper bottle users mostly only offer laundry detergents. Eco-planet and BIPA also have fabric conditioners and Estoninan Mulieres offers hard surface cleaners.

Ecologic Brands, the makers of Seventh Generation’s paper bottle, also offers paper bottle solutions suitable for other home care sectors, including both trigger-spray and dosing-pump solutions. One of its newest achievements is the shower-safe paper bottle developed for Seed Phytonutrients Daily Hair Cleanser from L’Oréal – a pack size and type that is suited for concentrated washing-up liquids.

Paper bottles claim to save 60-70% of plastic material compared to a regular plastic bottle of the same size, and are both compostable and recyclable.

A gift to encourage consumers to dismantle a bag-in-box

L’Oréal has launched a shower-safe (water resistant) sustainable paper bottle that divides into two halves for proper sorting and recycling of the paper and plastic. To encourage consumers to dismantle the bottles for proper recycling, L’Oréal teamed-up with the Hudson Valley Seed Company to develop a small surprise for consumers to discover inside the bottle.

Dismantling the paper bottles after using up the product reveals a beautifully designed pack of heirloom herb seeds for growing in the garden or windowsill. The idea of offering a surprise inside the bottle to encourage dismantling and recycling after use could be extended to competitions, coupons and collectible cards; a “green” marketing opportunity that current green home care companies have overlooked.

Multi-layered cardboard reduces plastic consumption

Leading market players such as P&G, Colgate-Palmolive and Henkel have launched fabric conditioners packed in food & drink-style cartons commonly used for milk, yogurt or juice. Unilever is unique in having used this type of packaging for both liquid laundry detergents and fabric conditioners.

Fabric care products packed in cartons made of multi-layered cardboard have been launched in all regions. Launching this type of packaging for purposes other than food and drink might have been too early for consumers to accept 10 years ago. However, the plastic wave might open new opportunities for marketing and positioning cartons in home care.

What we think

Globally, more than half of home care products launched in the 12 months to June 2018 were packaged in some type of plastic bottle. Household care has untapped opportunities to help reduce plastic pollution by replacing plastic bottles with more sustainable packaging solutions such as paper bottles and multi-layered cardboard cartons. Even though these aren’t plastic-free, they represent an important opportunity to help consumers to reduce plastic consumption and might even help make recycling less complicated.