Plastic is everywhere. And for good reason; this wonder material’s discovery has helped revolutionize everything from medicine to beauty. And while its earliest application was in making war aircraft lighter, it soon found massive utility in packaging consumer products given its versatility, affordability, and durability.
But the flip side is a dark one. Because plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it accumulates in our environment. The best-case estimates for recycling, globally, are at 9%. Nearly 40% of the plastic that ends up in the environment is single-use packaging waste from consumer products – including personal and home care essentials. Over the past few decades, most of these products have evolved into liquid and semi-liquid forms, predominantly for convenience. And for these forms, plastic becomes the easiest choice of packaging material e.g., bottles of shampoo, detergent etc. One may argue that glass and metal are options as well, but they are expensive, even more resource intensive and easily subject to damage.
Arani Ecosteps, founded by Gauri Gupta and Shivraj Negi in early 2021 decided to solve this ‘packaging’ problem by redesigning the ‘product’. Simply put, to get rid of the plastic, they got rid of the water! By developing water-less concentrates for a wide range of personal and home care essentials, they have helped save nearly 57,000 pieces of plastic weighing over 700kg – including bottles, wrappers, tubes, containers, and multi-laminate refill packs.
On the personal care front, the company has developed products like toothpaste tablets, and nourishing bars for shampoo, facewash, shaving etc. – that otherwise come in plastic bottles and tubes. For homecare, Arani’s products include a variety of dilute-at-home concentrates that enable consumers to re-use old bottles, while saving on transporting water over thousands of kilometres. Finally, their refill store in Gurgaon is one-of-its-kind; just walk in with any empty bottles and fill them with non-toxic home care liquids! A cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution, this refill range includes handwash, dishwash, floor cleaner, surface cleaner, laundry detergent and toilet cleaner.
Consumers are increasingly seeking more sustainable solutions – and packaging is just one aspect. There is also growing recognition of complex (and sometimes toxic) ingredients in commercial products which are added to extend shelf lives. Water-less formulations have a key advantage that they can bypass a host of preservatives and stabilizers that are essential for liquids. To that effect, Arani’s products are very gentle, comprising only the necessary cleansing and nourishing agents that are strictly plant based. So, in addition to being safer for consumption, they are also kind to the environment they eventually drain into.
The journey to creating this range of products was a long one involving extensive research, product development and stability tests with new packaging materials. “An amazing property of plastic is that it is inert and perfectly waterproof. Hence if the primary packaging is plastic, one can be assured of product safety and that there wouldn’t be any reaction between the product and the packaging. When using materials like corn starch sheets, paper, or cardboard, that assurance doesn’t exist. So, we had to test all the products with their new packaging materials across a range of temperature and humidity conditions – which is very wide for our country!”, Gauri shared.
But laboratories can’t simulate for all real-life situations. With their products being shipped to over 400 pincodes, Gauri and Shivraj say repeatedly that none of this would’ve been possible without consumer support. Things did go wrong; products got spoilt in extreme moisture and extreme heat. But their early supporters went out of their way to share feedback, try different steps, and help them make corrections.
“We were initially very surprised, for it was almost like consumers having the most unfavorable experience were the most involved in helping us fix things! It is extremely heartening to see that in a world chasing convenience at any cost, there is a beautiful and growing community that insists on conscious consumption even if needs them to adjust their daily habits. Our consumers are our biggest inspiration, and that’s why we continue to work on creating new formulations.”, Shivraj added.
And truly, the power of collective action cannot be underestimated. As our institutions do their share on the regulatory front, our individual choices will define the world we want our children to inherit. The decision has always been ours, and we need to make it soon – what do we choose? Planet or Plastic?
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