Easy swap No 4. - Cleaning Products

When we at Happy Beak started to look through alternatives to the regular bottles of cleaning products, little did we know that we'd learn that each time we bought a bottle of detergent we were in fact buying 90% water and only 10% of the actual active stuff.

What we did know was that it seemed pretty senseless to be throwing away empty bottles because they clearly had more life left in them, but what else can you do with them? And really each time you buy a bottle of detergent you're telling the manufacturer to make more unnecessary plastic, fob you off with 90% water and enjoy the proceeds, perpetuating the cycle of endless production of needless plastic.

And we're not talking just about the harmful chemicals in the actual product itself, and we know that the majority of them are toxic to humans as well as the environment. You have read the instructions on the bottles, right? Companies have been forced to make their detergents biodegradable but some may break down quicker than others and they often contain chemicals which may cause problems. Phosphates can cause eutrophication, upsetting the balance of nutrients in rivers and streams, while many products also contain enzymes, bleaches, brighteners and perfumes. None of them are naturally occurring chemicals and affect the balance ecosystem.

No, we're also talking about the bottles themselves. Plastic is made from fossil fuels which is not in infinite supply and the production of it has huge environmental impact, using not just the fossil fuels but also copious amounts of water and energy to run the production factories. In fact, a huge proportion of carbon footprint associated with cleaning product will be manufacture of their packaging. Another large proportion will be their disposal or recycling. And because not all bottles are made from recycled materials, many will go to landfill. Companies are increasingly obligated to move to recycled and recyclable materials but it's just not enough because that still produces single use items and plastic cannot be recycled infinitely - the quality reduces with each cycle. And how about the spray nozzles that are assembled from different materials? Those just have to be disposed of. The pressing necessity is to create a closed loop system where none of these bottles need to be disposed of. At least not after just one use.

And we're also talking about the environmental cost of their transportation. Remember how we said that 90% of the product is in fact water? And then there's the added weight of the packaging and chances are, the product was created many miles from you, and had to undergo several phases of travel to get to your location. All that transportation has an environmental cost, though you may not realise it; trucks, ships, and other transportation methods all use fossil fuels primarily to ship their goods, which means every commercial product you buy has a fractional, but measurable impact on the environment. And if you could reduce the amount being shipped in the first place by 90%, that would also translate to such reduction in transport footprint. Of course, locally sourced and homemade products will have a substantially reduced impact, but on that a little later.

We at Happy Beak have searched high and low for an alternative and found the answer in the shape of concentrated cleaning pods. Looking much like your laundry detergent pods with dissoluble pouch, these tiny cleaning product refills

are all your cleaning detergent you'd normally buy, just minus all the water. And of course minus yet another bottle. You just pop them into an empty bottle you already have and fill with water.

Ok, this is not strictly speaking a plastic free swap...yet! The idea of becoming more sustainable isn't to get rid of all the plastic that's still perfectly functional and replace it with eco-friendly alternatives, that would be defeating the object of reducing waste. But what you're doing is saving countless litres of water used to produce as well as fill these bottles, you're saving a lot of bottles being thrown away unnecessarily and you're using a product that is harmless to the environment. And once the bottle does give up, you can get yourselves a nice sustainable alternative.

Now about the locally sourced, home made products. We do know that an increasing number of people are moving to making their own cleaning products from natural ingredients. That is great if you have the time and resources and I applaud anyone who is able to do that. But a lot of people feel they do not have the time, skill or resources but would still like to reduce their impact on the environment. And for those, these pods are a great answer.

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