As most followers of the Scrubba brand know, we take steps wherever we can to reduce our impact on the environment. From giving customers the option for packaging-free products, to an undyed and unbleached version of the Scrubba wash bag, or our move to using recycled fabrics, we believe that every step (no matter how small) is important.
It is for this reason that our customers may soon see their Scrubba wash bags shipped in some interesting packaging – all with the aim of minimizing waste.
Customers may soon find their Scrubba wash bags shipped in unique packaging, which is made from the cartons they were delivered to us in.
The inequality of waste
In a world where we are striving for equality, one thing that isn’t equal is the ease of recycling different types of waste. Some types of waste cannot be recycled and end up in landfill. Some types can be quite readily recycled, such as cardboard and PET bottles. Other types such as soft plastics can be recycled but the process is difficult as evidenced by the recent failure of REDCycle. In Australia most soft plastics are now ending up in landfill.
Image by John Cameron
Plastic items take around 1,000 years to break down in a landfill, depending on the materials and environmental factors. Even single-use plastic straws can take up to 200 years to decompose.
The problem of waste?
According to the Australian Government’s National Plastics Plan, 3.4 million tons of plastics were used between 2018-2019. 84 percent of the plastic is sent to landfill and only 13 percent is recycled. Australia uses around 70 billion pieces of soft scrunchable plastics, including food wrappers each year. The National Waste Report 2020 also shows that Australia's waste has increased to 74 million tonnes yearly. Plastics are incredibly versatile materials, though wasteful.
Western Australia's waste recycling company, Instant Waste Management, wrote that one tonne of recycled cardboard saves almost 175 liters of oil and up to 250 cubic feet of landfill space. As cardboard/paper can be recycled several times and is biodegradable, we believe that it is often a much better choice than plastic.
What is Scrubba currently doing about waste?
Within a year of launching the Scrubba wash bag, we made the decision that we would only use cardboard for our product packaging. The reason for this is that we could source recycled cardboard to use as our packaging and the packaging can be easily recycled again. If the packaging wasn’t recycled, the cardboard could still be degraded. We even pushed back against our first retail chain, who wanted the Scrubba wash bag to be packed in plastic blister packaging.
We also give our Australian customers the option to opt for packing-free products. These products are shipped in recycled cardboard envelopes without additional product packaging. For our Scrubba wash & dry kits, the packaging is actually part of the kit (the packing cell) thereby reducing waste.
When customers have opted for retail packaged Scrubba wash bags, we have used plastic satchels. We opted for the smallest and thinnest satchels as practical to minimize the amount of plastic used and we previously recommended recycling the satchels through REDCycle. With the unfortunate demise of REDCycle, part of our fulfillment structure is no longer readily recyclable and we need new ways to reduce plastic waste.
What will Scrubba do about waste now?
As we are avid recyclers at the Scrubba office, each fortnight all our cardboard from Scrubba wash bag cartons is picked up for recycling. Our philosophy of minimizing waste is reduce, reuse, recycle.
We then had the thought, ‘could we re-use the cardboard and make mailers from the cartons?’ That way we reduce our need for plastic mailers and it gives the cardboard another life before being recycled again.
We tried several designs and found that many required too much tape. There isn’t much point in re-using cardboard if you need lots of tape, otherwise you are still creating waste. The triangular shape of our packaged product also complicated the issue.
Finally we came up with a design that utilizes the original structure of our inner carton and with some creative scoring and folding creates a strong mailer that is held together with only a small amount of tape (we are using a paper tape that can be recycled with the cardboard).
We reuse a stack of cardboard boxes, turning it into recyclable packaging, avoiding waste and single-used consumption.
This is the reason why your next Scrubba wash bag may be delivered in some pretty unusual packaging. If you do receive your next order in a plastic satchel, it is likely that we ran out of cardboard to re-use or size and weight limitations by Australia Post forced the selection.
What else is Scrubba doing about the environment?
Probably the most beneficial thing we are doing for the environment is equipping our customers with the Scrubba wash bag as each Scrubba wash bag saves an average 1000 liters of water and 7.5 kilograms of carbon each year. Yes, you can reduce your travel carbon footprint by using the Scrubba wash bag.
In line with the benefits of using recycled cardboard, we are transitioning to the use of recycled polyester fabric in the production of the Scrubba wash bag. That’s right, those PET bottles thrown into recycling may become your next Scrubba wash bag.
We have made the Scrubba wash bag Untouched available to our customers. As it is undyed and unbleached, it has a smaller production footprint and minimizes waste.
We have created the Scrubba weightless wallet, which is upcycled from the left-over fabric during the production of Scrubba wash bags. By repurposing the off-cuts, we are creating additional useful products and minimizing waste.
We’re officially Climate Neutral certified and we are also a 1% for the Planet member whereby we donate 1% of our total revenue each year to environmental charities.