As you chuck cleaning products into your shopping trolley, you’re probably not considering the amount of water inside each bottle. But the journey that water-packed solution takes to reach your bathroom cupboard can have a huge impact on the planet.

Energy involved in shipping water – something Australians can readily access at home – is one of the key drivers behind Melburnian Josh Howard’s sustainably-led soap company, Single Use Ain’t Sexy. Howard says customers can reduce their carbon footprint by purchasing dissolvable hand soap tablets instead of liquid cleansers.

So how does it work? “It’s basically Berocca for hand soap,” Howard tells Broadsheet. “Just add warm water, dissolve the tablet, pump the foam and wash your hands.”

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Howard chose to leave a media job to move into the personal care space so that his business could support people to make sustainable choices in their everyday routines. “Helping normal people to save the planet, without turning their lives upside down, is how I like to think of it,” he says. “On average, Aussies [collectively, during the pandemic] washed their hands almost 200 million times each day, so starting with sustainable hand soap tablets – even before we knew a pandemic was coming – felt like an impactful first step.”

Launched in April 2020, Single Use Ain’t Sexy is one of Australia’s first dissolvable hand soap tablet brands. But Howard is excited to see the growing number of sustainable cleaning brands on the market. And Single Use Ain’t Sexy has seen its products sell out twice within its first year of operation.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by how the Aussie community has rallied around our homegrown brand, and [our] mission to save single-use plastic bottles from landfill,” he says, estimating that that figure is up to 125,000 bottles saved from landfill. “We use safe ingredients which are cruelty-free. They’re lightly scented with aloe and jasmine essence, so they leave your hands feeling soft and moisturised, not dry and flaky.”

As you wash your mitts, every tablet you use saves another single-use plastic bottle from ending up in landfill. The company sells 250-millilitre glass dispensing bottles (the perfect size to dissolve one soap tablet) but you can use your own foaming hand soap dispenser and purchase the tablets separately.

Single Use Ain’t Sexy ships its products in Australian-made delivery boxes, which are recyclable and biodegradable. At the moment, it uses soft foil and plastic wrap around the tablets to protect them from moisture and maintain their shelf life, but the company is currently developing a compostable version of the wrapper, as well as some exciting new product formulas.

A factor Howard says is essential to driving more interest in sustainable alternatives is cost. Prices start from $29.70 for a Single Use Ain’t Sexy starter pack, which includes one dispenser and four tablets, or you can stock up on 10 tablet refills for $33, which is equivalent to 10 bottles of handwash. There are further savings if you sign up for the subscription service (with tablets arriving every two or four months), and delivery is $3 across Australia.

“For mass appeal, it’s important that sustainable alternatives are competitively priced, equally effective and also look really beautiful,” says Howard. “I think reusable products that look great are the future of sustainable consumption. Our broader mission is to become the global leader in the ‘just add water’ category and continue transitioning the world to more sustainable products and reusable packaging. Our hand soap tablets are just the beginning.”

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