Plastic. It’s in our oceans, our rivers, our air, our rain and even much of our food. A study by the University of Newcastle suggests the average person unwittingly eats about five grams – a credit card’s worth – of microscopic plastic particles each week.
And yet, the world keeps making more.
Since 2011, Plastic-Free July has challenged us to spend the month thinking about the role of plastic in our lives and making an effort to reduce our reliance on this – admittedly useful – material.
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In that spirit, here are five Australian companies making plastic-free alternatives to everyday items including coffee pods, panty liners, tampons, hand soap and shampoo. Switch out your regular brands and never look back.
Reliable data is scarce, but it’s estimated that in Australia, hundreds of millions of coffee capsules are sent to landfill each year. It was this problem that motivated former professional cricketers Ed Cowan and Steve Cazzulino to found Tripod Coffee in 2014.
Tripod’s 100 per cent Australian-certified compostable coffee capsules are made from organic polymer, with paper lids. And they’re fully compatible with Nespresso machines, naturally.
In councils where residents are supplied with bins for food scraps, the pods can be thrown directly into those bins (regular, worm-powered domestic compost won’t generate enough heat to break down the pods). Tripod maintains an open-source spreadsheet so customers can see if their council is part of the food-scrap collection scheme.
Outside these areas, coffee lovers can buy a reply-paid bag for $10 (which can be redeemed for more coffee via a loyalty system) and send their used pods back to Tripod for composting.
The coffee itself is sourced from countries such as Mexico, India, Brazil and Colombia. There are a range of blends in various strengths, roasts and flavour profiles, sold at a similar price to Nespresso’s own pods. Not sure which ones to try? Tripod has a sample pack of 60 pods.
Who Gives a Crap
Toilet paper, paper towels and tissues themselves are already plastic-free. But the packaging they’re in along the supermarket shelves? That’s a different story.
Certified B-Corp Who Gives a Crap wraps its products in paper printed with colourful designs as an alternative (you might’ve seen them in your local cafe’s toilet). All its rolls are made with either 100 per cent bamboo or recycled materials, so no trees are cut down in production.
The company also donates half of all profits to charity partners building toilets and improving sanitation in developing countries.
Aussie Kristy Chong launched this underwear label in 2013 to provide an alternative to disposable tampons and pads. She spent two years fine-tuning the brand’s period-proof design with textile engineers and fibre companies in Australia and the US. The result is a natural, moisture-wicking, antimicrobial, breathable fabric that’s turned Modibodi one of the world’s leading period-proof underwear brands.
After undies came leak-proof swimwear, sports leggings and running shorts. (And even a range for men, “whether you’re an occasional dribbler, or recovering post-op”.) The machine-washable undies and garments are made in China from a mix of natural fibres, including bamboo and merino wool. There’s even a biodegradable brief you can bury in soil at the end of its life.
The built-in, stain-resistant linings are about three millimetres thick and can hold between five and 20 millilitres of liquid (about four tampons worth), depending on the level of absorbency needed. Modibodi offers a 60-day trial – if you aren’t a fan, you can get a full refund on one piece, excluding postage.
The cheapest pair of undies is $21.50, but there are discounts for buying packs of five, seven or 10 pairs. Ultimately, your purchase will save you a trip to the shops for a new box of tampons – not just this month, but for many months to come.
It makes highly concentrated tablets that dissolve in water, giving you a full bottle of hand soap without consuming any plastic. You can choose from coconut and vanilla, lavender and aloe, tangerine and rose, and lemon and makrut lime scents, and the tablets are scent in home-compostable wrapping.
The containers are made from recycled plastic originally destined for the ocean and landfill. They’re called “forever bottles” that you can refill endlessly, and you can return your empty refill pouch with a complimentary reply-paid envelope so the company can clean, refill and use them over and over.
The range includes laundry liquid, stain remover, multipurpose cleaner, dishwashing liquid, shower cleaner, toilet cleaner and air freshener. And there’s a new range of body care available, including shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and skincare.
It’s all delivered carbon negative for extra environment brownie points.
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This article was originally published on July 9, 2020 and has since been updated.