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Road Test: I trialled the world’s first single-use plastic-free body care range

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“Every year, Aussies throw away a total of 152 million plastic bottles of body products into landfill. That was the inspiration for us to move into body care.”

Glancing around my sharehouse bathroom the other day, I felt alarmed by the ungodly amount of plastic. There were so many bottles, tubs and tubes, and each of them was most likely going to end up in landfill.

And when I realised I was running low on shampoo and conditioner, so would soon be in need of more throwaway plastic bottles, it was hard not to feel a bit defeated.


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And while worrying about the state of the planet and the sheer amount of waste we’re creating is nothing new for me, it’s been at the front of my mind since I stopped buying single-use plastic laundry detergent, and instead, switched to an innovative and eco-friendly Australian brand.

The brand in question is Zero Co, a Byron Bay start-up that makes body care and home cleaning products in a closed-loop system, with the aim of eliminating all single-use plastic.

The brand sells its product range entirely online – which also conveniently eliminates any unwanted trips to the supermarket – and after receiving my ‘forever’ laundry detergent bottle made from recycled ocean, beach and landfill plastics, alongside refillable detergent pouches, I was intrigued to learn more about its mission.

Founded by Mike Smith, Zero Co was started with the lofty but admirable aim of eliminating single-use plastic from our households. Initially, the brand made its name in the home cleaning category and quickly found success, with over 57,000 customers (myself included) adopting its zero-waste refill model.

The brand was born while Mike was travelling around the world with his partner, often staying in the wilderness. Despite being in such remote locations, Mike tells me the pair found they couldn’t escape the mountains of plastic waste.

“No matter how far away we were from civilisation, all of these beautiful places were completely trashed with plastic. That really got me thinking. As soon as we got back to Australia, we moved back into my parent’s place and we set up the first Zero Co HQ in my sister’s old bedroom.”

Thanks to its success in the home-cleaning category, the brand has now launched into a space that is responsible for astronomical amounts of single-use plastic; the beauty industry. “Every year, Aussies throw away a total of 152 million plastic bottles of body products into landfill. That was the inspiration for us to move into body care,” says Mike.

“The industry is a landmine for single-use plastic and we want to tackle the problem by offering Aussies products that are not only planet-friendly and single-use plastic-free, but ones that rival top-shelf brands with industry-leading ingredients lists.”

The new range consists of the world’s first refillable and single-use plastic-free conditioner, shampoo, body lotion and roll-on deodorant, and it works in the same way as the company’s home cleaning products.

You receive your ‘forever’ bottles, along with pouches filled with the product, in the mail. The bottles are made from ocean, beach and landfill plastics pulled at clean-ups organised by Zero Co and the refill pouches are made with plastics diverted from landfill.

So what are they actually like?

First things first, the bottles are aesthetically a lot nicer than your standard supermarket fare. The shampoo and conditioner bottles are in shades of lilac and lavender, and they’re easy to dispense product from (these factors might not matter much to you but as this is a bottle you’re meant to own forever, it seems important that you like the look of it).

The first, and really the only, slight issue I encountered with the range is that I find the pouches particularly painful to unscrew. I don’t know if I’m weak, or if the lids are on particularly tight so as not to let any liquid escape during its journey in the mail, but it took quite a bit of elbow grease to remove them.

If you’re used to the ease of grabbing something from the supermarket and not giving it a second thought, it might take a few goes to get used to filling up your own bottles. But realistically, once that process is done, you don’t need to worry about doing it again for quite some time. In my eyes, these slight inconveniences are very much worth it when you consider how much single-use plastic you’ll be avoiding purchasing.

As for the actual products, to put it simply, they smell great and work just as well (if not better) than the haircare, deodorant and body lotion I was previously using. The brand worked with Aesop’s Ex Global Head of Product on the range, which definitely goes some way in explaining the quality.

For me, something that’s become as important as the efficacy of a product is the ingredients it contains. Products in the beauty industry are often packed full of ingredients that can be detrimental to our health, whether that’s in the short or long term. Zero Co’s range is made from plant-based ingredients and on its website the brand has done a great job of explaining exactly why each ingredient is in each product.

Seeing this type of transparency – and this commitment to educating its customers – is rare. The beauty industry is shrouded in misleading hyperbole, with ingredient lists printed in the tiniest font possible and plastered somewhere inconspicuous.

So how do I feel after using the range for the last few weeks? In a word, impressed. I’m impressed by their efficacy and their appearance, but moreover, I’m impressed with myself. By making this fairly painless switch, the untold amounts of single-use plastic body care products I would use over the course of my life will no longer be thrown into landfill.

As Mike so aptly puts it, “Imagine all of the household products you use in your kitchen, laundry and bathroom over a lifetime. Think of all that plastic packaging for a second… now imagine none.”

And if you’re feeling a little sceptical about making the jump – perhaps, like me, you were hesitant to commit to a subscription-based service – the brand also offers one-off purchases, including particularly enticing starter packs. Now if I can only convince my housemates to make the switch, I won’t need to feel so guilty next time I’m in our bathroom.

You can find out more about Zero Co here.

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