10 Unplastic Companies We Love
Get to know these unplastic leaders
Plastics have become synonymous with corporate profits and consumer convenience.
Corporations have become reliant upon flexible and versatile plastics to cheaply package their goods, but do so at a huge cost to the long-term health of the planet and human race. On the flip-side, consumers have grown accustomed to the on-demand convenience that plastics offer in our digital ordering economy, and are falsely comforted that we can "just recycle it" when we are done.
But the truth is, plastics are designed to be indestructible and take an average of 400 years to break down. Worse, only 9 percent of plastics are successfully recycled. In the last 50 years, plastics have quickly overwhelmed our infrastructure's ability to dispose of them...so much so that they're invading our own food and water supplies. Microplastics have even gone airborne, and been recently detected in the air that we breathe.
And yet, despite the increasing public awareness of plastic's harmful impact on the environment, plastic production is on a record pace to triple by the year 2050. Oil companies (which produce the petrochemicals that plastic is made from) view plastics as a key growth market due to the decreasing demands on fuel, and the result will be nothing less than global climate change in its destructive scope.
As consumers, many of us find ourselves asking, "How can I reduce my plastic?" We know we should use less plastic, but the system is set up so that most of the goods we purchase are literally encased in it. Recycling is impossibly confusing (raise your hand if you know which of the seven plastics can be recycled?), and largely ineffective. When you consider the overwhelming statistics, it's easy to lose hope. The plastic tide feels relentlessly strong and we lack the means, or the global will, to swim above it.
But there's hope!
Rising out of the negativity and despair, there are eco-conscious companies that are emerging...viable business models that are providing the goods we need, in an environmentally-friendly way. Better yet, new technologies are emerging to replace traditional plastics as companies (finally) put their conscience ahead of profits.
At Unplastic Nation, we love celebrating innovation, and since our plastic pollution crisis has given birth to innovative companies that are prioritizing sustainable, environmentally friendly ways to share their products, we've rounded up 10 unplastic companies that we love and we want you to get to know. These companies are offering consumers badly needed, high-quality alternatives to plastic products, and by supporting them, all of us as consumers can vote with our wallets by spending more on non-plastic companies, and less on anti-environmental corporate profiteers. Collectively, these unplastic companies are helping to eliminate billions of pounds of plastic from production. They're giving give us hope that there are mainstream alternatives available to traditional plastic options.
We hope you'll support them, and gain some comfort in knowing that there are eco-champion companies out there. Part of our mission is to introduce you to them.
And so, please meet our friends:
Did you know that almost 50 percent of people discard their clothes directly in the trash, when up to 95 percent could be reused or recycled? With over 100 billion new clothing garments produced every year, that means there's a heavy cost to the environment when they reach the end of their life-cycle. ThreadUp has created a huge online consignment store for second-hand, gently used clothes to extend their life at incredible prices by offering 35,000 brands at up to 90 percent off retail. Even better, the company allows you to Mari Kondo your closet of unused clothes by sending them in to be sold, and giving you a credit toward future purchases. ThreadUp's mission to reduce fashion waste is environmentally effective and an amazing way to keep your circular closet refreshed without the guilt and sticker-shock of buying brand new. Pro-Tip For New Parents: With little ones outgrowing clothes before they can wear them out, ThreadUp is a great way to exchange too-small clothes for fresh ones that fit!
There are 3.8 billion smartphone users in the world and over 1 billion protective plastic cases sold each year. As phone models change like New England's weather, so do the cases that were designed to fit them. Pela is on a quest to keep 1 billion pounds of plastic from being created, annually, by bringing the world's first compostable phone case to market. Pela provides the same protection and durability you would expect from traditional plastic cases, but requires significantly less water and energy to manufacture them. And when you are done with the case, you can compost it in your backyard! Pro-Tip: Check out Pela Vision if you are looking for a new pair of sunglasses… They make 100% biodegradable sunglasses. Look good and take care of the environment.
Of all the non-plastic alternatives we've tried in the UnplasticNation test home, pods by Dropps are one of our favorites. The brand's detergent pods are effective, non-toxic, cost-effective, and best of all, good for the environment. The company uses minimal packaging, and as a result, it make a serious dent in the disposal of 700,000 HDPE laundry jugs in the United States each year...jugs that are not commonly accepted in curbside recycling programs. They offer a variety of options for both laundry and dishwashing, as well as other non-plastic cleaning accessories. Their ads are laugh-out-loud clever, too. Pro-Tip: If you can budget it, Dropps' bulk options are your absolute best bang for buck AND receiving one or two huge shipments a year means less stress on the packaging and delivery industry, since fewer drivers will make fewer trips to your home.
To Terracycle, everything is recyclable. The company has created a recycling system that accepts almost any material, and finds a way to divert it from landfills by giving it new life. Its zero-waste boxes provide convenient disposal and pickup of hard-to-recycle items, which are great options to include in events and conferences which generate millions of pounds of waste each year. And of high relevance to our new COVID-19 coping reality, the company has even found a way to safely process PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
Not satisfied with just the end product, Terracycle is also the parent company of Loop, a company that wants to address the plastic problem at the source. (Why buy the packaging when all you really want is what is inside?) Loop has partnered with many mainstream brands to offer its products in reusable containers that, once you use the product, can be returned, professionally cleaned, and reused again. Feel-Good Fact: Loop uses waste-free delivery to your door, and will even pick up your empties.
PLU (price look-up) stickers are the little vinyl plastic stickers on your produce at the grocery store, and for such a small label, they create big problems for waste management and are a common source of litter: They are not biodegradable or compostable, and yet remain a staple in the fruit and produce industry because of the essential information contained through the supply chain. Laser Food (in partnership with JBT) has produced Natural Branding, which using a laser safely etches a brand directly on the item...thus eliminating the need for the sticker at all and reducing the carbon footprint by 99 percent while still preserving the product traceability. Feel-Good Moment: We dare you to check out the video on their homepage and not be impressed.
Described as "radically functional," Stasher bags are replacing single-use plastic zipper bags in kitchens all over the world. They are made from silicone and are designed to be reused in a variety of ways...from the freezer to the microwave to oven and to the dishwasher. Stasher bags have prevented over 1 billion plastic bags from reaching landfills (and better yet, the ocean). Stashers are airtight and free from BPA and latex to ensure that they comply with United States, Canadian, and European food safety standards. Feel-Good Fact: Though the upfront cost-per-bag might cause you to blush, the lifetime cost is comparable to buying many, many, many boxes of disposable bags. Even if you wash out your bags like we do, eventually they must be disposed of. Over time, Stasher bags help you dramatically reduced your plastic consumption.
This is the anti-styrofoam company. Over 14 million tons of toxic styrofoam products are produced every year, and since it is not commonly accepted in local recycling programs, it largely ends up in our landfills. BioViron has been offering compostable and biodegradable alternatives since 2005 by offering a wide variety of plant-based film, foam, and form packaging options designed to help businesses meet carbon footprint and zero-waste objectives. Its water soluble foam require 68 percent less energy to produce than comparable amounts of polyethylene. This company is leading the way toward reduced plastic packaging. Pro-Tip For Parents: Next time you get a package with BioViron's biodegradable "peanuts" in it, let your little ones spray them away down the kitchen drain: Pellets in the kink turn to suds, and offer a great teaching moment about how companies are trying to protect the environment. Plus, it's just cool.
In the United States alone, over 20 million at-home pregnancy tests are purchased and used, and the overwhelming majority of these are single-use plastics that create over 2 million pounds of plastic waste each year. The clever folks at Lia have smartly realized that there is a more environmentally friendly way to address this important moment for women by devising a pregnancy test that is flushable and biodegradable, made from the same material as toilet paper, and that is 99 percent accurate (which is comparable to mainstream tests). Feel-Good Fact: Lia has not only been recognized as one of the first major redesigns of the at-home pregnancy test in 30 years, but a more discreet way of learning if you are pregnant: No evidence can be found in the trash.
Notpla has harnessed one of the most renewable resources on the planet—brown seaweed—to create biodegradable (and even edible) packaging, and the company offers a range of products using this ingenious technology. Our favorite? Ooho flexible packaging for beverages and sauces. Particularly with the rise in take-out dining due to the pandemic, imagine if all condiments were packaged in this amazing biodegradable material that can be composted and break down in 4-6 weeks, instead of single-use plastic sachets that will outlive your grandchildren? Feel-Good Fact: Notpla also offers seaweed-lined cardboard food containers that are leak- and grease-resistant, and biodegrade just like a fruit.
Ground spices lose their freshness after about 6 months, and so depending on how much you cook with them, you'll find yourself in the spice section of the grocery store staring at a wall of often over-sized plastic bottles, and that leads to excessive waste of both the spice and the packaging. We love how Gneiss Spice has committed to transforming kitchen culture by delivering over 200 types of organic spices via mail in sustainable, zero-waste packaging. Choose the size of your spice refills based on your needs, and then display them in sharp-looking magnetized spice racks. All of Gneiss's spice refills are delivered in compostable or paper materials, right down to water-activated tape and plant-based, water-soluble packing peanuts. Feel-Good Fact: The founders provide wonderful customer service by customizing the order to your needs. ("Keeping a zero-waste kitchen?" they ask. "Let us know and we'll remove the sticker labels from your order.")
Supporting companies that align with your values is an increasingly important part of your role as a consumer. With plastic production levels at all-time highs, how we choose to the spend our money directly impacts the decisions that corporations make: If we continue to purchase their plastic goods, they will continue to produce them. However, if we as consumers choose plastic alternatives and spend our money elsewhere, revenues and profits will decrease, and changes will occur.
We hope you'll consider supporting these companies by clicking the links on their names and spreading awareness about their products. Together, eco-conscious consumers make up a powerful community, and our voice grows every time we add to our membership and support each other.