The practice of “lightweighting” both laundry care products and their packaging allows manufacturers to offer the convenience, ease of use and high efficiency consumers have come to expect. Done by either replacing material with a lighter weight alternative (such as a flexible plastic pouch versus a glass bottle) or cutting down the amount of material used, lightweighting often makes for a lighter item that people find more portable, affordable and easy to use correctly.
Many laundry care brands today are lightweighting their products by going the pod or capsule route, concentrating their formulas into a detergent/stain remover/brightener-in-one. Not only do pods or capsules typically take up less space than the volume of liquid or powdered formulas, they eliminate the need for measuring. This is of particular significance for laundry care, as its overuse wastes product, the water and energy required to wash it out,and the years of wearable life for clothes and fabrics.
Another plus to a smaller iteration of laundry care product is that it requires less packaging material to contain. While some laundry care pods are packaged in rigid plastic tubs (we also see this with dishwasher products), many are packaged in pouches. Advancements in seal and barrier technologies keep the water-soluble casings for laundry care products dry at all stages of the supply chain, contributing to a longer shelf life for both retailers and end-users.
The environmental implications of pouches are significant, using 60% less plastic and being 23% lighter than the traditional rigid packaging on average. Pouches generally have a higher product-to-package ratio than rigid packaging and require about half of the energy required to produce, cutting down on the CO2 emissions released during production and transport; taking up less space means fewer trucks are needed, reducing fuel consumption and additional CO2 emissions.
But while flexible plastic pouches reduce landfill waste by taking up less volume than conventional packaging, they are not municipally recyclable. Their multi-layer films are not accepted in the blue bin because these components need separating, as do the resealable openings and add-ons that make pouches easy to use. While the lifecycle of these products yield many benefits, these tend to stop at end-of-life, resulting in post-consumer packaging waste and additions to the plastic pollution problem.
There are laundry care brands today working around these limitations to offer solutions for these technologies’ end-of-life. Church & Dwight’s trusted Arm & Hammer and Oxiclean brands have teamed up with TerraCycle to offer nationwide access to a free recycling program for Arm & Hammer and Oxiclean plastic pouches. Consumers sign up for the program for free and download a pre-paid shipping label to send their pouches to TerraCycle for processing.
This is a “pro” for Arm & Hammer and Oxiclean, well-known brands with an added edge in a marketplace where consumers will now increasingly choose a recyclable package over a nonrecyclable one from a competing brand. This adds to the credibility and value consumers look for in the laundry care brand they trust to take care of their fabrics.
Less isn’t always more when it comes to product packaging, which today often lightweights itself out of recyclability without a solution in place. But to deliver ease of use and cost-savings while taking on the financial responsibility of an environmental solution is a huge positive. In an increasingly saturated market, this sort of consciousness is one that consumers have come to look out for.