“On a small island, there’s no first world infrastructure to insulate you from the piles of plastic we are creating. You see plastic bags, bottles and flip flops on the beaches, in the water, spilling out of the landfills, along the side of the road. There’s even a place so full of plastic it’s called Junk Beach…. The message that plastic last forever, no matter how long we use it, is much more obvious living there than it is here,” McCoy told Happi.
Her tipping point: when she heard that there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
“I got serious about using less plastic in my life. I had already been carrying a reusable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, skipping the straw at restaurants and bars, but I started looking for other ways to use less plastic. But I couldn’t figure out how to get those plastic bottles out of my shower. I couldn’t find any alternatives that worked for me and my hair,” said McCoy.
McCoy realized that she might be able to solve her own problem, and “even better, I might be able to help other people use less plastic in their lives,” she said.
She pulled in her sister, Alison Webster, who has a design degree and “strong opinions about the quality of her products,” and the duo spent two years working on a way to “make it easier for people to get quality products without having to buy single-use plastic bottles.”
Their solution: a line of full-size products sold in refillable, aluminum bottles. With an initial order of product, buyers are also sent a pump. When the first bottle is empty, users rinse it out, switch the pump to a refill. Spent bottles are sent back to the company (in the box that the refill arrived in), with Plaine Products covering the cost of the shipping.
The company has been selling online since February, and recently added some brick and mortar doors—Package Free Shop in Brooklyn, NY; The Good Fill in Nashville, TN; Kimberton While Foods in Pennsylvania; Bring Your Own, LLC in Harrisonburg, VA; and Aware House in Santa Monica, CA.
While the inspiration may have been packaging, the sisters focused on the finer points of the formulations too.
“We worked for two years on the process, the bottle and the product to make sure that the products were as good as the packaging system. I’m proud that our products are vegan, with no toxic ingredients, cruelty free and the formula is biodegradable. Our main ingredient is aloe, not water. But even more important, they work. We’ve had such amazing feedback from our clients and the blogging community about how great their hair feels and looks with our products,” she told Happi.
The Plaine Products range currently includes shampoo and conditioner, body lotion and most recently, hand lotion. A second scent option was also added this Fall; now consumers can pick Rosemary-Mint-Vanilla or Citrus-Lavender across the line.
“Shampoo is just the start of our plans,” said McCoy.
Plaine Products supports a range of nonprofit partners, including 5 Gyres, One More Generation’s OneLessStraw campaign, Post-Landfill Action Network, Plastic Continents and Plastic Ocean Project. In addition, the company is seeking “Plaine Promoters,” users and nonprofits who will spread the word about the line and get 10% from every sale they generate.
While McCoy may not have a background in personal care, she is relying on her experience in nonprofit management as she grows her brand.
“I’ve found treating customers like donors works well! But we’ve also learned a lot and are continuing to learn ever day!”