A unique line of personal hygiene products is cleaning more than hair and bodies—it's helping to clean up the world around its users, too.
500 billion plastic bottles are used every year—that’s 66 times as many bottles as there are humans on the planet.
Of those 500 billion plastic bottles, less than half will be recycled. Of the ones collected, a mere 7% will be used to create new bottles.
The rest? They will likely end up in landfills and nature, where they will take an average of 450 years to decompose. In fact, 14% of all litter is comprised of plastic bottles.
Recent estimates suggest that there are 150 plastic bottles every mile of the UK coastline. Of course, the UK isn’t alone. They’re not the worst contributor, either. They’re not even among the worst contributors.
Scientists estimate that about one million species live in the ocean…and about 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic, accounting for 46,000 pieces in every square mile of ocean, weighing about 14 million tonnes. And every single day, another eight million pieces of plastic are likely to be added to the mix.
From the smallest fish to the largest whale, we’ve all seen heartbreaking footage of sea life entangled in or accidentally eating plastic. In 2017, 18-year-old Marissa Vettoretti watched one of those viral videos. Instead of simply hitting like or share, she decided to rethink how we use plastic in a big way.
Do you ever wonder what happens to the bottles that you recycle?
If not, you’re not alone. Many people assume that what they put into recycling simply gets turned into new plastic. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
As Marissa found out, most amenity bottles (the bottles that house shampoo, conditioner and body wash) can’t actually be recycled. Why? A few reasons, but mainly due to the fact that they are often still contaminated with soap.
5.7 billion plastic toiletry bottles are filtered out at recycling facilities and end up in landfills every year. And that’s just in North America.
Marissa, like so many of us, felt sick to learn the impacts of these plastics. The teenager got to work creating a more sustainable solution to this problem.
“When I met Marissa, she had already started rethinking the way shower products are delivered,” explains Daniel Moll. “Others have looked into alternative packaging, but she thought of an alternate product.”
That alternate product ended up being tiny, zero-waste shower tablets. There are three distinct tablet products: shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
The name? EarthSuds. The founders? Marissa Vettoretti and Daniel Moll. How do they work? Crush. Lather. Rinse.
“We make single use disposable products, 100% plastic free,” Daniel beams.
Remember those 5.7 billion plastic toiletry bottles that fill up North American landfills every year? EarthSuds, containing the same products with no plastic packaging, will drastically reduce that startling number.
“EarthSuds provide just as good if not better experience for your skin and hair. We only use high quality premium ingredients because we believe that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality for sustainability.”
It’s not just satisfied customers taking notice of EarthSuds (although, with the eco-friendly products currently being sold in 55 retailers across North America, of course they are), but even global giants like National Geographic.
Last year, EarthSuds was named a Top 10 Global Finalist in National Geographic’s Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge out of 300 applicants from around the world. They were the only team from all of Canada selected in the top 10.
“It was an amazing experience,” Daniel says. “We wouldn’t have gotten there without our strong team.” The startup was awarded prize money to accelerate its product creation and distribution to reduce the amount of plastic reaching the ocean ASAP. “National Geographic flew us to Washington, DC to talk to and learn from experts and other companies looking to solve similar issues. We’re dealing with problems that can often seem insurmountable to solve, and we came out of that experience with renewed, amplified hope and inspiration to tackle big issues. It was huge for us.”
Fast forward to 2020, and EarthSuds is (still) on an absolute roll.
This January, teams from across Canada and the United States gathered at Western University to compete at the Ivey Business Plan Competition. Among fierce competition, EarthSuds took home first place and an accompanying $15,000 cheque. A few days earlier, the startup also won first place in the prestigious international Queen’s Entrepreneurs’ Competition and was awarded $30,000. More recently, at the end of May, the company won the esteemed Enactus National Challenge, earning a spot at the Enactus World Cup later this year. Both in their final year of Wilfrid Laurier University undergraduate studies, Marissa and Daniel brought the title home to Laurier for the first time in nearly 15 years.
It was 2018 when the dynamic duo came to be. Marissa had been pondering the plastic problem and Daniel took notice. With a shared passion for environmental conservation and complementary skillsets, the team incorporated EarthSuds by the end of the same year.
“Every hour outside of class is an hour spent on the business,” Daniel will tell you when you ask how they find the time. “Laurier allowed me to spend my last co-op term working on EarthSuds, which was amazing. I oversee sales and marketing, and Marissa heads product and operations. She’s a mastermind. At one point we asked a pharmaceutical manufacturer to develop something, but they couldn’t figure it out. Marissa did. 100% of our research and development has been done in house.”
EarthSuds contain high-quality ingredients and are made right here in Waterloo Region.
Daniel explains that, “It’s critical to consume local. Not only to support our neighbours, but from an environmental aspect as well. It’s important to us that we source ingredients from local suppliers and make everything in our space at the Accelerator Centre’s Advanced Hardware and Manufacturing Lab downtown Kitchener.”
As some establishments were forced to permanently close in the wake of COVID-19, EarthSuds decided to double down and ramp things up. The cleantech company joined the Accelerator Centre.
An essential business making hygiene products, the team felt strongly that they had to continue producing product. “We were looking to expand. When we toured the AC’s space at 44 Gaukel, it really checked all the boxes,” Daniel says. “We are so appreciative that the AC let us move in during a pandemic. The staff has been amazing through the process and made us feel safe while ensuring our moving experience complied to regulations.”
EarthSuds is more than a startup that is super supportive of its community—it also gives back.
With a heightened need for staple products as we live through a global pandemic, shelters and charities are overwhelmed and under supported. EarthSuds launched a buy-one-give-one campaign to help; resulting in a donation of 4700 hygiene tablets to local food banks and shelters in need. Being small and portable, recipients can use the tablets just about anywhere—a huge help to people with unstable living situations in particular.
In case you need another reason to adore this company, here’s one: EarthSuds makes it a point to provide jobs to people who typically have a hard time finding employment. “Individuals with developmental disabilities are among the most excluded from our economy. As low as 31% of these individuals are employed in the Canadian labour force. Over the past year, we employed eight in our production staff. They work hard, boost morale, and are key contributors to our team," says Daniel.
“EarthSuds is about doing good not just for the environment, but also for society.”
There’s no denying that this student startup has accomplished a lot already, but it’s just getting started.
“We’ve never had mentorship focused on the problems we’re solving before. Having specialized mentors in every business area is a big reason why we joined the Accelerator Centre. We have big plans, and we’re ready to make them happen,” Daniel grins.
Ready to crush, lather, rinse?
5.7 billion plastic toiletry bottles fill up North American landfills every year—until now.
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