Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Can the Personal Care Aisle Really Curb Its Plastic Problem? This Founder Thinks So.


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Every year, more than 50 Empire State Buildings-worth of toothpaste tubes end up in landfills or oceans. Zero-waste personal care brand Bite is determined to change that. 

The personal care space is notoriously plastic-filled. From the tubes of toothpaste and plastic toothbrushes to deodorant containers — plastic covers every inch of the beauty and personal care aisles. It’s quite ironic how an industry built for self-care and self-love is killing our planet. Bite founder, Lindsay McCormick, is out to change that. 

Our plastic problem 

In 2018, 27 million tons of plastic went into landfills and accounted for 18 percent of all items in landfills. Additionally, 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global personal care industry alone, with its excess packaging, boxes of cellophane, and endless amounts of non-recyclables. 

On top of the landfill issue, 11 million tons of plastic make their way to our waterways every year, and it’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. 

With all the bad press surrounding the plastic industry and increased interest in conscious consumerism, it is surprising that we are still not doing enough to fix the single-use problem at hand. But McCormick and Bite are leading a new way forward.

Changing an industry 

In 2018, McCormick, an aspiring zero-waster, found herself traveling a lot for work. “It made me really aware of how many small toiletries I was going through. I was able to cut down on a lot of it, but one thing that was still driving me crazy was toothpaste.” McCormick shared with Ethos. “I was refilling my shampoo and other toiletries, but had to keep buying toothpaste.”

Bite makes single-use toothpaste obsolete | Courtesy

“I thought, if I could solve this problem for me, that would be great. And that was the beginning of figuring this out.”  After deep diving into the world of oral care through online chemistry classes and countless interviews with dental hygienists, the first Bite toothpaste tablet was born. “I bought this tablet press,” which can still be found in McCormick’s office, “and started pressing toothpaste tablets and selling them online,” she explains. 

What began as a small Etsy shop, started to earn her money back on the equipment she had bought. That soon grew to a Shopify store. Soon after, a Women’s Health video went viral and left McCormick thinking, “Oh, I have a business here.” From that moment she was all in, leaving her full-time job, and diving head first into cleaning up the oral care industry. 

A better way

“The self-care industry as a whole is widely unsustainable. These products are built for scale, so it is the cheapest, fastest solution versus what is good for our bodies or the planet,” McCormick says.

Despite the obstacles, Bite continually chooses what it says is the best way—and that’s not always the easiest. Its toothpaste and mouthwash tablets come in recyclable glass jars and refills are sent via compostable bags. Both its toothbrushes and floss are made from biodegradable bamboo. 

Consumers want better options than single-use, says Bite’s founder. | Courtesy

“When you compare these sustainable alternatives to the traditional products, if you look at just the cost, it can be so unfair. There is no way the sustainable brands will ever be there because the whole system is meant to be as inexpensive as possible, at any cost,” McCormick says. 

“There is no way we can compete with that, but consumers are realizing that. They are understanding the compromise that we have all made to have these inexpensive things. They are realizing they can make these better options a priority and are voting with their dollars, which is really exciting to see,” she says. 

Expanding beyond oral care 

“It all started with toothpaste because that was the product that I needed at the time,” notes McCormick. “From there we expanded into more mouth care with mouthwash tablets, bamboo toothbrushes, and floss, which just made sense. Then came our plastic-free whitening gel, which came from requests from our customers. They didn’t want to use whitening strips or whitening pens, so they wrote to us begging for us to do plastic-free whitening gel.” 

McCormick says they were playing with the idea of expanding the business. “Do we want to expand the business outside of oral care or do we just go really hard with oral care?”

Ultimately, the company decided to expand. Similar to how McCormick first got into toothpaste bites, Bite added deodorant out of a need McCormick says she saw in her everyday life. “I was living a low-waste lifestyle, using our products every day. I had the deodorants in the cardboard tubes that would get soggy after use and thought this is the right choice for the planet but it kinda sucks. So we thought about how we do this and how we can make this better.” 

Bite is expanding into other personal care categories. | Courtesy

They got to work and developed a first-of-its-kind refillable aluminum deodorant case. “I didn’t want the cardboard to ever touch the user, because that’s what caused it to get soggy but also wanted something simple for people to use.” 

“It was quite the haul to make a deodorant that was not only sustainable but actually worked, too. Luckily, our consumers are really happy with it and we’ve gotten great reviews.” 

Tackling the whole personal care aisle 

With the launch of its deodorant, Bite is officially more than just oral care, and McCormick now has her sights set on tackling the rest of the industry. “I am so excited to get into new products,” she says. “There are products that we are using every single day and we see the pain points. There are things where we can’t believe someone hasn’t done something and now we’re at a point where we can do it.” 

“We have some really exciting product launches coming out in 2022 and are already looking forward to 2023,” she says. “I think there is a lot to innovate on just behind the bathroom doors and in our daily routines.” 

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