Can we really break our single-use habit? LastObject is betting on it with its stylish, sustainable personal care products like reusable Q-Tips, tissues, and pads.
There’s a quote from naturalist John Muir that’s been paraphrased countless times: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” But even in its clumsiest of interpretations, the crux of it holds true. What we do affects the world in ways we often can’t see. But it’s all connected. We are all connected. This ethos is the driving force behind the zero-waste personal care brand, LastObject.
LastObject is a Copenhagen-based manufacturing company that produces reusable and zero-waste items intended to replace everyday disposable products. It started with cotton swabs in 2019 after co-founders Kaare Frandsen and siblings Isabel and Nicolas Aagaard learned that 1.5 billion single-use cotton swabs are produced every day.
According to Isabel, the trio started researching single-use items that were the biggest source of household waste, and it just evolved from there.
Replacing single-use: from Q-Tips to Kleenex
“It became our mission to fight for a less trashy world by providing consumers with quality alternatives to these single-use items,” she told Ethos via email.
For the sustainably-minded consumer, single-use amounts to a four-letter word.
“The amount of energy, water, and raw materials needed for manufacturing a product that will only be used once and then discarded, just doesn’t make any sense,” Aagaard says. “Add to that the amount of waste they create, and the CO2 emissions from transporting those products. There’s really no justifying it.”
The company founders stumbled onto swabs in their early research. “We found that one of the biggest issues is that people don’t discard them properly, mainly because they are so small,” Aagaard says.
“If flushed down the toilet they often don’t get caught by filtration systems and are dumped directly into the ocean, and later end up in the stomachs of sea creatures. We felt that by solving this problem, we would create an impact on marine life as well as single-use pollution.”
They were able to replicate a cotton Q-Tip swab with reusable materials that Aagaard says look and feel like a disposable. It can be used up to 1,000 times. LastObject’s reusable swabs are easily washable and come in a sanitary carrying case.
Reusable menstrual products
The brand has tackled many items, including tissues, face cleansing rounds, and menstrual pads.
The brand isn’t the first to tackle reusable menstrual products. It’s a booming industry; reusable menstrual cups are now the fastest-growing segment of the market as is period underwear. Covid lockdown certainly helped, too, as the pressures of being out of the house or in an office were removed, there was more opportunity to experiment with reusables at home with little risk.
“It’s better for you and it’s better for the environment,” Aagaard says. “Single-use pads and tampons are filled with pesticides and chemicals. They are even bleached. This causes dryness, irritation, and even infections. Your vagina is the most absorbent body part you have.”
The company surpassed its fundraising goal for the pads on Kickstarter.
Aagaard says that just like consumers are shifting toward clean beauty — products free from harsh synthetic chemicals — they should also embrace clean, reusable period products for their health.
“Then there is the planet,” Aagaard says. “We need to reduce and by looking at the 19 billion hygienic period products that are thrown out every year just in the US, we can make a difference. A disposable pad takes 500 years to decompose. Your period ends, the trash is still there for another 500 years.” That’s a big number, especially given all of the other single-use items being thrown out every day. And LastObject has its eyes on all of them.
Creating new habits
Earlier this year, LastObject debuted its first disposable item — a biodegradable laundry sheet that dissolves in water. According to recent data, 700 million plastic jugs of laundry detergent are thrown away each year in the U.S.
The sheets, developed not only to be sensitive to the planet but also for people with sensitive skin, are made without plastic, paraffin, phosphates, sulfates, ethoxylates, perfumes, and dyes.
You simply drop them in your washer (or a sink for handwashing) and they work just the same as detergent. The packaging is fully biodegradable as well, taking about three months to fully break down, depending on the environment.
“We work on multiple products at the same time, and some take leaps in design or material discovery. Some need to sit on the shelf for a little while and others just click. And we are also very affected by the lives we live. When I had my first baby, a baby LastSwab had to be made,” Aagaard says.
And while LastObject is helping consumers change a number of their single-use habits into reusable ones, there’s still one product we all use that Aagaard says they’d love to find a way to tackle. “Toilet paper is definitely our holy grail,” Aagaard says.
“We have a toilet roll placed at the office on a shelf to set the bar high, but I feel like we have a few products before that one that can be tackled. The world was ready for a reusable swab, and then tissues, cotton rounds. Hopefully period pads. So I think there is room for some more products in the “icky” department,” she says.
While reusable toilet paper is perhaps too much to conceptualize at the moment, Aagaard says don’t worry about it right now. Aiming for zero waste is a big task for most of us. She says to aim to replace one item a month, which gives you 30 days to get used to the new habit.
“My advice is don’t try to do it all,” she says. “Take a look at your life and see what are your most wasteful habits, then try tackling them one at a time.”
Want to give the products a try? Check them out here.
Related on Ethos: