Does less plastic equal happier customers?

We asked 5 Aussie businesses about how they’re thinking about plastic in their business.

4 minutes

#PlasticFreeJuly might be over, but for game-changing Aussie brands, the quest to reduce and reuse plastics continues.

After all, Australia is the second-highest generator of single-use plastic waste per person, and our annual plastic use results in the same emissions as 5.7 million cars.1

Every business we spoke to is thinking about plastic differently, but there’s one thing they all agree on: ditching plastic is good for business because customers will love you for it.

When plastic isn’t preferable

Removing plastic from the production process doesn’t just mean making an eco-conscious product – it can mean making a better product.

We say that we’re the Mercedes of dog poo bags,” said Henry Reith, CEO of Oh Crap.

The brand’s doggie dookie bags grab customers because they’re compostable and made of cornstarch. But they keep customers coming back because they’re thicker than the traditional plastic alternatives, which are prone to breaking and leaking. Eww.

We didn’t set out to make a compostable dog poo bag, although that was part of it,” said Henry. “It was, ‘how can we make the best dog poo bag in the world?’ Full stop.”

Ryan Nelson, Founder of Refilled, said customers love how the company’s smart drink dispensers let them fill their reusable bottles with a choice over a hundred flavours.

It’s a far cry from the old vending machines that stock only a handful of drink options, all served in single-use bottles.

Our units are capable of doing over a hundred different flavours and combinations, mixing and matching,” he said.

“So one day you might feel like peach and mango with an immunity shot. And then another day you feel like watermelon and lemon with some caffeine in it. The drinks are tailored by pour, day-by-day.”

Recycling brings reward

Outdoor brand Nakie has taken a different tack: rather than just reducing plastic waste, the company is turning that waste into new products. The end result isn’t a mere selling point for customers – it’s a purchase driver.

For instance, each of the brand’s hammocks are made from recycled plastic bottles, which Nakie Co-founder Dean Leibbrandt said “has played a massive role in our success to date.”

Most of our customers say the main reason they purchased from us is because we use 100% post-consumer plastic bottles to create all our products.”

And it doesn’t hurt that the hammocks work like a treat – who’d have thought laying on top of 37 recycled bottles could be so comfortable?

So why are customers jumping at the opportunity to support products that embrace less wasteful materials? Sarah Bos, Founder of homeware brand Eco Interiors, said it’s because today’s consumers are “turning more and more to impact driven brands.”

Even something as simple as recycling plastic containers into buttons for sofa cushions gives Eco Interiors’ customers a reason to take notice.

“It gives your customers a sense of empowerment that they can help drive change through the choices they make and the brands they support,” said Sarah.

“If you give customers the ability to do that through their purchases, they get to feel good about themselves and will actively choose to support your business.”

Changing perspectives on plastic

When businesses make changes to their products, they need to bring customers along the journey. And as Ellie Degraeve, Founder of Go For Zero, said, “By explaining these things, people are more open to it.

The brand has built a community in the tens of thousands around its waste-free home and body products. Getting there meant making people question the necessity of plastics and packaging.

We offer on our website that if you get a product without packaging, you get it cheaper,” said Ellie.

But maybe we should reverse it and say it comes without packaging, and if you want packaging, it’s more expensive. Change that narrative.

It may sound radical, but customers have taken well to this change in thinking. And importantly for Go For Zero, the business is reaping the benefits.

It just makes me so happy when I see customers talk about it,” Ellie said about the brand’s multi-purpose cleaning bar – a best-seller that replaces eight plastic tubs of laundry liquid.

It’s changing our behaviour. That’s the biggest part of the job.”

Sources: 1. WWF

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