How a NZ cosmetics company is saving millions of plastic bottles from landfill

Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand. This week he talks to Brianne West, founder of plastic-free cosmetics company Ethique.

On the podcast this week we have an amazing guest, one of the most successful companies to come out of the local high-growth ecosystem, now exporting their idea all around the world.

Ethique are one of the best investments local venture experts the Icehouse has made, and they aren’t even a traditional tech or widget maker. They sell soaps and shampoos and things that would come in wet form in plastic, except in dry form in cardboard. Ethique founder Brianne West joined us to discuss the novel approach to a problem right in front of everyone every day, but one that took her fresh approach to see.

Because we are pretty funny animals, us humans. Some people see problems and do things about them, and others do weird things.

Take supermarket plastic bags. The problem with plastic bags is that plastic lasts for generations, degrades into micro plastics, and poisons the food chain and soil. The answer we found to that problem? Ban thin plastic bags and make an absolute shit-ton more thick plastic bags that have all the same problems as the thin bags, except they contain even more plastic. Good work humans. And then, as I’m sure you’ve all noticed, you get your shopping home and every product has five layers of rarely recyclable plastic.

One person who looked at the problem of plastic and packaging and did something wildly clever about it is our guest this week. In 2012 scientist Brianne West became a kitchen chemist when she had a eureka moment in the shower that selling liquid soap packaged in thick plastic was probably not the best way to do things.

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She created hard soaps in paper and compostable packaging. Her shampoo bars, soaps and conditioners have become fan favourites. Through a couple of wildly successful crowd-funds, ongoing product development, and opening up retail channels in the US, Australia and further afield, Brianne and Ethique have created millions of fans and stopped millions of plastic bottles going to landfill.

It is a great pleasure to have someone on the show whose mission and execution have been such inspirations to me. To talk the insight, making it happen and what’s next, Brianne West of Ethique joined us for a half hour chat you can hear below.

Either download this episode (right click and save)have a listen below or via Spotify, subscribe through iTunes (RSS feed).


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