Most of our cleaning products could be added at home - it’s just ...


Most of our cleaning products could be added at home - it’s just water

Student's award-winning dehydrated cleaners could be the way of the future. And they might just save the planet

Senior science reporter

This could be one of the biggest eco breakthroughs yet, and it comes from a Dutch design graduate who has now attracted major attention from industry.
She presented her breakthrough work at the Design Indaba in Cape Town last week.
Perplexed that people “don’t read the labels” on the products they use for personal and domestic cleaning (such as shampoos and detergents), Mirjam de Bruijn – who recently graduated cum laude from the Design Academy Eindhoven – realised that about 80% or more of every product is simply water. So what if that was taken out of the equation?
The plastic bottles carrying the products are far bigger than they need to be, and the fuel used to transport these products across the globe is also being used inefficiently.
She said one could think of it statistically like this: four out of every five trucks transporting the products are simply carrying the water component.
In response, she decided to create small dehydrated balls which contain the ingredients one needs. These would be sold in small and recyclable packaging (mainly made of cardboard), and the consumer then mixes it with water and gives it a shake at home.
In 2018, her concept called Twenty – a packaging system for dehydrated household products – scooped the Global Grad Show Progress Prize. This is a competition that curates 150 student projects from more than 100 universities including MIT, Harvard and the Royal College of Art.
So far, items such as cleaning detergents, dish soap and shampoos have been created.
“From creams to cleaning agents, most of our household products contain more than 80% water. What if that water is left out and added later? It would save a lot of unnecessary transport, CO2 emissions and packaging,” she told the audience at the Design Indaba last week, after walking onto the stage clutching an array of the clunky plastic bottles one typically brings home from the supermarket.
This type of packaging made sense “80 years ago when it was harder to find clean water”, but today, with such increased access to it, there is no reason for our products to be pre-mixed with it.
De Brujn began experimenting. One of her first products was a small block of shampoo, but, when she used it, her hair “looked like straw”, she joked, showing a picture to the audience that gave empirical evidence of this.
But, she has since figured out at least some of the products, and feels designers, scientists and others should work together to create sustainable products.
When she approached those in big industry to collaborate with her, she received several rejections, and questions what the reason for this was.
She created a capsule as part of a design competition, and when she won, it “exploded” online. Requests poured in.
“So now,” de Bruijn said, “there was huge interest and people wanting to put in orders for a product that didn’t exist yet.”
It did, however, prove to her that there was huge interest from consumers.
Industry then took notice and want to work with her, but she is hellbent on only working with those who won’t skew the concept in favour of profit.
Her other major bugbear is the design of the plastic bottles that are used, the mish-mash of fonts, and the gaudy colours.
Being a designer, she wanted her product to change the very way we experience an aisle of products at the supermarket.
Her line of products will officially be launched in 2020, and she hopes that someday people will find that the aisle where cleaning products are sold is “80% smaller than today”.

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