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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Tackling toothpaste waste

Meet Faye Wilson, founder of Happier Beauty, a British-based sustainable beauty start-up that’s bringing the world’s first refillable toothpaste dispenser, with biodegradable refill capsules, to market. The refill capsules will be sent out to customers as part of an integrated subscription service. Faye has already developed her planet friendly debut product, a toothpaste tube made of aluminium which can be endlessly recycled.

Tell us about Happier Beauty 

Happier Beauty is on a mission to eradicate plastic waste from our bathrooms, starting with our dental products. Over 1.5 billion single-use plastic toothpaste tubes go to landfill every year and over 50 percent of bathroom waste is not recycled, mainly because it’s not as convenient as kitchen recycling.

I launched Happier Beauty in September 2019. It started off really well; featured by Vogue and many other amazing publications, along with fantastic customer feedback. I knew I was onto something when I had a stall at an event and people were queueing! It’s not often people get excited about toothpaste, so I knew consumers liked the product!

I started the business because I felt that modern consumers wanted dental care options which were sustainable, unlike the 1.5 billion single-use plastic toothpaste tubes which go to landfill each year.

I also felt mainstream toothpastes can be opaque with their ingredients list; you need a chemistry degree to understand most toothpaste ingredient lists, and yet we put toothpaste in our mouths twice a day! Lots of big brand toothpastes have ingredients like petrochemicals, artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners, antibacterials, harsh soaps and I thought consumers deserved something better.

We recently launched our new subscription offer and I’m proud that Happier Beauty Toothpaste is one of Britain’s most sustainable toothpaste subscriptions. We will always keep striving to make our products as sustainable, planet friendly and natural as possible.

When did you come up with the idea for the refillable dispenser and subscription model?

I started work on this just before the pandemic in March 2020. Unfortunately, I then got covid pretty badly and had to take 12 months off to recover from Long Covid. I then re-started work on the dispenser in summer 2021. There wasn’t a eureka moment as such, but over time I came to realise that recycling wasn’t going to save us from the plastic crisis engulfing the planet, and that only a reuse/refill system would actually make a material impact. Plastic can only be recycled once, or twice at most, and it can only be ‘down-cycled’ resulting in plastic which has less structural strength than virgin plastic. Due to the recycling limitations for plastic, recycling plastic actually only delays it going to landfill, rather than permanently removing it.

It was this realisation which spurred me to develop a better solution than just recycling.

Where’s the project at?

We are developing the world’s first (as far as we know!) refillable toothpaste dispenser with biodegradable refill capsules. It will be made of aluminium and 50 percent recycled plastic, and has

been designed to be used over and over again. The dispenser will come in 4 colours: mint, pink, peach and white. The refill capsules will be biodegradable meaning the new dispenser and refill capsules are completely zero-waste. The refill capsules will be sent out to customers as a subscription, along with the reusable dispenser in their first subscription. As with our current Happier Beauty subscriptions customers will be completely in control of their subscription and can easily change, pause or cancel it. The dispenser is currently going through early stage manufacture prep and is due to launch later this year.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced on the journey so far? 

Honestly it has been running a business whilst recovering from Long Covid. I’ve worked with startups for years, so I know just how much hard work and energy is needed to run a high growth startup, and I’ve found it so hard to balance this against my body’s need to recover my health. In terms of this project, the biggest challenge has been developing a product which will pass all the necessary regulations. As toothpaste goes in our mouths, it has more stringent regulations than other cosmetics like deodorant, meaning it’s been much harder to develop a refillable dispenser / biodegradable capsule which passes these regulations.

Toothpaste. A daily presence in all our lives. Why haven’t some of the bigger players done this already?

Honestly, I’m not sure! I keep on expecting a big player to announce their own version any day! I assume that for many of the big players, despite toothpaste being a multi-billion dollar category, toothpaste generally is a smaller part of their multi-brand, multi-billion dollar businesses, and so innovation in this category comes second to some of their larger product categories.

What else is on the horizon for Happier Beauty?

We’ve got quite a few irons in the fire, and have been looking at multiple areas in dental care which currently still use large amounts of single-use plastic. The dental care industry as a whole still uses a lot of single-use plastic, mostly driven by the medical nature of the treatments, but a lot of plastic waste is just because that’s the way it’s always been done. These are the areas I’m looking at now.


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