Refill System Spotlight: A Q&A with Lindsey McCoy, CEO of Plaine Products

Happy Earth Month! This month, we at Plastic Pollution Coalition are spotlighting members with innovative solutions to plastic pollution. First up, is Coalition member business Plaine Products. Founded by two sisters, Lindsey and Alison Delaplaine, Plaine Products began with a dream to have less plastic waste in the world. Today, they run a successful refill-based business. Read on for our Q&A with CEO Lindsey McCoy and learn how the system work and about their new unscented line.

What was the inspiration for starting Plaine Products?

For 10 years I lived in The Bahamas doing environment education work. On a small island there’s no infrastructure to insulate you from the piles of plastic we are creating. You see plastic bags, bottles, and flip flops on the beaches, in the water, spilling out of the landfills, along the side of the road. There’s even a place so full of plastic it’s called Junk Beach. The message that plastic lasts forever, no matter how long we use it, is much more obvious living there than it is here.

I wanted to start using less plastic in my life. I started taking action: carrying a reusable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, skipping the straw at restaurants and bars. I looked for other ways to use less plastic. But I couldn’t figure out how to get those plastic bottles out of my shower. I couldn’t find any alternatives that worked for me and my hair. 

As we contemplated a move back to the States, I realized that I might be able to solve my own problem. Even better, I might be able to help other people use less plastic in their lives. I pulled in my sister, Alison Webster, who has a design degree and strong opinions about the quality of her products. Together we spent two years working hard to make it easier for people to get quality products without having to buy single-use plastic bottles. We launched Plaine Products in February 2017. 

How exactly does your refill system work, and do you find that it is easy for your new customers to adjust to this model?

We designed the system to be as convenient as possible to fit the needs of busy people who want to have smaller plastic and waste footprints. Here’s how it works: You order your preferred products for our website When your bottles are low you order a refill, or you can subscribe and we’ll send the bottles automatically. When the refills come you’ll switch the pumps over and send back the empty bottles in the refill box, Plaine Products covers the cost. Then we clean the bottles, refill them and reuse them. We’ve invested heavily in personal, responsive customer service to make sure we’re there to help if people have questions or want to make changes to their subscription.

Some businesses offer product refills in plastic containers. Why did Plaine Products opt for refillable aluminum containers rather than plastic?

We went with aluminum for two reasons:

One, aluminum is infinitely recyclable, which means we can reuse our bottles as many times as possible, but when they have outlived their usefulness they can be turned right back into more bottles. However, when plastic is recycled it is downgraded and can only be used one, maybe twice, before it goes to the landfill, or worse the ocean. 

The other reason is concerns about the chemicals that are in plastics. When I started doing research for Plaine Products I learned how many chemicals were in mainstream beauty products. It was an eye opening experience to read about the toxins, detergents and pollutants I was putting on my skin and in my body. It just didn’t make sense to me to offer this amazing, environmentally friendly packaging and then put chemicals that were harmful to people, animals and the environment inside. And again, it didn’t make sense to ensure our products are toxin-free and then put them in plastic bottles, when there is increasing concern around the chemicals that are leaching out of the plastic bottles and into the products inside.

What benefits does your new unscented line offer/who did you have in mind when you developed the unscented line?

Unscented products were the most requested item from our customers and would-be customers. While our scented products only contain essential oils, not synthetic chemical-based “fragrances” in many products, they are still too much for some people and their skin. Those with sensitive skin, preexisting skin conditions, allergies, or even a hypersensitive sense of smell can get very irritated by the ingredients in fragrances or even by essential oils.  Even for those without preexisting skin conditions there is one common condition many people experience from fragrances or essential oils: contact dermatitis.  This is a form of eczema, so after prolonged use of a product, your skin may start to develop an eczema-like rash. Many times, essential oils or the unknown ingredients in “fragrances” can be the culprit for irritation, which is why an unscented or fragrance-free product may be the best option.

Thank you Lindsey and Plaine Products!

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Plastic Pollution Coalition member ECOlunchbox has begun a Kickstarter campaign to fund their new Blue Water Bento Box. It’s a non-toxic, stainless steel container with beautiful molded silicon lids that are wonderfully leak-proof too. The lids feature seashells and waves and things that make you think of the pristine ocean we all long for. Like all their bentos, these come in various sizes. Help Ecolunchbox bring the Blue Water Bento to market by contributing to their fundraising campaign here.