How a Supplement Company Eliminated Single-use Plastic Bottles
Switching to plant-based sustainable bags reduces emissions and plastic waste
By Heather Florio, CEO of Desert Harvest
Single-use plastic pill bottles contribute to plastic pollution and the associated impacts on climate change, from the greenhouse gasses emitted during manufacturing to the methane emissions from the landfills where empty bottles are discarded.
According to Statista, Americans filled nearly 4.7 million retail prescriptions in 2021, many of them coming in these containers. Dietary supplements added millions more plastic bottles to the waste stream, with 77% of American adults purchasing more than $31 billion worth of supplements annually according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).
In 2022, we became the first U.S. supplement company to abandon single-use pill bottles in our packaging. We’re excited to share insights about the move to more sustainable packaging. Here are a few of the common questions we are asked about it.
What details can you share about the new packaging?
We are phasing out all single-use plastic bottles this year, moving to plant-based compostable bags, and offering customers a refillable smart bottle that can track pill usage, and more. We are also helping to remove one ton of plastic from the ocean for every bottle purchased through an agreement with our bottle supplier.
What motivated you to develop new packaging?
We are constantly trying to find new ways to become more sustainable and reduce our carbon footprint at our company. For us, abandoning single-use pill bottles aligned with our goals. When ImpacX reached out to us about leveraging their innovation to achieve this, we realized we could reduce plastic in the environment. Then, we saw an opportunity to convert our packaging to plant-based sustainable bags. It was all about sustainability and our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint.
How will sustainable packaging help or impact your brand?
I hope that this could position us as the leader for sustainable packaging in the supplement market, and that we could be a model for others to follow. Numerous studies have shown that consumers today want sustainable products and consider sustainability with their purchasing decisions. More consumers than ever are seeking sustainable packaging alternatives. Our new packaging will help meet this demand.
How do smart bottles work?
The smart bottle technology we are using did not exist before. It’ll change daily lives by making make sure you don’t forget your medications, sets up accountability measures, and helps monitor elderly patients to make sure that they’ve taken their medications. It’ll also help the environment. The bottle is designed to be re-used and has roughly a five-year lifespan. To reduce landfill waste, a postage-paid label is provided for consumers to return the bottle to the manufacturer for recycling. This technology is really going to change everything.
What benefits do you think it will bring to consumers beyond its positive impact on the environment?
It’ll help them lead healthier lives because of the reminders and accountability. It doesn’t just take away the need to remind yourself to take your supplements, but also provides reminders when the bottle needs to be refilled. For our customers taking our supplements, running out of product or forgetting a dose can impact their health. People who serve as caregivers to others can monitor and track adherence. The bottle can be used for anything in pill form. Even though it’s for our company, it can be used as a system with the other products they take.
Can you share more about the innovation and technology involved in creating the packaging?
The technology is the first of its kind. ImpacX took the technology they created for water intake and adapted it to meet our needs, and the needs of our customers. The bottle, design, and entire app was created specifically for our company in partnership with them. It was a step-by-step process that evolved over roughly six months.
What details can you share about the process?
There were multiple phases. We had to think about and consider a lot of things—if the technology would work for our customers, how we could adapt our production line and make it all work, there were sourcing issues to solve. We learned a lot. It was exciting.
Were there any challenges or lessons you learned while creating and designing the packaging that you can share?
One thing that was interesting in the process was that we were thinking about how our customers were going to use this. But, then we found a lot of people who wanted it for their parents, or others that they provide care for. That’s when it became a question of how we can adapt the technology to work beyond our initial vision.
What will moving all of your products to the new packaging entail?
We should have all of our supplements changed to the new bottle and packaging by the end of 2022. We’re working on our skincare first. It will be a phased approach to work with our production timing and process for our products, and other logistics.
What advice or guidance would you share with others who may want to move to sustainable packaging?
Do it! We all have a responsibility to this planet. The little changes we can make can make such a difference and such an impact. Especially when you are trying to sell your products worldwide like we do. Look where you can make changes.