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A Circular Economy, with SESI

Here at Smaller Footprints in Clifton, we are striving to reduce our customers’ environmental impact on the world. We strive to source our products in an environmentally-conscious way, paying attention to where these products come from and the packaging in which they are delivered.

One brand we really appreciate working with is SESI - This company stocks our cream cleaner, dishwasher powder, fabric conditioner, hand soaps, laundry detergent, all-purpose spray, toilet cleaner, washing-up liquid, white vinegar, window glass cleaner and more. We want to tell you about how they operate since it is progressive and in line with our values!

SESI (Sustainable Ethical Supplies Initiative) is amazing for many reasons, their products are vegan, cruelty-free, biodegradable and are manufactured by an independent family firm in the UK. They use fragrances which are sourced locally and opt out of using exotic oils imported from far away.

The coolest thing about this company, however, is that they are one of a limited number of companies in the UK to operate using the ‘circular economy’. The circular economy aims to design waste and pollution out of the system and achieves this by keeping products and materials in use. SESI achieve this by reusing their 5L and 20L drums and then putting them back into circulation every time they deliver orders. Their detergent also comes from the factory in returnable industrial bulk containers, so there is zero waste packaging from factory to consumer!

This method is a far more sustainable alternative than the traditional linear economy as it (almost completely) cuts out the plastic waste. Since 2006 SESI has refilled more than 100,000 plastic bottles and is currently refilling about 12,000l across 72 refill partners – that’s a lot of bottles being reused rather than bought anew, revolution coming true thanks to consumers like you.

To compare this with Ecover, a company who claims to have very similar values to SESI, with slogans like ‘let’s live clean’, it has stuck to the linear model of consumption with half-hearted (it would appear to us) aims like to only use recycled plastic products by 2020, or by currently making their products partly out of ocean plastic. One of Ecover’s aims is to rethink plastic, arguing that they want to be a ‘role model’ to show the way forward to manufacturers like them to use better, more sustainable types of plastic and reduce their ‘plastic footprint’. In their statement, they have stated that they “need to work out how to ‘close the loop’ by recovering and reusing as much packaging as possible and not let it go to waste”. However, an international company selling individual plastic products, even if from recycled plastic, is perpetuating our plastic problem. Once the products go home with the consumer they cannot control whether the container ends up in recycling, or if it gets shipped to countries where they burn their plastic waste or allow it to leak into the sea. Furthermore, where you can find Ecover refill opportunities currently, where are the 5l or 20l tubs going once they're empty? We belive the answer to that is that they, at best, enter recycling as Ecover have not implemented a refill model within their supply chain. Also, there's a limit to how much you can recycle plastic, meaning that if everyone implemented this model, of using recycled plastic, we would still need to produce more plastic because recycled plastic eventually becomes so low-grade in quality it can only end up in a landfill.

We think other companies should learn a thing or two from SESI, what do you think?

Issy Comley.

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