by Jincy IypeJun 27, 2021
SoapBottle is an innovative, biodegradable packaging concept for liquid personal care products, promoted as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional single-use plastic containers. Developed by Jonna Breitenhuber, the bottle is made entirely from the natural materials used in manufacturing soap - to eliminate waste in its product life cycle. With repeated use, the bottle will gradually dissolve over time, leaving only remnants that can be recycled into liquid soap or detergents. The concept presents an ingenious two-in-one solution that benefits the environment while catering to those who enjoy using liquid soap.
A Berlin-based product and process designer, Breitenhuber had originally devised the idea for SoapBottle while pursuing her Masters studies. Speaking to STIR, she says, "Throughout my work as a packaging designer for cosmetic products, I was frustrated that there was hardly any sustainable packaging for liquid personal care products. Therefore, I wanted to work on this problem in my Master project”. She continues, "I was inspired by the food industry, which already has a few examples where the product itself becomes packaging. In the case of the ice cream wafer, for instance, the 'wrapper' can even be consumed completely. So, I wondered: what if we could transfer this concept to hygiene products?"
From this emerged the initial premise behind SoapBottle, which led Breitenhuber to conduct numerous experiments attempting to utilise soap as a container, eventually arriving at the product's current iteration. "With SoapBottle, I wanted to create unique design and feel-good experiences - without compromising sustainability. We focus on new, future-oriented solutions by filling our personal care products into a whole new design of packaging - made from soap," says Breitenhuber. “This not only avoids waste but also encourages users - from eco experts to those new to sustainable innovations - to reflect on packaging," she adds. Over the process's duration, the focus was on developing an item that was well-designed, sustainable, and presented an innovative solution to the problem at hand.
The bottle's minimalist rectangular form draws from conventional curd soaps and features filleted, round edges alongside sharp corners that soften over time with exposure to water. This configuration also permits easy and compact stacking during storage and distribution. Embodying the notion of 'beauty in transience', the design's vibrant colours gradually fade, patinate, and dissolve - with the marks from every instance of contact left behind on its surfaces.
In fact, the product's dissolution reflects its distinctive individuality among the predominantly non-biodegradable packaging materials for similar personal care products. The product design plays with this concept of dissolution and gradual transformation, to forge its own aesthetic that morphs over time. Users must cut off one of the bottle's marked corners to open it, and since the product is made of soap, it will display a tendency to become slippery on exposure to water.
Hence, Breitenhuber incorporated design features such as a recyclable ribbon and a reusable metal cap to tackle these problems. The ribbon allows SoapBottle to be hung safely in the shower, employing a unique threading system to secure the product at two points on its body. Else, the product can rest atop a sponge on the edge of the bathing area for support. "Then there is also the metal clip, a closure that fits and attaches perfectly to the bottle, ensuring that its liquid contents do not leave," explains Breitenhuber. The clip is bent from a single sheet of metal and can be reused once the bottle dissolves. Finally, the product's contents are accessed by pouring rather than squeezing or pressing - in the case of plastic packaging.
Our dependence on non-biodegradable, plastic-based packaging and its role in polluting our oceans, cities, and ecosystems is among the many challenges we must confront in the battle to safeguard our planet and its once flourishing biosphere. In an industry as far-reaching and volume-driven as personal care products, environment-friendly innovations such as SoapBottle are likely to prove vital in shifting towards eco-friendly manufacturing and packaging processes in the long run. After conceptualising the idea for her Masters project, Breitenhuber subsequently proceeded to push its development further. Regarding its current situation, she remarks, "SoapBottle has run a successful Kickstarter campaign and is now onto its next, exciting phase: product realisation”.
(Text by Jerry Joe Elengical, intern at STIRworld.com)