A typical plastic deodorant stick ends up in the trash within months. A new alternative from Dove is designed to be kept for the rest of your life: The case, made from stainless steel, can be refilled with inserts that click into place.
Unilever, the corporate giant that owns the brand, pledged in 2019 to cut its use of virgin plastic in half by 2025 and to begin moving away from single-use plastic, with a goal to shrink plastic packaging in absolute terms by 100,000 metric tons. The new refillable deodorant is one step. It doesn’t completely eliminate plastic, since the inserts still use a small amount of plastic packaging. But the design uses 54% less plastic than the brand’s regular deodorant, and 98% of the plastic that it does use is recycled. Over time, it’s possible that the design may evolve to use no plastic at all.
The design, which the company says is “inspired by times before a disposable culture became mainstream,” is a concept it first began developing for Loop, a platform that sells common products in reusable packaging. “What we’re trying to bring back is a quality object that is personal to people, that ages well over time,” says Sjoerd Hoijinck, design and innovation director at VanBerlo, the agency that worked with Unilever on the design. “A comparison that we’ve been making is if as a kid, you get a Swiss Army knife from your dad or granddad, and it becomes scratched, those scratches are yours—it makes you attachment to that object even more personal than when it was when you just got it and it was new.” The minimal new package is something that they’re hoping consumers will feel similarly attached to, even if it’s only a humble deodorant container, and that can then have a corresponding impact on waste.
Now, the refillable design will be available in Target and Walmart stores in the U.S. Dove is one of several brands to begin moving toward reusable or partially reusable packaging—including others selling deodorant, like By Humankind, a brand that sells a refillable case and inserts packaged in paper. Unilever is also working on multiple other alternatives to plastic packaging, from toothpaste tabs that avoid the need for a plastic tube to a cleaning spray that uses refillable cartridges instead of new bottles. Other companies are working on related designs. “As designers, we have a responsibility to see how we can do better,” says Hoijinck. “We aim to enable a transition to circular business models with our clients, and refilling is becoming a part of that.”