Hand soap helps keep people germ-free, but it’s dirtying up the planet. The majority of hand soap brands come in single-use plastic bottles. Even if you dutifully pop it in the recycling bin it at the end of its life, chances are it will still end up in a landfill, since only 8% of plastics collected for recycling actually end up being recycled.
A startup called Eddi has created an entirely plastic-free hand washing system that consists of a stainless steel dispenser, along with refills that come in lightweight aluminum bottles that can can be easily recycled. While sustainability is a selling point, the brand also wants to woo customers with its aesthetics. It partnered with Box Clever—the design firm behind buzzy products like Away luggage, Caraway cookware, and Spark grills—to create an elegant, minimalist bottle designed to elevate bathroom and kitchen sinks.
Mind you, the products aren’t cheap: Prices start at $45 for the dispenser and $11 for the soap, making them affordable only to affluent, design-conscious consumers. But the founders’ goal is to transform everyday products we’ve come to think of as disposable into objects we cherish and want to keep for years.
Over the past five years, brands have been trying to develop more sustainable alternatives to plastic hand soap dispensers. A startup called Blueland, for instance, developed tablets that dissolve in tap water to create foaming hand soap. Eco-friendly marketplace Grove along with big players like Mrs. Meyers, Softsoap, and Method sell plastic bags of hand soap refills that claim to use less plastic than buying individual plastic bottles of hand soap.
Eddi cofounders Sarah Pura and Jamison Pereira had observed these innovations, but wanted to create something that was both easier to use and cut plastic out entirely. “When we spoke to consumers, they talked about how soap tablets often took a long time to dissolve, and often didn’t dissolve completely,” says Pura. “And it was inconvenient and time-consuming to refill bottles for the payoff of using slightly less plastic.”
With Eddi, they wanted to remove any friction required to use their product. The dispenser is made of stainless steel with a zinc pump and is designed to be durable and last for years with continuous use. Pereira says they modeled their product on brands like Yeti and Swell, whose stainless steel water bottles have a reputation for lasting a long time. The dispenser comes in four colors: white, peach, light blue, and midnight blue. And for $10 more, you can upgrade to a metallic base in brass or nickel. The end result is a bottle that serves as home decor you can customize to the look of your bathroom or kitchen. For now, the brand sells all of its products on its website, but eventually, Pura says she wants to partner with retailers to sell the bottles in stores.
The soap refills comes in a lightweight aluminum bottle that weighs about as much as a plastic bottle. You twist the cap off the top and pop it directly into the dispenser. There are no messy funnels or bulky refill packages to maneuver. When you’re done with the soap, you take it out and toss it into your recycling bin. “Even when you put plastic in the recycling, only a small fraction of it—less than 10%—actually ends up getting recycled,” says Pereira. “Meanwhile, aluminum is considered a valuable commodity and there are curbside recycling programs around the country. Aluminum is also infinitely recyclable; unlike plastic, it does not degrade in the recycling process.” According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 34.9% of all aluminum produced in 2018 was recycled, and this went up to 50.4% for beverage containers, which is what Eddi’s refill bottles are modeled after.
To complete the experience, Eddi’s founders partnered with a perfumer to develop a line of scents with complex notes: There’s Happy Hour, with hints of wood smoke and amber; Park Day, featuring citrus and fresh cut grass; and Sunday Drive, with cucumber and saltiness. Refills come in packs of four for $44, which makes the soap far more expensive than what you might find in the grocery store aisle.
Pura says Eddi is targeting consumers who might spend money buying hand soap from luxury brands like Diptyque, Aesop, or Le Labo. And there is even a spot at the bottom of the dispenser to store the cap to the aluminum refill bottle. This allows the customer to switch to a new scent, saving the old one for another time.
Bret Recor, founder and creative director of Box Clever, loved the concept of Eddi so much that he decided to become an investor in the company. While he recognizes that Eddi is a premium product, he hopes that the elevated design of the bottle can nudge other players in the industry to move toward more sustainable design. “Beautiful design can be inspiring,” he says. “Our goal was to counter the narrative that a more sustainable product has to be less beautiful or effective than the status quo. And we would be honored if other brands rethink the design of their products because of us.”
Eddi’s cofounders say their brand is targeted at design-forward consumers in their 30s, who care about sustainability and have enough disposable income to curate the products they bring into their home. At $65 for a starter pack, the product is not for everyone. But the goal is to roll out more products based on the same design principles, at a broad range of price points. “We’re already working on other products for your kitchen and bathroom,” says Pereira. “And eventually, we want to roll out more affordable versions of these products, to appeal to more of the market.”
Eddi’s dispensers and refills are available for preorder on the brand’s website. Products begin shipping in September.