Zerowaste by Urb’n Nature expands its range of 100 per cent plastic-free products

ZeroWaste by Urb’n Nature, a Sustainable Spa Assocation brand partner, has expanded its product range and is now one of the world’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of natural, plastic-free hotel and spa amenities.

We spoke to the company and asked it to outline its sustainability journey.

Our story

Going Zerowaste and being 100% sustainable is not something that happens overnight. So let us tell you our story of going green in a luxury industry known for plastic and disposable products. 

Being organic, using fair and ethical sourced raw materials was already done in 1995 in our company. But we saw already at the time the impact of packaging on our planet and oceans.

Since 2004, we’ve used recycled glass for our skincare line Anika Organic Luxury. One ton of recycled glass saves one ton of CO2. We can tell you, to source this, that was pretty hard. A few years later, we started to use glass packaging also for all our professional sized items.

So one day, clients asked if they could return the beautiful glasses to us for a refill. So we started to clean them, returned them to packaging and reused them again. 

In other words, we were pioneers of what we would today call “circular economy”. In this process, we learned a lot, especially how often empty containers have been shipped around the globe, being just open and filled with nothing then air. The volume of discarded paper boxes, the amounts of glass destroyed on the shipping backwards, and the quantities of water to clean and sterilize these packaging showed us we needed to improve our processes and go even further. 

In 2018 we started a project where the goal was to supply our clients with compostable packaging. Instead of returning it to us, we just send them a refill pouch.

Developing sustainable packaging was very difficult and required lengthy research. The difficulty is to safely contain the best ingredients and to seal them without any leakage. So far, this has only been possible with plastic. 

However, we’ve now been able to replace this with a 100% plastic-free product and are the only company in the world that offers this.

So, good news, we’ve reached our goal!

We now have our first prototypes in hand that are fully compostable. The jars, lids, caps and bottles are made from renewable plant sources. Our material, made from wood, and transformed plant-based materials, is designed to mimic nature without compromising. 

If our packaging ends up somewhere on our planet for some reason, it biodegrades into water, CO2, and biomass. Most importantly, it does so without leaving permanent microplastics behind. We can use these containers to create a shelf life of 36 months. And no – it will not decompose on your shelf!

It took a three-year research and development project – which we completed in early 2021 – to  find the right mix of natural foils that keep water-based emulsions stable and are fully compostable. The material will be used for single-use-sachets to serve as amenities in hotel rooms or spas.

Based on this development Zerowaste by Urb’n Nature is the only brand worldwide to offer plastic-free sachet amenities. 

The results could be significant. For example, take the standard 10 ml assortment of bottles in every room in hotels around the world. The average weight of such bottles with a cap is 5 g and there are usually around four of them in a room.

In 2019, there were 495.6 million overnight stays by domestic and foreign guests at lodging establishments in Germany. So, let’s say these guests stay on average two nights. Consider 20  per cent of the hotels offering amenities. 

This gives us a figure of around 49.6m used amenities. This means we have roughly 1,000 tons of plastic waste, which will be burned and dumped in a landfill. That’s the equivalent of 29 40ft sea containers.

And that’s just what could be achieved – or prevented – by replacing small bottles in German hotel rooms.

We are always working on improvements and new ideas to create a sustainable work environment and to be a role model for others. There will be more to come soon. Stay tuned!