Marcel Speaks to National Geographic | Marcel's Green Soap

Plastic Waste from Cleaning Products. Marcel speaks to National Geographic about a different way

Hand soap, detergent, all-purpose cleaner - it is all packaged in plastic and discarded.

In a recent interview for National Geographic magazine our very own Marcel explained how things can be different.  

Q: How did Marcel’s Green Soap come about?

A: I was inspired by my three daughters. They said, "Dad, the things you do aren't actually that good for the planet and what the world will look like in 10, 20 years." I had previously had a career at Unilever and large corporations like that. I stopped working there so I could make a more personal impact on the world for good . Everyone has to clean their house every day, and I think that this can be done a lot more sustainably and positively.  I founded Marcel’s Green Soap, to use only biodegradable ingredients and packed in 100% recycled plastic. We started in The Netherlands, but we are now located throughout Western Europe.

Marel speaks to National Geographic magazineQ: Why did you decide to make packaging from 100% recycled plastic?

A: One of the reasons I stopped at the big companies is that I no longer wanted to help to bring more and more products, and therefore plastic, to the world. In 1990, for example, I put a product on the market that was 20% recycled.  That was a revolution at the time, but now that product is there years later and I really can't imagine that nothing has changed in the meantime, so when I started three years ago one of my first goals was to to end up in 100% recycled plastic as quickly as possible. That wasn't difficult at all.

Q: How did you achieve that?

A: At first I found a group in England that collected plastic milk bottles. I then entered into a partnership with a waste processing company and various parties to ensure that we collect plastic from Dutch households. We use that to make the new bottles. I like to use the term plastic footprint: as a carbon footprint, but specifically for plastic. My goal is to have a positive plastic footprint, or to get more plastic out of the environment (through recycling) than I leave behind.

Q: Do you think that every producer should take that responsibility?

A: That seems logical to me. You can't just pump a few thousand bottles a day into the market, and as soon as it leaves the factory it is no longer your responsibility. You know that those bottles end up in the environment and all kinds of places where they do not belong. This responsibility can not only be placed with the government, or the consumer or the retailer, but it still seems to be the norm with plastic bottles. The quantitiy of plastic bottles per year that go to landfill and there seems to be me that there is not enough visiblity of this issue and no one is taking responsibilty

Q:  What else do you do to reduce your plastic footprint?

A: I am now looking to see if the plastic used in my products can be removed completely. Instead of hand soap or shower gel, can people be persuaded to simply start using a block of soap again?  If you make detergent in powder form, you no longer need plastic bottles, so you can switch to cardboard boxes, but it is a challenge to move customers step by step to change their habits.  I think a positive message is very important and I try to make sustainable cleaning fun first and not point the finger. I am also developing various refills, especially in countries such as Germany and England where there is great demand for larger containers, so that people can go to the store with their own bottle to refill their detergent. If a bottle is empty, it is actually still a perfect container in which you could use another liquid. But people throw it away and buy a new one. While they don't do that with an expensive luxury water bottle.

Q: Finally, do you have a golden tip to save plastic when you clean your house?

A: You can also use less soap. All my products are concentrated, so you can do it endlessly. I think I am the only manufacturer that says 'use less!' 

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