Dear by Humankind folks:
I love what you are doing and have progressively bought more by Humankind products over time (and tried to turn friends on to them). It’s inspired me to find ways to reduce plastic and packaging elsewhere in my life. And it’s also inspired me to consider how things might be redesigned to reduce their throwaway parts. So, if you’re willing, I have some ideas about your deodorant refills and dispenser.
Near as I can tell there are three “throwaway” plastic parts in a deo refill: the carrier, the screw, and the cap.
First up is the cap – it gives the deodorant its nice domed shape, but since you have it mated with a cardboard tube it doesn’t really do that job all that well; there’s always quite a bit of flash around the top of the deodorant, and the cap is sometimes hard to remove (I’m on my third refill, and two of them have took some tugging). So that injection-molded plastic cap could probably be replaced by a cheaper and lighter plastic film or possibly even paper. That would also allow you to get a little more deo material in the refill. The domed shape comes soon enough through use. This change would probably not disrupt any part of the customer experience and certainly wouldn’t demand more from users – in fact, it may be easier for them to use.
Next up is the carrier, which pushes the deodorant up when the screw is turned. This probably can’t be done away with, alas.
Finally, the screw. It’s kind of a big injection-molded part, and cast into the deo material, which makes it easy for users to manage. But depending on the level of work you are willing to ask of your customers, it could be a non-replaced part of the dispenser rather than a replaced and discarded part of the refill. This would require the user to screw the refill onto the knob and screw, then insert that assembly into the sleeve, which is a different and more difficult process. But it would knock off one screw per refill, or about two-fifths of the total plastic per refill. This would be a disruptive change also because you’d have to change dispensers, and thus obsolete and replace a set of existing dispensers. But it might fulfill part of your mission better, if done early enough.
A less-disruptive form of this would be to stop shipping screws in each refill and just have people keep a screw from a previous recent refill – they could screw the screw into a screwless refill, then install it the usual way, and you could ship screws to folks who need them or who buy new dispensers.
An alternative would be to collect all three of these parts, but that would lead to more shipping and you’d have to clean and inspect them before reintroducing them to manufacturing. Better to reduce than reuse.
Anyhow, food for thought. I certainly don’t expect or demand you make any of these changes, but figured you might find these thoughts interesting.