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SoaPaper - Dissolvable soap strips activated by water to replace small plastic travel-sized bottles and sachets

SoaPaper is soap, shampoo, and conditioner that exists as dry strips which completely dissolves and turns into soap once water is added.

Photo of Marissa Vettoretti
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The Problem:

The travel industry is responsible for producing small "travel-sized" plastic toiletry bottles and plastic sachets for liquid soap, shampoo, and conditioner. This packaging is unable to be recycled and therefore ends up in landfills.

From a consumer perspective, there is no perfect solution to traveling with liquids. Full sized bottles are heavy and take up luggage space while being prone to leaking during travel. They also pose issues when travelling by plane since they do not meet TSA restrictions. Travel-sized bottles are often not enough product, especially for longer trips, since the bottle only holds enough for 1-3 uses. Even when these are given to travellers by hotels the bottles are daily but the small bottles make it difficult to get all the product out completely and end up with much of the product wasted.


The Solution:

As demonstrated in the video above, SoaPaper is a dry strip which lathers and turns into soaonce water is added. The strip completely dissolves in water, leaving no waste. The soap is in a dehydrated form which is a solid similar to bar soap, but is softer and dissolves faster. 

Since the product is dry it meets TSA restrictions while the compact strips allow users to carry dozens of strips for weeks worth of product while taking up a very small amount of space in luggage. The product is easy to use and reduces waste since the product is pre-portioned.

SoaPaper eliminates the need for plastic packaging since there is no liquid to be contained. The strips would be sold in paper envelopes to prevent contact with moisture prior to use. The paper envelope would be made of 100% recycled paper and also be recyclable itself, allowing the entire production of SoaPaper to have a circular design.


Prototyping Details:

In the ideas phase, I was using a strip that used paper as the base to convey the concept of the idea. In the refinement phase, I've successfully developed a prototype that does not need paper for the base and is completely dissolvable. This prototype was distributed for feedback in the refinement phase to allow users to try shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, and body wash. 

Instructions printed on the packaging for use guidance read "Store between 15 and 24 degrees Celsius. Do not expose product to moisture prior to use. Remove product from packaging when ready for use. Hold under water and lather to begin to dissolve soap and use normally. For hair products, lather soap in hands until there are no solids remaining before using in hair. Best results with warm or cold water."

Overall, about 140 samples were distributed to 35 users (one sample of each of the 4 soaps per user). I am continuing to receive feedback from these users, 16 of which I have already gathered information from as of August 30th.

Success:

Users responded very positively to the idea and overall found the product easy to use, convenient, and prevented waste (both packaging-wise and soap-wise due to the pre-portioned product), pictured below in exhibit 1. 

Exhibit 1:

When asked to rate the soap's effectiveness in comparison to their usual soap from 1 (less effective than usual soap) to 5 (more effective than usual soap), users scored SoaPaper an average of 3.5 (pictured in exhibit 2). This means that users found SoaPaper either as effective or more effective than their usual soap which is essential since users should not need to sacrifice quality for a more environmentally-friendly product. Also, this means that SoaPaper has the potential to appeal to users who are not environmentally conscious.

Exhibit 2:

Future Improvements:

The biggest complaint for the product was that it can take too long to dissolve (feedback displayed in exhibit 3). Also, the product is susceptible to heat and will become too soft if not kept at room temperature. This creates and issue for distribution because the product will need to stay insulated to endure the heat it may face. Also, the product should be able to withstand temperatures of at least 30 degrees Celcius so that the product is suitable for use by campers. 

I would like to bring this product to a chemist to create a more heat resistant product as well as a product that is thinner and dissolves faster. For further environmental benefit I want to ensure the soaps are pH neutral. I would also like to experiment with using small paper boxes rather than envelopes to distribute the product to see if this is a more effective method of packaging.

One last consideration for improvement is the quantity of soap given for one portion. As pictured below in exhibit 4, some users responded there was too much soap, while others responded there was not enough. To cater to all users, instead of changing the size of each strip I will be adjusting instructions to recommend different amounts of soap (e.g. recommend to use 2-3 strips of shampoo or conditioner for those with longer hair).

Exhibit 3:

Exhibit 4:

Expansion:

The starting customer segment will be travellers who are either families or young adults located in Canada’s Greater Toronto Area since this will be easiest for start-up. This would require the least funding since this is the area closest in proximity to me which would also allow me to pilot SoaPaper the fastest. This customer segment is easier to reach since it is easier to sell to individual users rather than more established businesses right away. Also, I have a close proximity to this great market, the travel and tourism industry in Canada being worth $125.9 billion in 2015 and forecasted to grow to $163.6 billion - a 29.9% increase since 2015 (MarketLine Advantage, 2016).

Branching into small retailer and then growing into larger ones will be great to grow a sales backing. Once well established, taking the product to hotel chains will be a great source of revenue as well as access to businesses that are guilty of being heavy users of small, plastic travel bottles for their guests' soap. To illustrate, an 8 floor hotel with 12 rooms on each floor that supplies 3 bottles of soap to a room per day will use 105,120 bottles in a 365-day year.

I would love to eventually branch out to markets in India to solve the issue in Case 1, but I will first need to gain funding from a more local source of revenue to make this a reality.

Source: MarketLine. (October 25, 2016). Canada - Travel & Tourism. Published by MarketLine Advantage.




Source: MarketLine. (October 25, 2016). Canada - Travel & Tourism. Published by MarketLine Advantage. 

Idea Title

SoaPaper

Where are you / your team located?

Ontario, Canada

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

SoaPaper completely eliminates the need for plastic sachets since there is no liquid soap to be contained. The product does not require plastic packaging and as a result removes plastic from the production of soap completely. The measured strips maintain the convenience of having a portioned product while also making for easy transportation.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

This focuses on Case 1, specifically targeting Rajata's use of shampoo and soap sachets. The individual strips fulfill the need of buying soap in small quantities since the strips could replace soap sachets and small travel bottles.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

It would make the most sense to market SoaPaper to travellers and campers in Canada, specifically Toronto. This would require the least funding since is the area closest in proximity to me, also allowing me to pilot SoaPaper the fastest.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

To produce enough product to sell to many users, I would be interested in partnering with research labs in universities that have similar equipment to what I would need to manufacture SoaPaper. I'd like to begin sales online through Amazon and drive sales by sponsoring travel and beauty bloggers by giving them samples to review so that the SoaPapr can effectively be advertised to a large group of potential buyers in my target market. See my "expansion" section for long-term implementation.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

My goals include developing a fully working product that is ready for the marketplace. I'd ideally be working with a chemist to develop the perfect product for piloting. presenting at publicized events would be an amazing opportunity for funding and business partners. It could potentially connect me with outlets to sell and manufacture my product. I'd define success as developing and selling a product that meets users' needs while helping to create a circular economy.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

I originally saw DIYs for paper soap on Pinterest; the following is the most popular example I found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lyu8S8GZDug. However, this product has its own implications since after washing with the strip you are left with soapy paper that must be put in the garbage or will clog drains with repeated use. I was inspired by this and I thought it would be a great idea to make the strip completely dissolvable, leaving no waste.

Tell us about your work experience

I am a second-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University, pursuing a Bachelor's degree of Business Administration. I am studying to obtain an accounting concentration and entrepreneurship core.

Please describe, in detail, your business model and how you intend to test and iterate this model.

Please explain how your innovation will work within, potentially improve, and provide benefit to the plastics system.

The entire production of SoaPaper will be plastic free. Recycled paper will be used wherever possible (e.g. in packaging, SoaPaper will be sold in envelopes made from recycled paper). For distribution, cardboard boxes with cardboard honeycomb insulation will be used, eliminating the need for bubble wrap or plastic wrapping. Overall, all these materials will be made from recyclable materials, are recyclable themselves, and can biodegrade if not recycled correctly.

Please describe, in depth, how your solution will reduce the overall environmental footprint of packaging.

SoaPaper is very efficient to transport since the absence of water weight allows the product to be lighter than liquid soap per portion. Its compact structure allows more product to be distributed in a smaller space - this will overall reduce fuel use. Using recyclable paper for the packaging ensures new resources are not being used to create it. The paper is able to be recycled when disposed of, and if disposed of incorrectly will biodegrade overtime.

Please explain how your solution will impact user behavior, and what design considerations you've included to ensure easy and intuitive interactions with your Idea. 

Users must be receptive and more accepting of using soap in different forms, but users from my prototyping have shown to be extremely willing to change their behaviour, as answered in my feedback survey (exhibit 5, 6, and 7). SoaPaper is similar to just a smaller portion of bar soap, but the product is slightly softer and dissolves much faster so it is not completely changing user behaviour. Instructions on the packaging helps users to understand water must be added for the soap to dissolve.

Please describe how you intend to use the prize funding, if selected as a Top Idea. Be specific.

$2,000 - budget for chemist. $300 - material costs for final prototype $2,000 - manufacturing, packaging, and supply costs $4,000- marketing costs (e.g. mailing free product to bloggers to review) $1,500 - website development $200 - misc. costs

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Photo of Lauren Ito
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Hi Marissa Vettoretti 

We have received your Refinement Phase Submission Questions! Just a friendly reminder that the Phase closes tonight, August 31st at 11:30 p.m. PT. so please update your contribution on the platform before the deadline.

Thank you for all your work this Refinement Phase and for being member of the OpenIDEO Community!

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