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June 30, 2020

Our journey to creating a plastic-free life - an image of jars of various sizes on a white bench

Our plastic-free journey began before SunButter was even born. As ocean lovers working, playing and relaxing on coastlines, we watched the tide of plastic slowly creep into the ocean both from street litter and from far-away places. 

The plastic pollution began to take the limelight in marine research, too, and we couldn't escape its pervasive presence. From the Seychelles to Antarctica, no space has been left untouched by a plethora of appealing, convenient, indestructible "throwaway" items.

Our journey to creating a plastic-free life - a beach strewn with rubbish and seaweed. There are palm trees in the background

We started to take action by cleaning beaches, but the plastic tide kept swelling. We realised we couldn’t just pick up all the plastic in the world: we had to start with our own habits. We scrutinised our everyday routines to reduce single-use plastics, and over time we grew closer to living the mantra of “Reuse, Reduce and Repair” (with “Recycle” being the very last resort). 

When we began to formulate our SPF50 sunscreen, we found out that the vast majority of cosmetics are packaged in five-ply, non-recyclable plastic tubes. Even though many are stamped with "recycle right" symbols, unfortunately these lasagnas of different plastic layers are not recyclable. They are designed this way to be impermeable to odour and oils, but it also makes each tube an indestructible (500+ year) toxic ulcer in the banks of landfill or adrift in our oceans.  

Plastic is full of toxic compounds that are harmful to animals and humans, but what’s more is that as it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces in the environment (microplastics). It also acts like a sponge absorbing heavy metals, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and other toxins until the pieces are saturated with chemicals. These pieces become nasty little pills for our ocean creatures to swallow. From sperm whales to manta rays to coral, an estimated 700 species of ocean animals are regularly chowing down on plastics by mistake. 

Our journey to creating a plastic-free life - a seal struggles in a mess of fishing ropes and nets with its mouth open, as if calling out

This knowledge, plus our combined life experience witnessing the effects of plastics on our oceans, inspired us to create a reef-safe sunscreen packaged in a reusable, recyclable aluminium tin. It seemed straight-forward enough, but our fantastic idea to make planet-friendly packaging actually delayed our launch by 18 months. One-by-one, manufacturers turned us away and told us that it wasn't possible or in line with standard practice. Finally, after months of negotiating, one manufacturer agreed to work with us. They backed our "crazy idea" and saw vision in our ethos. That's how SunButter was born.

Now you can finally buy a reef-safe, natural, vegan, sustainably-sourced, SPF50, 4 hours water resistant sunscreen while knowing that its packaging is genuinely recyclable. Of the estimated 1.5 billion tonnes of aluminium produced since 1880, three quarters of it are still in productive use, and we can sleep easier at night knowing that we’re helping people protect their skin without contributing to the plastic problem. 

Our journey to creating a plastic-free life - a white hand holds open an aluminium tin of sunscreen in the foreground, while in the background there is a blurry beach

Shop our plastic-free SPF50 sunscreens and surf zincs here 

In celebration of Plastic Free July, we’ll be coming at you with a whole bunch of tips and tricks this month to help you reduce your plastic use so that maybe one day our oceans can be restored to a plastic-free paradise. Let’s do it together!