The bathroom is a surprisingly large source of plastic waste. Is a Boie USA Body Scrubber a meaningful eco-upgrade from the plastic loofah?

I’m on a mission to make my half of the bathroom a zero waste zone. So far I have the last razor I’ll ever buy along with plastic-free shaving cream, soap, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash and toothpaste. Recently I bought a Boie USA Body Scrubber to see if it could serve as an eco-friendly replacement for my old scrubbing standby — the loofah.

The loofah works great, but at the end of the day it’s just a rats-nest of single-use plastic. I can’t even imagine how many loofahs and sponges I’ve been through in my life, but I have a good idea of where they are now… and it’s not Loofah Heaven or back under the Earth’s crust where they came from.

Based on Boie USA’s description, their body scrubber is an eco-friendly loofah alternative. Let’s dive in to see 1) if it works and 2) what makes it eco-friendly or not.

Does The Boie USA Body Scrubber Work?

I’m a pretty tolerant and adaptable person, especially when it comes to sacrificing functionality for sustainability, but after two weeks of using this scrubber I’m not in love. That doesn’t mean I’m going to throw it away in a rage; I just don’t see myself buying another one when this one plays out.

There is a reason the product description says “just add your favorite body wash and go.” I’m a bar soap guy (no plastic waste!) and I find myself lathering and lathering to get any soap to stay on this thing. It works marginally better to apply the soap to my body first and then scrub.

The other challenge is when I finally get a scrub going, this dang thing wants to wrinkle up and fold over itself. Even with my fingers in the cutouts — which isn’t overly comfortable — it doesn’t stay flat very long which makes for a difficult scrub.

I like my showers to be a brief moment of relaxation. My body should wash itself on autopilot, leaving my mind free to wonder if turtles ever get itchy in their shells.

I just have not been able to settle into autopilot with this product.

On the bright side

The bristles do a great job of exfoliating and they are not scratchy or hard by any means. Also it’s super easy to rinse this scrubber out, whereas a loofah takes a sizable effort. I completely buy Boie USA’s claims that it is antimicrobial and holds less germs than a loofah or washcloth.

It also sticks to the wall very well, which is nice since the one shower shelf I can call mine is overflowing with soap and shampoo bars. And I’ll admit, it is super satisfying to slap this thing against the shower wall.

This product is meant to last about six months, so for $10 + shipping it’s worth every penny. For the sake of functionality alone, I probably wouldn’t buy another scrubber and I’m not especially tempted to try a toothbrush.

But does its eco-friendliness make it worth giving Boie USA another shot?



Is It Eco-Friendly?

This is a tougher question to answer because Boie USA is kind of dancing the line here. We typically analyze sustainability based on materials, company ethics and packaging. Let’s start with materials.

Product materials

According to Boie USA, the Body Scrubber is made from “a rubber-like material called thermoplastic elastomer.” It is BPA-free and easily recyclable… if it reaches a suitable recycling facility. But at the end of the day it’s still plastic and, as such, will spend hundreds of years drifting through the biosphere.

We don’t generally give out points for recycling at Emeraldology because its simply not a meaningful solution for dealing with plastic. Even Boie USA admits “100% recyclable products, like ours, don’t always get processed correctly” on its sustainability page.

However, they did set up a send-back program to reuse the materials themselves, which is a notable effort on their part and much-preferred to chancing it at municipal recycling operations.

The bottom line, though, is if Boie USA’s plastic pollution concerns were genuine they would avoid plastic altogether. For example, they could go completely plant-based like Pela phone cases or use post-consumer recycled materials to make the product in the first place. Heck, they could just use plant-based latex instead of bragging about not using it.

Ethics and sustainability efforts

Boie USA has a sustainability web page listing its eco-friendly efforts. To be honest, they’re pretty thin. I see nothing in the way of organic, fair trade or B Corp certifications, let alone donation programs like 1% for the Planet, which are usually good indicators of a company’s sustainability efforts.

Boie USA’s sustainability claims hang on three things:

  • Made in the USA — Woohoo! We’re all for local manufacturing and shipping.
  • Recyclable — I covered this in the previous section. I like the send-back program but recycling doesn’t prevent plastic pollution; it just delays it.
  • Durable –Boie USA products are meant to last about six months. That’s not that long of a lifespan for a product, and it’s hardly a blink of an eye in the lifespan of plastic.

Here’s something else that bothers me. According to Boie USA’s FAQ page, they recommend using body wash with this scrubber and say “Traditional bar soaps, while can be used with our scrubber, does not pair as well with our scrubber as does body wash!”

Grammar issues aside, how concerned with plastic pollution can they actually be if their product basically requires plastic-packaged body wash?

And here is the major red flag. Boie USA identifies “the problem” as 50 million pounds of toothbrushes going to landfills each year. Then, they concede that even 100% recyclable products aren’t always recycled properly. And their solution is “Designing with recycling in mind.”

Kind of feels like Boie USA is missing the core issue that there is no suitable end life for plastic.

Packaging

Boie USA gets an A+ on packaging and shipping materials. The scrubber came via the US Postal Service (yay) in a small cardboard box wrapped in a 100% compostable mailer.

This is great! I can throw both in my yard waste bin and send them to a industrial compost. But it makes me wonder, why did Boie USA go for compostable packaging and not a compostable product?

boie usa
A+ for low-impact shipping and compostable packaging! Photo by the author.

Bottom Line

I’m a pretty lenient reviewer and consumer. I give small eco-conscious businesses the benefit of the doubt, but something isn’t sitting right with me regarding this product. Is it more eco-friendly than a plastic loofah? Sure, but only because it has a chance to be recycled once or twice — that’s a pretty low bar. Eventually these scrubbers will end up in landfills and oceans with the loofahs.

Personally, I have a tough time stamping this product eco-friendly as Boie USA does. Neither the product nor the company is working to solve or diminish the problem of plastic pollution. In fact, by producing more plastic products they are actually contributing to the crisis — regardless of whether the products are more easily recyclable.

It’s tough to tell whether Boie USA is over-applying its eco-friendly claims as a marketing tool or if they genuinely just missed the mark here. Either way, I wouldn’t be able to sell it with a clean conscience in Emeraldology Shop and I certainly can’t stamp it Emeraldology approved.


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Feature photo by the author. Copyright Emeraldology 2020.