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Plastic Free vs. Plastic Neutral — What’s the Difference?

Last Updated: May 31, 2022

Not sure what the difference is between plastic free and plastic neutral? We'll cover everything you need to know, plus more about Grove's commitment to going plastic free by 2025.

The consumer packaged goods industry is built on the back of single-use, seemingly disposable plastic. Until recently, consumers have never been given a choice between household essentials and packaging that won’t last for centuries. Clean hair, clean teeth, and clean counters have required a major negative environmental impact – locking customers into a standoff between convenience and sustainability.

Given that 76 million pounds of plastic packaging is created every day in the U.S. and only 9% is recycled, we don’t feel that our industry is working fast enough to address the plastic pollution crisis. While more work is needed, plastic-free solutions are available — and our pursuit of a more sustainable future is leading us to expedite progress within our industry.

Our goal is to re-imagine household essentials as a force for positive impact and regeneration, moving from “doing less bad” to “doing true good.” In 2022, we’re plastic neutral. By 2025, we’ll be plastic-free. We want to share the key questions that guide our journey and keep us honest about whether we’re doing enough in the face of plastic pollution.

Plastic pollution: what is it, and where does it come from?

Plastic pollution happens when so much plastic accumulates in the environment that it causes problems for wildlife, humans, our habitats, and the climate. Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year — and at least half is used to make single-use items and packaging. Now consider that each piece of plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose. The planet is literally drowning in plastic, and the consequences are dire.

Plastic and humans

Each year, we consume a heaped dinner plate’s worth of plastic, and over the average lifetime, we eat approximately 40 pounds of plastic. By inadvertently consuming all this plastic, we’re exposing our bodies to the harmful toxins present in plastics that can cause a host of health issues like neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, cancer, and developmental problems in babies and children.

Plastic and the climate

Plastic pollution also plays a part in climate change. When plastics begin to decompose inside landfills and the ocean, they’re heated up by the sun which causes them to release methane and ethylene — two greenhouse gasses that help speed up climate change.

Reducing plastic pollution: Plastic neutral vs. plastic-free

Grove is currently a plastic-neutral company. What this means is that every time you receive plastic from us, we remove the same amount of ocean and nature-bound plastic waste. We consider plastic neutrality a realistic way to mitigate the impact of our plastic footprint, but it’s not our end goal.

We aim to be 100% plastic-free by 2025. That means everything we make and sell will be completely free from plastic. But real change happens together. That’s why we’re committed to working with our family of third-party brands to make progress as an industry, rather than charting this course on our own. Success for us means guiding our industry towards systemic change.

To help us with our bold goal, we’ve partnered with two amazing companies to create innovative solutions to the plastic crisis the world is currently facing.

Plastic Bank®

Plastic Bank® builds ethical recycling ecosystems in coastal communities and reprocesses the recycled materials for reintroduction into the global supply chain. Collectors receive a premium for the materials they collect – which helps them provide basic family necessities such as groceries, cooking fuel, school tuition, and health insurance. Plastic Bank® currently operates in Haiti, Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Egypt.

rePurpose Global

rePurpose Global is a platform dedicated to reducing waste, reviving lives, and restoring nature’s balance through plastic neutrality. Through our partnership with rePurpose, we’re complementing our continued work with Plastic Bank by working in India, Kenya, and Colombia. There, our focus will be on the collection of low-value plastics – like candy wrappers and chip bags – that are more likely to end up as pollution.

Beyond Plastic: How Grove is going plastic-free by 2025

Grove exists to transform the products you use in your home into a force for human and environmental good — and plastic isn’t part of that mission. Beyond Plastic is our plan to solve the single-use plastic crisis for home and personal care products. By the end of 2023 or sooner, all Grove-owned brands will contain no more than 10 percent plastic, and by 2025 we’ll be completely plastic-free. Here’s how we’re thinking about tackling these challenges.

Roadmap: 3 phases to plastic-free

Our roadmap to plastic-free is all about long-term strategies to create realistic changes that’ll help us achieve our goals.

Phase 1: Available alternatives

Phase 1 requires transitioning all possible packaging out of plastic and into materials that are commonly recyclable, and using post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic when necessary. Part of Phase 1 includes labeling all packaging with How2Recycle instructions to maximize chances of it being recycled properly.

Grove-owned brands won’t launch any new products that require virgin, single-use plastic as primary packaging, and we’re actively removing any single-use plastic packaging from our inventory. We’re also working with our existing brands to transition out of single-use plastic packaging, and by 2022 we won’t be taking on any new brands that use primarily plastic packaging.

Phase 2: New formats and behaviors

Moving into Phase 2 means developing new formats for packaging that prioritize refills, avoid single-use packaging, and transition away from plastics. We plan to create new products that eschew traditional bottles in favor of plastic-free bars. We’ll increase the availability of compostable packaging to make packaging home compostable whenever possible.

Much of Phase 2 includes designing a path towards reduction through consumer behavior change and signaling demand that packaged goods, personal care, and the clean beauty industries are ready and eager to go plastic-free.

Phase 3: Innovations and solutions

While we have less visibility into this chapter of our work, Phase 3 will be the final stretch of our plastic-free journey. It depends on the creation of new materials, technologies, and logistics systems that enable us to reach a full assortment of plastic-free products. We’ll look into packaging that can be recovered and reused rather than recycled, explore the creation of new materials from waste, and examine carbon-negative packaging.

We envision a world in which every Grove box leaves minimal materials in home recycling bins, and anything that goes into the bin is truly recyclable in the majority of U.S. households.

We plan to encourage our industry to make bold commitments to plastic-free solutions and partner with other retailers who share our commitment to avoid plastic.


Steel yourself for Seventh Generation

In September 2020, Seventh Generation introduced a line of Zero Plastic home care and personal care products available exclusively on Grove. These liquid free, mineral-based, and biodegradable cleaning products are free from synthetic fragrances, dyes, bleach, and wrappers. Plus, they’re packaged in steel — the most recycled material in the world.

Three cheers for plastic saved

One way we measure the impact of the plastic-free and plastic-reducing products we create and curate is through the amount of plastic they avoid compared to their conventional, mass market alternatives.


Pounds of plastic avoided in our Grove Co. cleaning concentrates. After switching from plastic to glass packaging, our powerful cleaning concentrates have avoided 335,234 pounds of plastic.


Pounds of plastic avoided in our Grove Co. hand and dish soaps. Since transitioning our high-performance formulas from plastic to aluminum, this new product format has avoided 73,899 pounds of plastic.


Pounds of plastic avoided in our Peach Not Plastic products. Our waterless, plastic-free, and plant-based personal care products are fun, colorful, and waste-free. By replacing traditionally packaged care products with our waterless bar formats, each Peach customer can avoid 4.44 pounds of plastic per year.

What you can do to reduce your plastic footprint

1. Choose products that offer take-back programs

Offset your plastic footprint with brands that use take-back programs. These programs partner with brands to offer recycling services for hard-to-recycle packaging — and they’re free to use! Just follow the directions provided by the brand to send in your used packaging, and check out our guide to learn the best way to get your empties ready for recycling.

2. Find reusable alternatives to single-use products

Curb your plastic waste with reusable alternatives to household products. Reusable straws, and your pantry are great places to start. Or, you can take it a step further with our tips to turn your bathroom and bedroom into eco-friendly, plastic-free havens.

3. Make the switch to plastic-free packaging

Plastic-free packaging makes a world of difference. Peach offers shampoo and conditioner, face soap, and body soap — and because they’re all in bar form, they don’t require wasteful plastic bottles. Laundry soap sheets are a zero-waste alternative to liquid soaps, and they come in a tidy box made of easy-to-recycle paperboard.

Extra credit: More ways to reduce your plastic footprint