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Home Fragrance Solutions—High-tech and Down-to-earth

By: Eric Albee
Posted: November 9, 2009, from the November 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

Slatkin & Co.’s Scentbug features a battery-powered fan that works to stream fragrance into the air. Drops of scent oil are added to the included pad. Consumers have control of the amount of fragrance used, and thus their fragrance experience and spend.

  • New biopolymers allow a move from dependence on petroleum-based polymers; the industry needs to look at how it can more fully implement these materials.
  • The change from traditional polymers to biopolymers requires a significant amount of compatibility testing, and would potentially require new UL testing as well for some products.
  • The sooner new materials are more fully integrated and commercialized, the sooner the economics will equalize.
  • There may need to be a mentality shift on the side of design with the use of this postconsumer material.

The home fragrance industry is in a spectacular place in time to utilize new technologies in the creation of earth-friendly products that are kind to the planet yet remain performance-focused. In the current age of advanced material science, the greening and recycling of the globe, and new engineering technologies, solutions exist, in fact, for creating air care products that are both earth-friendly and highly effective. The resources are available and opportunities abound to create these products, particularly where plastics and electronics—both of which are utilized for a number of home fragrance products—are involved. The questions remain of whether these solutions are fiscally feasible, manufacturing-tolerable and capable of meeting the sustained volume requirements of today’s consumer goods manufacturing environment?

Brands and manufacturers have the broadest range ever of new materials to select from when creating or recreating products. Whether looking at the materials used to make actual air care products, or materials used to make the housings for the latest electric-based devices, the material selection pallet has never been more broad or more earth-friendly. New polymer materials are available that allow the move from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as a primary carrier for fragrance in novelty air fresheners to materials free of chlorine. From a sustainability perspective, as well as a toxicity perspective, these materials are timely—if not a bit behind the curve. Many major retailers have pursued a ban on PVC in packaging, yet they still have not seemingly approached this topic pertaining to the material used to make novelty air fresheners from major air freshener manufacturers. As these new materials are available, focused effort is also needed on pursuing earth-friendly solutions for making the actual products in the package, complementing the packaging material.

Casing Materials

New biopolymers made from corn, potatoes and even algae allow a move from dependence on polymers based on petroleum for a wide range of products. From both a product development and design perspective, the industry needs to look at how it can implement non-petroleum based materials into new and existing products—despite traditional polymers currently being more cost-effective.

Today, for example, the ever-growing market segment of electric plug-in and table-top air care devices is largely comprised of devices manufactured completely of petroleum-based polymer. More often than not, these products are made using pure or virgin resin. However, materials available today can allow these products to be made utilizing biopolymer-based materials, to varying degrees. In addition to utilizing new biopolymers for these products, the opportunity for utilization of postconsumer waste streams of resin is an opportunity for both brands to pursue a green initiative and realize a cost savings.