How a diamond spa made with recycled plastic can create a healthier alternative
New Scientist article When co-founder Peter Collins was asked by a customer to help make a nail spa that would look and feel like a diamond, he had no idea what he was doing.
The idea was to make a plastic-free version of a nail polish that would have no artificial colours or finishes.
“I think it’s a great idea, but I didn’t know where to start,” says Collins.
“And I think we made a terrible mistake.”
A few months after he and Collins first met, Collins found himself making a nail salon using recycled plastic.
He was also working on a business plan, and he was trying to understand how a plastic bottle would look when used in a nail-polish bottle.
So he started looking for ways to make the bottles from recycled plastics.
He found that some recycled plastic bottles were too brittle to be used in nail polish, but that others were far less brittle.
So Collins decided to take a different approach.
“It was a bit of a gamble,” he says.
“But I decided to make them from recycled bottles of shampoo and conditioner.
And that’s how the spa was born.”
Collins and co-creator Matt Wahl, who also runs the UK-based eco-trending site Nail &Gum, were initially inspired by the idea of a shampoo bottle.
“We were like, ‘Oh, well, let’s make one and put it on a bottle of shampoo’,” Collins says.
Collins and Wahl began tinkering with different types of bottles, but it wasn’t until Wahl suggested that he and his colleague use recycled bottles as nail polish bottles that they realised they could be quite effective.
Collins used to make bottles of detergent that used to have a rubber coating on the bottom.
He and Wähl figured that would work as a replacement for plastic, but he was concerned about how it would perform under the nail.
“When I saw that it was actually very hard to use in a bottle, it didn’t really appeal to me,” he remembers.
Collins says the idea was that the plastic bottle might become so brittle that it would break.
“In the end, the plastic was used because it would be harder to break than the rubber,” he explains.
So, the idea became to make nails that are made from a different type of plastic.
Collins was also inspired by some other types of nail polish.
One time, he and Wåhl used some of the recycled bottles that he had used previously and decided to use a different brand, making it a brand of nail polishes with a new kind of colour.
“That’s how we got to the idea that we were going to make nail polish bottles that were made from recycled plastic,” Collins says, and it became the idea behind the salon.
Collins began using reclaimed bottles of toothpaste, toothbrush and toothpaste tubes, which he says had the potential to be recycled and be a more eco-friendly product.
He used to get to the point where the plastic tubes he was using were going straight into the bottles and then the bottles were sitting on top of each other for the rest of the time, so the plastic wasn’t being broken up.
But Collins and his co-creators realized that if they were going too far, they would end up with plastic bottles with no colour or finish.
“If you’re making a bottle for something like shampoo and you have a very, very strong chemical reaction and it breaks, then you’re really doing something wrong,” he admits.
Collins wanted to make things like a shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush that would last for a long time.
He said to himself: “I want to make products that last a long, long time.”
To do this, he started working on the bottles with a laser printer and a vacuum cleaner.
“Because they were made of plastic, we needed to make sure they were extremely strong, so we went for a vacuum,” Collins explains.
The vacuum-cleaning process was also used to help protect the bottles, because it is an expensive process to vacuum them out of the bottle.
In the end he and the team were able to get their bottles to the hardness of stainless steel, which is extremely tough and can withstand the abuse of the vacuum cleaner and the laser printer.
Collins hopes the idea will have an impact in the recycling industry, and will make it easier for people to make reusable bottles of nail products.
He says that while the idea for the spa has been in the works for some time, there has not been any significant demand for it, and that it will be a gradual process of introducing new bottles.
“Eventually we want to have an actual retail shop that sells these bottles,” he adds.
But the first bottles are just starting to make their way to stores and he hopes to sell them at the start of this year.