Sometimes we don’t realize but small parts of our routine tend to have a big environmental impact, for instance, floss is good for our teeth but it is terrible for the ocean and turns it into a plastic minefield. Most floss is made up of nylon which is not biodegradable but another thing that makes it dangerous is that it is designed to not tear causing serious harm to ocean life. There are millions of miles of floss strings in the ocean and we need to switch to eco-friendly alternatives – there are a couple in the market but there is a demand for more innovative designs like the Phloss here.
Phloss is a refillable flossing aid that has a string suspended between two prongs. These prongs not only maintain the tension of the string but also reduce the effort required by your arms which makes flossing more effortless, efficient, and quick. Phloss was created to speed up the cleaning process without compromising on quality after the reduced dexterity. Since it is refillable, there is a waste management system designed for the compostable floss strings. “These refills are delivered to people using a subscription service, the used floss refills can be sent back to the manufacturer for industrial composting, utilizing waste material and following a circular economy,” elaborates Boyle. Flossing removes 80% of plaque from the teeth and is vital to our personal hygiene so it is essential to find a sustainable alternative instead of giving up this good habit. Dental products often have a short life span and Phloss aims to close one of its most notorious loops.
Boyle conducted research, where he dived into factors like user experience, sustainability, cost, and effectiveness of existing floss alternatives like Quip’s refillable floss, oral irrigator, dental floss, interdental brush, and floss pick. After addressing the pain points, he took the best parts of all these existing alternatives to craft Phloss and was mindful of making it an inclusive design. He then created several prototypes before landing on a final version which had an ergonomic build, smooth curves, good grip, and clean aesthetics that didn’t distract from its purpose. The same aesthetic mood board was also applied to the packaging of the refills because it is an important part of the overall product-service, the success of the product depends on every detail of the user experience and interaction.
Phloss’ aim was to make the flossing accessible and desirable while being eco-conscious. Boyle’s ‘take back’ system gives the manufacturers valuable compost for a range of agricultural applications. It is designed for mass manufacturing which makes it easier for people to quickly switch to eco-friendly options. The packaging will also reflect its goal to be eco-friendly and the product will come in a fully recyclable cardboard tube while refills will arrive in compostable envelopes. There are so many little changes we can make that go beyond the bamboo toothbrushes or reusable cups to truly be a step closer to living sustainably. Understanding this, Phloss also won the Joseph Joseph Brilliantly Useful Design Award at New Designers Awards 2020!
Designer: Charlie Boyle