I feel very confident in recommending consumers to make the switch to the LastSwab Basic. Between the innovative materials that the product is made of, the detrimental effects that could be mitigated by switching, and the accessibility of the product, I personally cannot find a reason that someone shouldn’t purchase the LastSwab as opposed to an alternative. The ethical trade audit inspires confidence in LastObject’s supply chain, their transparency in the materials they use indicates trustworthiness, and the accessibility of the product, along with the fulfillment of the mission and values LastObject espouses makes this decision an easy one.
When you go to throw your single-use, likely-cotton-swab into the trash, it probably doesn’t occur to you that every day, there are 1.5 billion more that will take its place that day. You read that right. 1,500,000,000 single-use cotton swabs are produced every single day. Which is the driving reason I would recommend making the switch to LastObject’s LastSwab (Basic). It’s incredibly easy to discern what this product is made of. If one were to simply peruse the product page, you’d find that “the swab ends are made of the rubber like material TPE”, the rod is made of “plastic reinforced with glass fiber”, and the case “comes in two versions and is either made of the plant based material PLA, or of recycled ocean bound plastic collected by Indonesian fishermen”.
Of course, if you’re like me, you’d initially have next to zero idea what TPE or PLA is. TPE is thermoplastic elastomer, which combines “the characteristics of rubber with the recyclability and processing advantages of plastic”. Essentially, it becomes malleable when heated, and when cooled, regains its structure, which is the characteristic that allows them to be recycled at the end of their life.
The rod _is_ made of plastic, that cannot be ignored. However, it is a plastic that can be used over and over and over again. It was measured that the LastSwab can be used 1000 times before needing to be disposed of. That extended life cycle goes far beyond the plastic that is associated with the typical single-use disposable cotton swab. This seems a decent compromise, though obviously it would be preferable if plastic was not used at all.
The case is where it becomes incredibly interesting. PLA is polylactic acid, which is a thermoplastic polymer that is derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch or sugar cane. This case being made from PLA means that it is biodegradable. For example, a bottle made of PLA can degrade when exposed to the elements in 6-24 months, as opposed to conventional plastics, which can take up to a thousand years. The alternative, being made from recycled ocean plastic, shows that LastObject is concerned with not just preventing plastic waste, but also doing their part to reduce existing plastic waste.
All of LastObject’s products are designed and prototyped where they are based, in Copenhagen, Denmark, with production taking place in both Denmark and China. The narrow production sites are an indication that LastObject does not have value chain going through a billion different places, effectively cutting down on the emissions that would be produced by way of transporting these products place to place. Furthermore, they “only work with non-EU manufacturers that have SMETA (ethical autdit) certificates.” Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit is “the most widely used social audit in the world”, “enabling businesses to assess their sites and suppliers to understand working conditions in their supply chain”.
A couple things I did note was that they ship anywhere in the world, with the US, EU, and UK orders shipping in about the same timeframe of 3-7 days, and the rest of the world 4-14 weekdays with standard delivery. However, they do offer 2-7 weekdays with express delivery, which makes me wonder if they’re cutting corners in order to get their products to the consumer as fast as they can, rather than the most emissions-efficient way.
The co-founders Nicholas and Isabel Aangaard founded LastObject in 2018, deciding to “design innovative solutions to wasteful habits that make a lasting positive impact”. Their mission is to “eliminate single-use items by creating reusable sustainable alternatives”, and after coming out with LastSwab Basic in 2019, I would say they are well on their way to doing so. One of their values is that their products “must have at least 10x real environmental impact vs the traditional single-use products they replace”, which is one example of their commitment to sustainability. LastObject uses plant-based plastics, like PLA, that are toxin free, as well as implementing organic cotton and recycled ocean plastic. They are recognizing that there is a better way of doing things, that “good enough isn’t good enough”. I particularly appreciate that they aren’t just trying to use better materials, but also trying to have an impact in decreasing the amount of trashed plastic already out in the world, already affecting the world.
Another thing I appreciated was their recognition of the impact individual efforts can have. “Furthermore, every little bit counts. Especially when that little bit (like going zero waste") has a rippling effect on our mindset and therefore on other aspects of our lives. We want to make it easy for everyone to get started on their journey, even if it not perfect (yet)!" They’re taking a look at not just making something and making it (possibly inadvertently) inaccessible to most people; which I think is a larger problem within the environmentalist movement. More and more people are realizing that it is just not accessible for everyone to do certain things to live a more sustainable life (such as going vegan). Additionally, another problem is that some people will use shaming tactics to try to affect people to shift their lifestyle, which has been scientifically proven to not have a long-lasting effect in terms of sustainability within the sustainability movement. So I think it is really important to emulate LastObject in recognizing that everyone starts somewhere.