Friday, 2 May 2014

BYOB Green Concepts -- Paving the way to a a plastic packaging-free revolution

We all know how most of our plastic waste end up in landfills, rivers and oceans. We know how our plastic packaging profligacy ends up endangering wildlife, marine life and even domestic and farm animals. Green Living has been advocating reducing, reusing and recycling for years, but there weren't many alternatives to recycling the empty plastic packaging that our household cleaning solutions and personal care products come in. 

For years, my standard response has been to reduce the amount of cleaning agents we use, to clean with cleaning solutions and soaps less frequently and only when necessary, to use cleaning solutions such as vinegar and baking soda (which unfortunately comes in packaging, too) and to buy eco-friendly products that come in biodegradable packaging or post-consumer recycled plastic packaging. This means that choosing eco-friendly alternatives often becomes an expensive and tiresome option, rather than something we can and should all do as a matter of course. 

Sometime last year, however, I began hearing from other Malaysian Nature Society forum members of a Bring Your Own Bottle retail outlet in the Klang Valley where one can purchase cleaning solutions and shampoo/soap refills for a very reasonable price. 

So on 22.3.2014, right after Green Living's educational workshop at the CETDEM Demonstration and Documentation Centre, I swung by the BYOB Green Concepts store in Damansara Kim with a bagful of empty bottles. 

We were greeted at the entrance by a robot constructed out of empty containers to collect used bottles in. This is a brilliant idea, as first-time visitors and passersby who stop by without empties could then make use of the donated bottles and containers without having to go home, collect their empties and return another day. What a good way to share and reuse resources, and reduce the fuel usage of those who would otherwise have to return another day! 

The store concept is commendable and the layout and store design are consistent with their emphasis on the 3Rs. I love the pallet furniture and the repurposed bottles and cans as part of their interior decoration. The store has very clear signs on their products and price range, which is helpful. 

I also love it that they have many informative posters on plastic waste and waste reduction tips placed strategically all around the outlet. 

The store manager very kindly allowed me into the staff area to take photographs of the jerry cans filled with different soaps and cleaning solutions. Service was quick, efficient, polite and friendly. Some of the products have already been filled into existing donated containers, but as I preferred using my own containers, I asked the staff for the same. They swapped containers for me without complaint, and this constitutes good service for someone as OCD as I am about using only particular containers of particular colours and heights and make. 

I purchased some laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid and surface cleaner for myself and bath foam and handwashing liquid for a friend. The price was remarkably low at only RM28 for about 3 months' worth of cleaning supplies and personal care products. 

It's not all pros and no cons, however. 

The only eco-friendly range they have consists of cleaning solutions under a label I have never heard of, "OMG", which is reportedly from Australia. After using the surface cleaner, mopping solution and dishwashing liquid, I have this to report: They Don't Work. 

This is unfortunate, because I do want to make a switch to products that are not only eco-friendly but also zero-waste. The products in the OMG range are unfortunately so diluted and weak in cleaning power that I might as well have used tap water with a drop of food dye in it. It doesn't smell fragrant or appealing, it doesn't remove grease or dirt, and I ended up using up the whole bottle of dishwashing liquid in 4 days because it would not clean anything even at full strength. Mopping the floor using the surface cleaner felt like I was just pushing dirty water around. 

It was quite disappointing for me. I don't mind going back to using the products I have always used, such as those under the Method, Ecomax, Biohome and Ligent product ranges, but I had hoped to have a zero-waste option. Still, I can contribute my empties to BYOB so other customers can benefit from the bottles. 

I was also disappointed that they didn't have a phosphate-free laundry soap, and the store manager informed me that it was "not possible" to make a plant-based soap powder. That didn't seem logical to me as brands such as Seventh Generation and Dr. Bronner have been manufacturing eco-friendly laundry detergent powder for years. 

In addition, they didn't have an eco-friendly personal care product range. I am currently using vegan, eco-friendly, plant-based personal care products manufactured by Natural Health Farms (a local company, because we should always support local, ethical and sustainable businesses) and I had hoped that these products would be available at BYOB, although it is understandable that organic products have a shorter shelf life and probably could not be stored in massive jerrycans to spoil on the shelves. 

The current product range at BYOB Green Concepts would be ideal for someone who is buying conventional products (e.g. dishwashing liquid, shampoo, bath foam) and is starting to explore eco-friendly products and a low-waste lifestyle. 

It would be wonderful if we were all able to make our own soap, cleaning enzymes and personal care products out of plant waste, but that would be a counsel of perfection. Our busy lifestyles, personal preferences (for example, I like scented products, so I really can't mop the floor with a vinegar-like enzyme without gagging) and budget, time and space constraints make it impractical and immensely challenging to make our own cleaning products. 

I will, however, definitely be visiting BYOB Green Concepts again to purchase refills of personal care products for my roommates and friends and to deposit my clean empties. We should all do whatever we can to reduce waste and reduce our environmental impact and BYOB Green Concepts is a good place to start. 

The BYOB outlet in Damansara Kim is open from Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Wednesdays and public holidays.

The address and contact information is as follows:
BYOB Green Concepts Damansara Outlet
No. 15, SS20/11, Damansara Kim (same row as Eurodeli)
47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Tel: 012 245 5480
Google Map link:

For more information, please click on the following links: BYOB Green Concepts on Facebook: BYOB Malaysia


Bookface said...

How incredibly disappointing that the cleaning products don't work well! And you are so right -- Dr. Bronner's soap has been out there for donkeys' years, cleaning everything from cars to teeth with nary a phosphate. I hope they'll improve the quality of their products, because the idea of refilling is excellent, and it would be a shame if they didn't survive.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

I hope they improve the quality of their products too, Amanda . The business model and ideals are otherwise a winner. It's a real shame. I do want the products to work. I wonder if there's anyone else out there with similar complaints about the same products.

Wilson said...

Hi! I m Wilson the founder of BYOB, I would like to express my gratitude for this wonderful post and I also would like to understand more about how the products are not working so that we could improves ourself in the future.

From time to time I will talk to our customers just to make sure that everything is in order and to have something that is not working in our refilling statins is not something that we work towards to.

Can you send me an email so we could talk more about this? I can be reached at

Thank you for your kind support.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Hello, Wilson! Nice to meet you. Thank you for coming over. I will email you shortly. For the benefit of any readers out there, here are 2 of the points I would like to make:
(i) It would be good if you could provide a list of ingredients of the products for the customers who ask. Since you have flyers and charts on your products, maybe in your next reprint, you could perhaps list the ingredients in fine print? There is also a growing community of consumers who are trying to avoid palm oil products, so a list of ingredients would be most helpful.
(ii) I've purchased OMG Surface Cleaner and Dishwash. Both smelled very pleasant but were very, very weak in cleaning power. For example, there was a spilled tea stain on the tiled floor that had dried up. I tried mopping it using OMG Floor Cleaner full-strength but it would not come off. I went back to cleaning using another product, Ecomax, and it came off effortlessly even though the solution was heavily diluted. Same goes with the dishwash. It was too watery and diluted and wouldn't even stay on the sponge. It could not remove any grease, dirt or odours.
I really hope you can improve on these particular two products and perhaps introduce other eco-friendly detergents and cleaning products so we could have more choices. I will continue supporting your stores and spread the word to others about the innovative and environmentally responsible business that you have.