Megan Hall: Welcome to Possibly, where we take on huge problems like the future of our planet and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall. 

Today we’re answering a question from Cori Myers-she’s the sister in of our founder Stephen Porder.

Cori Myers: I wanted to one up my brother in law, who’s our family’s eco police. And I was wondering if the laundry detergent sheets that I saw advertised online were better than traditional liquid laundry detergent, which comes in a plastic jug.

We had Ashley Junger and Luci Jones from our Possibly Team look into this question. Welcome, Ashley and Luci! 

Ashley Junger: Hi, Megan!

Luci Jones: Hey, Megan!

Megan Hall: To start off, what are laundry detergent sheets? I’ve never heard of them before.

Ashley Junger: They kind of look like dryer sheets, but you use them the same way you would liquid detergent. 

Luci Jones: They’re made of biodegradable materials. So, you just throw them into your washing machine and they dissolve in the water. 

Megan Hall: Sounds interesting! So back to Cori’s question– are these sheets better than the liquid detergent in plastic jugs?

Luci Jones: To answer her question, let’s look at the numbers.

Ashley Junger: Cori, how many loads of laundry can a package of your sheets clean?

Cori Meyers: Let’s see. It says 60 loads.

Ashley Junger: and my jug of detergent says it can handle about 66 loads. 

Luci Jones: So, they clean about the same amount of laundry, but the sheets weigh much less than a big jug of traditional detergent. 

Megan Hall: Why does the weight of the detergent matter? 

Ashley Junger: Well, think about how the detergent got to your house. It probably was loaded on a truck and driven to the store. 

Luci Jones: Big heavy jugs of detergent take up more space on a truck than lightweight, compact little sheets. That means it takes more trucks to move them around. 

Ashley Junger: And more trucks means more fuel is being burned, so those heavy containers of soap lead to more greenhouse gas emissions.

Luci Jones: Also, let’s talk about packaging- the laundry sheets come in paper or cardboard envelopes or boxes, which can either be recycled or composted.

Ashley Junger: Meanwhile, liquid detergent comes in thick plastic jugs.

Megan Hall: Yeah, but a lot of things come in plastic…

Ashley Junger: Well, laundry jugs are a top offender, Americans throw out 1 billion laundry jugs each year. And most of them end up in landfills or as litter. 

Luci Jones: Even the jugs that end up at a recycling plant are much harder to process than cardboard.

Megan Hall: Wow! I didn’t realize how much plastic waste came from getting my clothes clean.

Ashley Junger: Right? So in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and waste, the laundry sheets definitely come out on top.

Megan Hall: Okay, but do they work as well as liquid detergent?

Ashley Junger: Well, according to Cori:

Cori Meyers: Everything comes out clean. My household with kids and grownups who exercise has like, significant laundry needs. So we’ve been pretty happy with with the outcome.

Megan Hall: And what about the price? It seems like products like this always cost more.

Luci Jones: It depends on what brand you buy, Detergent sheets can cost as little as 12 dollars a pack, which equals around 20 cents a load. That’s similar to the price per load for something like a jug of Tide. 

Megan Hall: So, should I rush out and buy these detergent sheets?

Ashley Junger: Sure! They’re an easy way to cut down on CO2 and plastic waste, even if they don’t make a huge dent in your overall emissions.

Megan Hall: So it sounds like Cori out eco’d Stephen on this one!

Cori Meyers: I would like Stephen to confess if he was using big plastic jugs up until now, I think that would be highly relevant.

Stephen Porder: Stephen Porder here! I want to acknowledge that my sister-in-law, Cori, totally out Eco’d me and I have completely switched to laundry sheets. Thanks, Cori!

Megan Hall: Thanks, everyone!

That’s it for today. For more information, or to ask a question about the way your choices affect our planet, go to the public’s radio dot org slash possibly. Or subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. 

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Possibly is a co-production of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown’s Climate Solutions Initiative, and the Public’s Radio

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