Shower gel is dumb and it's bad for the environment. It's yet another product that is primarily liquid, and the relatively heavy material is shipped around the world inside single-use plastic bottles. How many of those bottles get rinsed clean and recycled? And of those that do get recycled, how much energy does that consume?
Bar soap is a better way to go. It can be packaged in recyclable paper. It's also relatively lightweight as it's missing shower gel's key ingredient, water. Since most of us tend to shower in water, we can use that already-in-my-house water with bar soap to make the requisite lather. There's no need for shower gel nor the bottle.
The idea is that consumers bring in a spent Nivea shower gel bottle and stick it in a purpose-built machine, which refills the bottle with your gel of choice and provides a new barcode sticker that you ring up at the checkout. But you can only do this a few times:
"The plastic bottles can be refilled up to three times using the special barcode. After the third refill, the customer is then asked to hand in the old bottle at the checkout for hygiene reasons so that it can be recycled. In return, they will receive a new bottle and a first filling for free."
The reasoning here is that the bottle itself might get dirty, knocking around in people's disgusting bathrooms and whatnot, so it's capped at three refills to avoid spreading germs.
For a single-use plastic bottle to become a triple-use plastic bottle is better than the status quo; however, using bar soap is better than both. This is the point that everyone seems to be missing.
"Our current concept is ultimately a small link in a large chain," says Beiersdorf Packaging Specialist Marta Suslow. "And such a concept can only succeed if we find a balance between a sustainable business model and a real reduction in material, water and CO2 throughout the entire life cycle. But that's exactly what we're aiming for!"
If that's exactly what they're aiming for--"a real reduction in material, water and CO2"--then I think what they should be doing, is educating the consumer on how much less waste bar soap produces.