Abigail Klein Leichman
May 15, Updated May 16

Eighty-five percent of the contents of all those plastic bottles of liquid soap, shampoo and detergent we use every day is water. Just 15% is the active ingredient that does the job we bought it to do.

If the water could be added where the product is used rather than where the product is made, the package would be much smaller, lighter and cheaper. 

And that would lead to a cascade of environmental improvements in the manufacture, packaging, transport, storage and disposal of toiletries, cleansers and other water-based household products. 

The founders of Capsule Minimal have devised a revolutionary 3D-printed smart capsule containing the active ingredients. Insert the capsule into the company’s reusable metal bottle, add tap water, and the toiletry or cleaning product is ready.

The two-year-old startup, which was chosen as one of 30 companies representing Israel at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai before the delegation was canceled, is seeking big-brand collaborations to bring its ingenious green solution to market.

That’s insane

Capsule Minimal Chairman Ami Krupik
Capsule Minimal Chairman Ami Krupik

“If you look around your home, most daily-use products are water-based: cosmetics, toiletries, paint, cleaning materials. You need a mediator to deliver active ingredients, and that’s usually water because most active ingredients are water-soluble,” says Ami Krupik, cofounder and chairman of Capsule Minimal.

“We all have multiple water taps in our homes and yet we’re bringing water from thousands of miles away where the products were produced,” he says. 

“That’s insane. Why should you use water brought from one country to wash your hair in another country?”

However, it’s not as simple to make a just-add-water shampoo as it is to make lemonade from a can of concentrate.

“Most household products cannot be sold as concentrates, because they contain complex materials that must be mixed, heated and mediated in industrial plants to bring them into the water in a way that makes them usable,” Krupik explains.

“There are many phases and energy investments involved in the manufacturing process. If you want to bring active ingredients directly to customers, they’d need machinery and a lot of effort. Most people aren’t able or willing to do that. We needed to enable this to happen easily without machinery.”

Industrial plant in a bottle

Capsule Minimal cofounder and CEO Yael Goethe, a biotechnology engineer and former R&D manager and COO of a leading clean-tech company, hit on the right formula.

The technology she invented brings the industrial plant into the bottle in a physical, mechanical and chemical way. 

Capsule solution set to replace disposable toiletry bottles
Refillable bottles for shampoo, body wash and more. Photo courtesy of Capsule Minimal

You put the active-ingredients capsule in the bottle with water, and the product makes itself, automatically activating phases including heating and mixing.

The capsules will be produced in an efficient and green way, and sold in a paper wrapper.

Capsule Minimal CEO Yael Goethe. Photo courtesy of Capsule Minimal
Capsule Minimal CEO Yael Goethe. Photo courtesy of Capsule Minimal

“The market is very interested in our technology to solve the plastic waste problem — not just because they want to but because they have to,” Goethe tells ISRAEL21c.

“There is regulation in Europe and in some parts of the United States that forces them to find a solution. Many potential strategic partners have approached us and we expect to sign collaborations because we want to be massive.”

The company is building a proof-of-concept plant in northern Israel and is in talks with potential American and Israeli partners.

“We don’t aim for niche products for the environmentally aware consumer,” Krupik emphasizes.

“We want everyone — you and me, and our neighbors —  to use it instead of the ordinary products we all use today. So we need a collaboration with a big player.”

Capsule Minimal has patents and is in the process of obtaining regulatory approval for five categories of toiletries, including a variety of soaps and shampoos. 

Capsule solution set to replace disposable toiletry bottles
Hand soap capsules get mixed with water at home in refillable bottles. Photo courtesy of Capsule Minimal

“We chose to focus on the toiletries industry first, and next will be the cleaning industry,” Krupik tells ISRAEL21c. “These huge markets transport water every day in the millions of gallons.”

The plastic problem

Plastic pollution is at a pandemic level, and it’s not only the oil-based material itself that harms our environment. 

Millions of disposable plastic bottles are transported every day twice by truck, once empty and once filled with product. The heavier they are, the more fuel the trucks burns to transport them. 

Capsule solution set to replace disposable toiletry bottles
Plastic bottles cause a chain of environmental problems. Photo by Monticello via Shutterstock.com

The filled bottles are shipped by sea and stored in warehouses and finally retail stores, where they take up a lot of space that contributes to the air conditioning load. All of these steps cause greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Finally, when plastic bottles are disposed, they either sit in landfills forever, shed microplastics into the oceans, or get recycled in energy-intensive processes. 

Microplastics are polluting the oceans. Concept photo courtesy of Capsule Minimal
Microplastics are polluting the oceans. Concept photo courtesy of Capsule Minimal

A recent illustrative case is LEGO’s decision not to make bricks from recycled plastic bottles after projections suggested this material would ultimately leave a larger carbon footprint.

In fact, Krupik and Goethe were motivated by their insider knowledge of plastic recycling.

They were involved in developing new technologies for the recycling industry that decreased the amount of energy needed by more than 70%.

“But the remaining 30% bothered us. We understood that recycling is not the real solution,” says Krupik. 

“There is always waste from everything we do, but we believe the main solution is reducing waste production.”

Their innovation could significantly reduce the billions of toiletry and cleansing product bottles sold and discarded every year. A thousand of their capsules take up just one cubic meter. 

Holistic solution

“It’s a holistic solution based in science,” says Goethe, who recalls being horrified at the sight of trucks dumping tons of landfill waste. 

“The reusable bottle is also an important part of this story,” she says. “The bottle is very aesthetic and practical. It opens from the bottom, so it’s very easy to clean and refill.” 

Capsule Minimal got its start at I4Valley Karmiel Incubator for Small Industry, which is supported by corporations such as Keter along with the Israel Innovation Authority

The company also has some private investors and recently opened a seed funding round. 

The current war, says Goethe, is presenting some challenges, but “we are able to work as normally as possible. We believe in the power of entrepreneurship and sustainability to make a positive impact, even — especially! — in difficult times.”

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