An award-winning deodorant with a refillable core is set to be an eco-friendly addition to the personal care market.

Small business owner Laura Meehan, from the Wirral, designed the 100% sustainable refillable cartridge made of cork – a regenerative natural wood – with support from Lancaster University.

Her startup, Let’s Rethink This, developed the Nada product as a competitor to current brands using metal and plastic.

The design, a spherical dome case containing the refillable deodorant core, won a design award through the WORTH Partnership Project and secured funding to support product development. It was also demonstrated at the Salone del Mobile during Milan Design Week.

The mum-of-three. who has a degree in Biology, Food Science and Nutrition from Oxford Brookes University, came up with the idea in 2021 after treatment for breast cancer.

She explains, “I was trying to avoid exposure to certain chemicals, so I started to use more natural products,” she said. “But while I was scrutinising what was available in the market, I uncovered a lot of greenwashing with claims that certain packaging is recyclable when in reality it isn’t.”

With a talent for design (that saw her previously win an award for a universal device to attach accessories to almost any make of pushchair or pram), Laura put pen to paper and set about developing a design for a refillable cartridge made of cork.

“The cork tree is the only tree which can regenerate after each harvest of bark,” Laura explained. “It’s a remarkable thing, so it seems the perfect basis for a product that biodegrades with less impact on the environment.”

Laura then needed support to formulate a deodorant core which fits snugly in the dome case, and turned to the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory (LCEI) programme, at Lancaster University.

The scheme, which helps small businesses in Liverpool develop low-carbon innovations, gave Laura fully funded access to top chemistry and engineering facilities and researchers.

“Working with the university has brought many benefits,” Laura said. “The bottom line is that every stage of developing a new product, especially one as different as mine, takes a lot of resources. That is time and money I simply didn’t have. The LCEI programme has overcome that barrier and given me access to very clever people with expertise in turning my idea into something tangible.

“The support has de-risked the development process and accelerated my journey significantly.

With a prototype in her hands, Laura is in discussions with manufacturers, exploring fragrance options and looking for investment.

“We should be at the point of civilisation when the presumption is that the products we use are not going to harm us or anyone else,” Laura said. “We need to rethink how we make our products and what we make them with and stop putting the responsibility on consumers all the time.

“I have been starting from scratch, rethinking the process, being realistic with what technology has to offer so far but putting honesty at the heart of every decision.”

Carolyn Hayes, LCEI Project Manager, said: “One of the biggest challenges small businesses and charities have is the lack of resources, such as personnel, knowledge and time, to devote to starting their net zero journey.

“The LCEI programme offered access to the skills and expertise of undergraduates, postgraduates and world-renowned academics, leveraging our plethora of world-class facilities, to identify a bespoke course of action. It helped businesses to rethink their carbon footprint and energy consumption and encouraged them to be prepared for situations like our current energy crisis.”

LCEI was part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and involved a consortium including Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and the University of Liverpool.

Lancaster University offers support for SMEs in Merseyside with Net Zero Essentials, a two-day practical programme which looks to understand their carbon footprint and create an action plan.