Pretty product packaging flirts with you. It winks at you across decadent shop shelves, enticing you in. You imagine the way it would look on your bathroom shelf, the joy you will get from removing the ribbon, the plastic wrapping, and the box to reveal the product. This decadence is part of the reason we love beauty so much, which in turn has caused the industry to grow to be worth over 675 billion.
Yet the legacy the beauty industry leaves behind is far from pretty. According to Zero Waste, 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry; many of which are not recyclable. Whilst the majority of products come packaged in plastics containers, there’s also cardboard boxes and paper inserts (which in 2018 caused the loss of 18 million acres of forest), foam, and plastic cellophane wrapping that contribute to the problem.
The UN has declared our current situation a ‘planetary crisis’, as if our level of consumption continues, by 2050 there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic in landfills, the equivalent of 35,000 Empire State Buildings. Therefore, no industry is immune from scrutiny, including the beauty industry.
Driven by this, there was a major environmental success story in the UK last year, as legislation banning products using microbeads (plastic particles used in many cleansers, toothpastes and scrubs) was passed. What’s more, research from Euromonitor has found that eco-friendly packaging is more important to consumers than ever, as those aged 25-34 in particular now check that packaging is environmentally friendly before purchasing their beauty must-haves. This has spurred many beauty brands to launch initiatives and products that consider the environment.
For example, Lush’s commitment to sustainable packaging is exceedingly impressive. In addition to a whole range of ‘naked’ bath bombs and bodycare ranges, their shampoo bars come totally unpackaged – which Lush claim saves three million plastic bottles from landfill a year. What’s more, the bars also take up 15 times less space than a bottle of liquid shampoo, so when transporting the items only one lorry is needed compared to 15 needed for it’s bottled counterparts.
In a bid to be a zero-waste brand, Ren have been sourcing plastic from oceans, beaches, rivers, and lakes to be used in the bottle of one of their body washes. In addition, the pump is made without the metal coil spring, which serves to reduce the environmental impact of the bottles even further. Ren has also announced that other products will follow suit later on this year.
The Body Shop have been committed to reduce its impact on the planet for over three decades, and have recently launched a new carrot skincare range that is made out of 55% recycled plastic. The product itself has a further sustainable twist, as it uses carrots that are too wonky to sell in supermarkets, and therefore the range also tackles the issue of food-waste.
Beauty brand Beauty Kitchen has recently launched in Boots, and features a range of 100% natural sustainable products, all made in the UK. The product’s packaging is all completely refillable, and can be sent back to the company for them to wash and reuse for the next batch of products. Each product has a pre-paid stamp printed onto the label, so the empty bottles can be easily popped into the post. This innovative approach to packaging is a groundbreaking way to tackle the static that 99% of beauty packaging is thrown away after just one use.
Even with the progress the above brands are making with their environmental initiatives, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done for us to make ways against the current stress our consumption is putting on the planet. Simple everyday steps you can take are: recycling where possible, using reusable products over single use, and of course, buying from brands that consider the environment.