The problem the beauty industry poses on the planet is well versed but bears repeating. According to Zero Waste, more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry, much of which is not recyclable. The majority of products come packaged in plastic, which – when talking about your average moisturiser pot – can take nearly 1,000 years to decompose. Then there’s the plastic wrappings, paper inserts, cardboard sleeves, foam, mirrored glass and more, sometimes all present in one purchase.
Of the product packaging we can recycle, half of us don’t. Research from Garnier found that over 56 per cent of Brits (that’s 4.5 million people) don’t recycle bathroom products because of the inconvenience. If these items aren’t given a second life, they simply go into landfill – or potentially litter our environment. Then there's the problems of sustainability of ingredients, and planet-damaging chemicals.
Thankfully, beauty companies big and small have been cleaning up their act, and as consumers make more conscious choices – increasingly armed with information on sustainability – a collective attitude shift has been made. To ensure you’re doing your bit try these simple swaps for a greener beauty regime.
2. Swap plastic packaging for aluminium and glass (or go ‘naked’)
Clearly, going cosmetic packaging-free is the ideal option for the environment, with Lush leading the way in making solid products in the form of hair and body care (as seen above) and even make-up. But there’s no denying that–currently–‘naked’ is not for everyone and there is a demand for packaging that’s both aesthetically and environmentally pleasing.
With many of us happily choosing to pass on plastic, aluminium looks to be the best alternative for beauty product packaging. Aluminium is the only material that can be recycled on an infinite loop (allowing it to be reused in the same form again and again). It also has a better chance of actually being recycled: Around 55 per cent of aluminium cans are currently recycled correctly compared to 34 per cent of glass containers, while only five per cent of the world’s plastics are recycled effectively. Given the cost of aluminium to brands, it’s not currently a mainstream option, but look to the likes of We Are Paradoxx – a line of environmentally responsible haircare using 90 per cent aluminium packaging. The only plastic currently used within the brand’s packaging are the pumps, however they can be recycled, simply use a nutcracker to remove the metal springs.
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When it comes to glass packaging, Neal’s Yard Remedies are considered leaders in the beauty world. The British brand uses glass bottles and jars, except for where weight and safety dictate (for example glass can be dangerous in the shower). Where they do use plastic, they pledge that by 2025, 100 per cent of its packaging will be recyclable, compostable or reusable.