Is over packaging ruining our planet? From trapping and endangering sea life to making it’s way into the food chain, the overuse of plastic is a growing problem with far-reaching consequences. How bad is it? Well, if continued at the current rate, the Ellen Macarthur Foundation predicts that the ocean will contain more plastics than fish by 2050. It doesn’t sound good.
Plastic in everyday life is commonplace and most of us don’t think twice about it - it’s so normalised. However, the frequency with which we use it needs re-evaluating, a point raised by activist for campaign group, A Plastic Planet , Lilly Barclay, at a recent Soaper Duper event that we went to. “We have to start rethinking our relationship with plastic,” she said, in particular when it comes to single use plastics such as cling film for food. We’re getting through the stuff at an alarming rate and landfills and the oceans aren’t able to cope with the amount. Additionally, many plastics don’t biodegrade, hence why build up is fast becoming an environmental crisis.
However, there is hope with Mintel’s Europe Consumer Trends 2018 report indicating an increase in plastic pollution awareness and recycled packaging launches in the coming year. “More and more brands will offer education and leadership with clean, safe and sustainable products, as they seek to highlight, and safeguard, the purity and future supply of their ocean ingredients,” says Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel. “Whilst plastics won’t be wholly demonised, intensified eco-lobbying will produce more recyclable products, as well as incentives and initiatives to encourage sustainable behaviour. We may well see social stigmatisation of plastic cups and cling film, more pioneering brands innovating with soluble pod packaging and more retailers dispensing with it completely.”
In terms of beauty, brands are developing their reusing and recycling processes to meet the planet’s increasing needs. From refillable products from brands such as Kjaer Weis to box-free skin and hair care products from Korres, companies are being encouraged to step up their games and look for ways to use less packaging and therefore produce less waste. There are definite strides being taken in the right direction however, there are many facets to the problem. As Soaper Duper founder Marcia Kilgore explains: “So many companies over-package their products to make them look bigger, or feel more full than they are (in cosmetics, this is a real red herring),” she says. “You can actually find very slim ‘weights’ in many packages, there to give the illusion of quality, when really the weight is just one more thing being thrown into landfill when the product is used up.”
In order to address the problem, companies need to adapt and rethink their existing policies - something that Marcia did with her brands. “We looked at a lot of the issues that we’ve created for ourselves (my own old brands included) with our collective lack of consciousness,” she says. “We’re now saddled with landfill, climate change, plastic oceans, water shortage, pollution, unsustainable ingredients that need reformulation, and microbeads that fish are eating. We also looked at the ingredients that people have worries about (founded or unfounded, there are worried consumers everywhere) and we realised that we could create a fun and very commercial brand that could also act as a mouthpiece to inspire others to think differently.”
It’s an influential platform and looking at the way brand’s products are packaged is a definite start for helping reduce the problem. Microbeads have officially been banned (here's our pick of the best exfoliators without microbeads if you need to switch), which is a step forward, but here are some of the beauty brands whose minimal waste and eco-friendly policies are setting the standard for the industry...
Made from 100% PCR (post consumer recycled plastic), the brand’s purse-friendly bottles of foamy and fragrant hand and body washes do good in more ways than one.
Largely derived from semi-skimmed milk bottles, their approach has made sizeable reductions to the brand’s plastic footprint. “It’s incredibly motivating to know that your product is leaving a very minimal environmental impact and we’re delighted that we’ve saved 2.8 tonnes of plastic in our first year,” she tells us plus, the green lids from the milk bottles give the plastic a natural green tint - an added bonus that worked well with the green colour chosen for the brand’s products.
Head & Shoulders
Having just been awarded a United Nations Momentum for Change Award to recognise its contribution to raising awareness of plastic pollution, Head & Shoulders has helped shine a much-needed spotlight on the issue of ocean waste. This was most notably seen in the summer when the P&G brand partnered with recycled goods manufacturers TerraCycle and SUEZ to launch the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made with 25% recycled beach plastic. Thousands of volunteers lent their help in collecting plastic waste found on beaches in a project that’s hoped to inspire others in the industry when it comes to finding ways to tackle the problem.
By 2018, it is hoped that the brand will be using 25% recycled plastic across all their bottles in Europe so that P&G’s haircare brands will be using 2,600 metric tonnes of recycled plastic every year (the equivalent of 747 jumbo jets).
Hoping to start a ‘naked revolution’ with its ‘zero waste’ ethos and solid beauty bars, LUSH is one of the most well regarded brands on the high street for its environmentally sound company policies. Looking to do away with unnecessary packaging and instead use its costs to increase the quality of its products, January 2015 to 2016 global sales of its shampoo bars meant that a staggering 15,890,925 plastic bottles were never created. Furthermore, where plastics are needed, the brand takes steps to ensure that it’s as less of a burden to the environment as possible by the use of its plain black pots (made from a mixture of purchased recycled plastic and recycled black pot material), and with the help of Green Hub, Lush’s in-house recycling centre.
Encouraging consumers to give their black pots back to their shops when they’re finished, they’re then sent to Green Hub, chipped down, washed and dried in a granulator. The remaining small pieces are then melted down and recreated into new black pots ready for the process to start again.
With an aim to use post-consumer recycled materials in all their packaging, most of the brand’s bottles use a minimum of 80% PCR, (made from milk bottles), with a lofty 95% PCR reached with its Men’s line. As a result, it’s saved them over 300 tons of virgin plastic each year.
The brand also continually works to expand its recycling efforts in projects such as the Aveda Caps Recycling initiative. Having discovered that large numbers of plastic bottle caps weren’t being recycled, (winding up in landfills or rivers and oceans instead), they began collecting them at US Aveda locations and asked those who visited to do the same. After being washed, ground up and formed into pellets, they are used to create the new caps for Aveda products (such as its Clove Shampoo) and thus begins its life cycle again.
Giving makeup brushes an environmentally-friendly makeover, the high-quality, low cost brand created by sisters Jen and Stacey in 2007 lists an impressive range of planet-saving qualities. Made from recycled aluminium and plastic, their packaging is also made of 100% tree-free paper, using 20% cotton and 80% bamboo fibres in their make-up.
As for their handles, they’re made of renewable bamboo, chosen due to it being one of the fastest growing plants in the world. And they’re cruelty-free too.
Certified organic by The Soil Association, the brand abides by a ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ company code. More than just a catchy catchphrase though, the brand delivers on its commitment to minimise the impact on the environment thanks to its step to replace all of its 200ml bottles, and 50g and 175g jars with those made from 100% recycled materials derived from old milk bottles. In addition to this, the brand also looks to cut back on its ‘packaging miles’ by ensuring 98% of its packaging is made in Europe and half of its bottles and jars and all of its product boxes are made in the UK.