The beauty industry and waste
The current pictureAccording to Zero Waste Week, more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced globally every year by the cosmetics industry. This mountain of cosmetics packaging waste is responsible for contributing to the loss of 18 million acres of forest each year.1 And in 2018, in the US alone, almost 7.9 billion units of rigid plastic were reportedly created just for beauty and personal care products, according to Euromonitor International.2
These stats are just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more stats, just like these, out there, including in this article, ‘The waterless beauty products making a splash right now.’
Minute microbeadsThe beauty industry has come under fire in recent years for its use of microbeads, the tiny balls of plastic that are used in body scrubs and facial exfoliators. They’ve come under the spotlight because some products have been known to contain over 300,000 microbeads per tube.3
These microbeads are so small, that they can easily pass straight through water filtration systems in treatment plants, and escape into waterways.They’re also made from single use plastic too, which takes decades-upon-decades to break down, if they ever do. Last but not least, if the microbeads happen to make it out into the world’s oceans, seas and other natural water systems and are swallowed by marine life, then they might find their way into the human food chain.4
Indestructible face wipes and wet wipesAccording to market research company, Mintel, 47% of people regularly use these wipes however, many varieties are virtually indestructible. In fact, 93% of blocked UK sewage pipes are caused by wet wipes. However, it’s important to note here that the beauty industry has responded to the situation, with many brands starting to produce biodegradable versions.5
Other beauty product packaging culprits
They include plastic tampon applicators, general external packaging and labelling, as well as bottle caps, bottles, plastic jars and tubes and so on. The more you think about it, the more culprits you’re likely to notice.
But the tide is changing…
Increased awareness of plastics and waste pollution and the devastating impact it can have on the environment on a global scale has resulted in many beauty brands revamping their processes so that they’re less reliant on packaging. And if they do use it, then it’s produced using more sustainable materials, such as bamboo, paper and compostable cardboard.Meanwhile, as awareness of the global demand dilemma has risen, so too has demand for more sustainable packaging from consumers. A study by Dotcom Distribution revealed that 62% of consumers would rather buy from brands with eco-friendly packaging. Meanwhile, McKinsey rated sustainable packaging as the biggest 'green premium' consumers will pay extra for.6
Zero waste beauty swaps
While it’s positive to see demand for sustainable packaging is on the rise among consumers, making the move from traditional to zero waste obviously involves more than a mind shift.
It involves potentially changing some of your beauty and skincare products which, may sound daunting, but is actually more achievable and straightforward than you may think!
- Reusable cotton pads instead of disposable cotton pads
- Or even, muslin cloths instead of disposable cotton pads
- Bar shampoo instead of liquid shampoo
- Bar conditioner instead of liquid conditioner
- An exfoliating mitt instead of an exfoliating cream, scrub or gel
- A menstrual cup instead of tampons and towels
- Or, if you want to use tampons, use tampons that have been made from organic products and come with a biodegradable cardboard applicator
- And if you want to use pads/towels, use reusable sanitary towels
- Bamboo plasters instead of plastic plasters (not necessarily a beauty product, but still a necessity!)
- Bamboo cotton swabs instead of disposable cotton swabs
- Recyclable electric toothpaste heads instead of disposable heads
- Bamboo interdental brushes instead of disposable interdental brushes
- A Konjac sponge instead of wipes, synthetic sponges or cloths
- Natural toothpaste instead of plastic-packaged toothpaste
There’s a lot to be achieved when it comes to minimising waste and plastics pollution, but simple swaps like the ones listed above can make all the difference. Which of these products are you already using or have your eye on and plan to get your zero waste journey started with?
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Last updated: 15 June 2020