November 16th, 2021
We don’t need to tell you that we’re experiencing a climate crisis and have been for a while. Sustainability is at the forefront of so many conversations and there are enough headlines to remind us of this, but now more than ever it is imperative that we actually do something about it.
One simple way is to reduce household single use plastic waste and from one room in particular that we tend to hoard it – the bathroom. From toilet roll to hand soap, shampoo to conditioner and toothpaste to face wash, consumer routines and however they may vary, use a lot of products, contributing to the tonnes of everyday waste and packaging that ends up in landfill each year. Whilst 90% of packaging is said to be recycled in our kitchens, in our bathrooms that number is shy of 50%.
Zero Waste Week has reported that over 120 billion units of packaging are produced globally every year by the cosmetics industry. However, hardly any of this is recycled and of the packaging we can recycle, 4 in 10 of us don’t. Terrifyingly, only 5% of the world’s plastics are recycled effectively.
It’s imperative that we get this plastic problem under control. Most plastic is NOT biodegradable and even the plastics that are take hundreds of years to decompose and release toxins when they do. Plastic is also causing a very real issue in our oceans, clogging up our waterways and endangering marine animals. 18 million pounds of plastic waste end up in our waterways each year. According to the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, at the rate that plastic is accumulating in our oceans, it will exceed the mass of the fish that live there by 2050.
But what can we do to actually solve the problem?
With a growing awareness around the impact plastic has on our environment and the need for eco-friendly alternatives, brands must do better at actually offering products that answer this need for their customers. Consumers want beauty and skincare brands to recognise the part they have to play and reform their offering, and make decision making easier. According to consumer research by the Soil Association, 64% of consumers are now looking for products with recyclable packaging and 55% of people want more product refill points in store.
So what can brands do?
Compared to the kitchen, it’s clear that the products that we use in the bathroom need improved recycling labels and brands need to take more responsibility for this. They need to communicate to customers if they can be recycled and / or what part of them can be recycled, but most importantly, they need to change how they approach the production of their packaging and their product altogether. Helen Bird, from waste reduction charity WRAP, says, ‘Labelling should be clear and consistent across all packaging. It’s particularly needed in bathroom products as confusion around these means many people are getting things wrong.’
The onus on brands doesn’t just stop there. Just because a product is packaged in a glass container, that can of course be recycled, doesn’t mean that it’s clean and conscious. Brands also need to take into account where the product has been produced, what production methods were used, how the ingredients were sourced and if it has been imported, as the air miles will invalidate any sustainability gains made with the packaging. Multiple factors need to be considered when it comes to being an ethical brand and it’s important to do it correctly as greenwashing is not a good look.
Despite all this, many brands are making a conscious effort to do better and were founded on more responsible values. Below we take a look at some of the beauty and skincare brands that are leading the way when it comes to sustainable cosmetics.
The clue is in the name, Upcircle encapsulates sustainability and promotes the power of the circular economy. Each product in their range sources and rescues by-products from other industries, particularly the food and drink industry which is one of the most wasteful, with a third of all food produced wasted.
Upcircle all started with giving used coffee grounds a new lease of life, but they have now gone on to include soaps made with residual chai tea spices left over after making chai syrups, and a fruit pit range which is made with the powder of different discarded fruit pits. They are all about making something better from things that already exist.
As well as only using plant-based ingredients and never testing on animals, Upcirlce’s packaging is 99% plastic-free and for the 1% that isn’t they offer plastic-free refill options.
The circular economy sits at the heart of what they do and their ultimate mission is to leave the world better than they found it by transforming ingredients that would otherwise be discarded into natural, organic beauty products.
Wild was inspired by exactly what this article is all about, they wanted to shake up the throwaway culture of bathroom products and they have done this with their deodorant.
Wild is a reusable, sustainable and natural deodorant that is 100% plastic free and comes in an aluminium applicator that will last you a lifetime. Each case can be refilled over and over again with their bamboo pulp deodorant refills which can be delivered straight to your door. Each refill saves 30 grams of plastic going to landfill and they are made from natural fibre so once empty they can be put in your paper recycling or compost heap to decompose.
With each purchase made they contribute a percentage of sales to their chosen climate charity ‘On A Mission’, to support their incredible reforestation projects. So far they have helped plant over 50,000 trees.
Kankan are all about making refills mainstream. With their hand and body wash they are hoping to make refills more convenient and reduce consumption of single-use plastics in the home.
Their glass bottle starter sets are designed to be reused by refilling them with their aluminum can refills.
They believe in the circular economy and keeping materials in use. This can be by reuse, their glass forever bottles, or it can be through recycling, their cans. With metal being a circular resource it can be used over and over again, so a can in your hand can be recycled and back on the shelves within 6 weeks.
With 75% of all aluminium produced since 1888 still in use today and it taking 95% less energy to make a can from recycled materials, Kankan are on to a no brainer with their refill products.
These are just some of the incredible businesses that have put responsibility at the heart of their brand, but in order to make a bigger impact more needs to be done and more brands need to choose responsibility over purely focussing on profit margins.
This is not just a trend, it is a movement and in order to keep up with your customer it is something that needs to be invested in as customers won’t settle for less. Victoria Buchanon, a trend analyst at The Future Laboratory stated that ‘buyers are savvier than ever before, millennials, in particular, see nature and tech as living together. They read ingredients or notice if packaging is not recyclable and they will call brands out on it.’
Even if not 100% perfect straight away, if every brand improved their sustainability, customers would have more conscious products to choose from and this would in turn result in less waste, making a huge difference.
We are approaching a new era of sustainable beauty and cosmetics and every brand needs to keep up to be a part of it, or that profit margin we talked about, will end up in landfill.
Written by Daisy Rogers, Head of Copy and Content, Hatched.
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