While many individuals may be rightfully concerned with what’s inside their beauty products, it is equally important to consider the packaging surrounding those products. Consumers have made the push for all-natural, organic ingredients in cosmetics, but it’s time to examine the environmental impact of the product as a whole, too. The beauty industry has been widely criticized for its excessive use of packaging. The culture surrounding beauty products often revolves around the idea of luxury; whether it’s excess plastic wrappings, paper inserts, cardboard sleeves or just over-the-top use of materials for bottles and tubes, the beauty industry was founded on the idea of aesthetic surplus.
Cosmetics, hair, and skincare products are responsible for enormous amounts of packaging waste, much of which is, unfortunately, not recyclable. As reported by Zero Waste, more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry. Even worse, it’s reported that only 9 percent of plastic packaging is actually recycled. Additionally, only 14 percent of Americans are recycling their bathroom bottles, while more than half of American households recycle kitchen items. Meanwhile, our oceans are becoming saturated with plastic waste. Earth Day reports that by 2050 our oceans will have more plastics than fish, by weight. All industries need to re-evaluate their relationship with plastic waste, and the beauty industry is no exception. While some plastic use is inevitable, it’s important to be aware about its impact and to have a plan in place to reuse and recycle as much as possible.
Several beauty companies have already made efforts to prioritize sustainability in packaging. My startup Beautiac uses 100 percent fully recyclable packaging for its makeup brush subscription service. We’ve also joined Terracycle’s zero waste program, which turns our old disposable products into community beautification projects like park benches, planters, and picnic tables. LOLI is another beauty startup using sustainable packaging, from its food-grade, glass yogurt jars (that can be reused for food storage) to certified compostable labels, bags, and boxes. Sustainability is not just for startups though; corporate giant Unilever is also working towards eco-friendly packaging. By 2025, Unilever is committed to using 100 percent recyclable plastic packaging across its entire line of products, including cosmetics. These brands among others are beginning the revolution when it comes to eco-friendly packaging.
Consumers can send a message to larger beauty brands by giving their patronage to companies that embody sustainability, which is why it’s so important to incorporate environmental awareness as apart of your brand from the ground up. Purchasing power can be a huge asset in the movement for environmentally-friendly beauty packaging. According to one study, most consumers are willing to switch brands and/or try new packaging to decrease their waste. I believe that when armed with the proper knowledge, customers will act sustainably when it comes to both the outside packaging of a product and the product itself. If companies in the beauty industry can educate their customers, with honesty, about the importance of sustainability in cosmetics, a shift will occur. It’s up to us to help the industry reverse the idea that “luxury” in beauty equates to excess. Less truly is more when it comes to beauty product packaging.
Drea Gunness Groeschel is the founder of Beautiac.