Even though plastic has been around for over a century, it’s only fairly recently that we’ve discovered its potentially devastating risks. This late disclosure has led to serious consequences on our ecosystem. As a matter of fact, since its introduction to the world in 1907, only 9% of the world’s plastic waste has been recycled, 12% incinerated and the rest still lies in landfills or pollutes our waterways. According to the UN, if we do not take appropriate measures by 2050 our oceans will carry more plastic than fish and almost all our seabirds will have ingested plastic.
That is why, these days, every purchase made, is a vote for the future you want to live in. Thus consumers, brands, and retailers alike have the opportunity to take their first steps to establish real change together by reconsidering plastic in their daily choice.
Highly valued as in many other industries for the practicality, lightness and robustness of the packaging and containers generated, plastic is also surprisingly present in our beauty products as an ingredient. When it comes to beauty shopping, there are many traps to avoid and tricks to develop for a successful plastic free diet.
Here is our advice:
Pay attention to the packaging
The beauty industry relies heavily on plastic packaging. Boxes, films, cartons, stickers: plastic is everywhere. While 14% is usually recycled, the vast majority is directly thrown away after one single use.
Make-up products often have elaborate packaging with several elements that are often made of plastic. Lipsticks, for instance, have a particular mechanism for creating that twist up motion we are so used to. Getting around these mechanisms and important components are a real challenge, that Madeleine White, founder of Juni Cosmetics knows only too well.
Madeleine, once made aware of the extent of our plastic problem, simply couldn’t make the commitment of purchasing the outrageous amount of plastic needed to create the brand she envisaged. She decided to stick to her beliefs and develop her own packaging, not compromising on sustainability.
Madeleine and team Juni worked tirelessly with a packaging designer to come up with a 100% plastic free alternative without compromising on quality or aesthetics. Inspired by a 1930s lipstick packaging design, they developed a twist off lid/push-up collar and unique slide-mechanism and opted for “The Green Metal”: Aluminium. By using this one material only, there is no need to take apart and separate when it comes to recycling Juni lipsticks.
Aluminium is considered a ‘circular economy’ material as its recycled material will be used to create new products.
Madeleine and Juni Cosmetics’ efforts paid off, as their plastic free and 100% recyclable lipstick bullet won the silver award in the luxury category of the 2020 Penta Awards, a prestigious packaging design competition. They are also finalists in the PCD Paris 2021 Innovation awards, next to industry leaders Chanel and Jimmy Choo.
Other brands such as AKT have also made this commitment by not using any plastic, in their packaging or their formula. Their deodorants are 100% recyclable.
TANAKA also took the pledge by wrapping their soap bars in semi-transparent glassine paper and sealing them with a sticker made from FSC-approved paper.
By using non-toxic, plastic-free, compostable components, these brands are actively tackling the plastic waste issue and setting an example for other players in the cosmetics industry.
Don’t be fooled by so-called Biodegradable and compostable plastics as well as refillable products
Nowadays, an increasing number of brands are claiming to be mindful of the environment by offering biodegradable and compostable plastic packaging and products. These alternatives to regular plastics may look appealing, however they are potentially only delaying the problem for future generations. It takes hundreds of years for plastic to break down.
Biodegradable plastics often need extra treatment to break down. Without this treatment which many local facilities are not equipped with, they act as normal plastics. Though because of the additives they contain, they in fact cannot be recycled like normal plastic.
So one way or another, although it sounds like the green choice these alternative plastics will likely still end up in landfills and our oceans, leaving micro and nano plastic particles in nature. Which brings us to the frightening fact that all plastic ever made still exists in some form. So, recyclable doesn’t mean it will get recycled.
Refillable solutions have recently become very popular in the beauty market. More common and effective for products such as hand soap or body wash, which come in simple (often aluminium or glass) bottles that are easily recyclable. With make-up products, however, the situation is trickier. Cosmetics require much more care and follow strict hygiene and transportability standards.
While refills are an interesting option for sustainability, it does not mean that it excludes plastics from its design.
Check the labels
In the EU, only a minority of beauty brands officially confess that their formulas contain microplastic ingredients, while 8,700 tons of microplastics are used every year in the industry. They are frequently used as fillers for smoothing or lasting effects. However, research has proven that microplastics adversely affect our health, and not only that, but it is also harmful for our planet.
An estimated 3,800 tons of microplastics escape into the environment annually, and has irreversible damage, especially to our oceans.
Thankfully, several countries like the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Sweden have now completely banned cosmetic products containing these microbeads. Though we are not out of the woods yet, as other types of microplastic ingredients are still abundant in many cosmetic products, making it crucial to look for the ‘Zero Plastic Inside’ badge on your beauty products.
A handful of brands nevertheless manage to stand out from the crowd thanks to a 100% natural formula while remaining 100% effective and high performing.
Juni Cosmetics not only challenge the classic packaging, they are also one of those rare players who prove that it is possible to be Plastic Free inside and out.
Although a 100% natural and organic formula that truly performs is tricky to achieve, Madeleine White made it her top priority to bring a sustainably sourced, organic and vegan option to the beauty shelves.
This challenge was also familiar to the brand Elytrum, who made sure to use only natural components to produce their dry body brushes, successfully achieving a zero-waste alternative.
Despite some hesitations and misconceptions on natural alternatives, these products perform as well or even better, this is why we have hand-picked the very best.Foundations like PlasticSoup, reinforce this initiative by developing the 'Beat the Microbead' app allowing the user to scan the ingredient lists on their beauty products to discover if they contain microplastics.
Buy less, better and support brands that are truly plastic free and can stand by their word
Many alternative materials have recently been developed by companies around the world and behave just like conventional plastic. Pulp, cellulose or seaweed, the possibilities are expanding and are both naturally produced and truly biodegradable after usage.
As most of these alternatives are relatively recent inventions, and are still rare and not widely produced, they are on the costlier side of the production chain. In the long term, these products are often more concentrated and effective in less packaging, a significant long-term saving.
While plastic is harmful, and overused in some industries, it is indispensable in other industries such as the medical world. So how do we tackle this superfluous use and be mindful of our beauty packaging?
We suggest starting with doing your own research, read articles, follow environmental change organisations, and demand more from companies and the government. As a transparent retailer, who is 96% plastic free, we will continuously do our best on your behalf.
An increasing number of brands are proving that plastic isn't the only answer. But it is also up to us as consumers to make the change by supporting their efforts towards a cleaner environment.
"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly".
Even small changes are worthwhile because a small step taken by everyone is a big step towards progress and towards an overall reduction in our plastic consumption.
Take part in the revolution by sharing your progress and achievements with the hashtag #PlasticFreeTheory.