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Sustainability Over Beauty: How Your Favorite Brands Are Cutting Down on Product Waste This Year

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A growing number of beauty brands are stepping up and doing something about the industry’s waste problem in 2022. Whether they’re tackling product- or packaging-related wastage, they’re showing other brands how easy it can be to make a difference while empowering their eco-conscious customers to do the same.

Most often, product and packaging waste go hand-in-hand. Just think about how many times you’ve either thrown away a tube or tub that still had some product in it, you’ve cut open a tube to get to that precious last bit of product, or you’ve thrown out unnecessary ornate packaging that’s not quite justified by the size of the product itself. Thankfully, various brands are making sure all that waste will be a thing of the past, at least when it comes to their beauty products.

The packaging problem

The personal care and beauty industry generates more than 120 billion packaging units annually, and most are not recyclable. Considering the global market was worth $341.1 billion in 2020, a figure expected to climb to $560.50 billion by 2030, the issue of waste is a serious one.

To put this into greater perspective, the U.S. generates more than 35 million tons of plastic waste every year. Of that, approximately only 3 million tons (8.7%) get recycled. Single-use plastics are one of the greatest contributors to the massive amount of plastic waste. And, yes, you guessed it, most beauty product packaging is single-use. The good news is that more beauty brands starts to minimize their contribution to the mess. Find out who they are and what they’re doing for greater sustainability below.

Brands supporting recycling

A few beauty brands have committed themselves to make recycling product packaging easier for their customers. Ilia, one of the best organic and natural beauty brands, helps customers recycle their empties through a partnership with Pact Collective. The brand’s customers can mail back as many as ten empty beauty containers per month by filling out a form and printing a prepaid shipping label. What makes this even better is that customers can include non-Ilia empties.

Kiehl’s also implemented a rewards program that offers customers points for returning the brand’s empties to its stores for recycling. Customers receive 10 points per used container, and they can redeem their points for more products, services, and other rewards.

Lush is famous for bath products that are as fragrant as they are colorful. The signature black pots that contain the brand’s popular products are made from 100% postconsumer recycled plastic that customers can recycle or reuse at home. Alternatively, customers can return the empty pots to Lush stores for recycling. To sweeten the deal, the brand gives a free face mask to customers who return five empties to one of its stores.

Like Kiehl’s, MAC Cosmetics has a reward program that gives a free tube of lipstick to customers who return six empty MAC products by returning them to a participating store or by filling out an online form and mailing the empties back to the brand. If you’re a MAC Lover loyalist and return six empties, you can choose between lipstick, a small eye shadow, or lip gloss.

Farmacy has taken things a step further in the brand’s bid to make recycling easier for customers. CEO Mina Chae explained that the farm-to-face skincare brand created a guide on how customers can recycle each product through municipal systems or through recycling platform partner TerraCycle, using a prepaid label that the brand provides. 2022 will see Farmacy move toward 100% recyclable, 100% waste-free packaging made from completely recycled materials. One of the brand’s most recent launches, 10% Waterless Vitamin C Serum, already uses packaging made from mono-material polypropylene, which is fully recyclable as it’s not made from mixed materials.

Innovative packaging

Other beauty brands have introduced innovative packaging to help cut down product waste. Noble Panacea uses a unique packaging system that’s plastic-free. The reusable starch-based case contains 30 daily doses packaged in 100% recyclable FSC-certified paper. Customers can store their empty dose packaging in the envelope received from the store and then mail them back to the brand before filling up their case with another set of 30 daily doses. Noble Panacea covers the postage cost.

La Bouche Rouge is another beauty brand that uses packaging with a difference. The French brand’s leather compact and lipstick cases are made from upcycled leather sourced from Les Tanneries du Puy. The cases are 100% plastic-free, recyclable, and refillable. The refill product is packaged in metal and recyclable paper.

Refillable packaging

Like La Bouche Rouge, other beauty brands have chosen to focus on reusable packaging to cut down on product waste in 2022. Kjaer Weis gives customers the option of two refillable case options for products such as blush, eye shadow, and foundation. The case options include the Iconic Edition infinitely refillable metallic case and the Red Edition case made from recyclable and compostable paper that looks like leather.

In addition to its smaller eye serums and eye creams, Kiehl’s also offers several body and hair care products in 1-liter refill pouches that customers can use to refill their standard Kiehl’s bottles at home. Susanne Kaufmann packages its cleansing products in 100% recyclable, refillable bottles as well.

Plaine Products has a circular refill program through which customers let them know when it’s almost time for a refill. They will send customers a new bottle of product, and those customers then mail their empty bottle back to the brand, which will sanitize and refill the bottle for resale. The brand also uses recyclable aluminum bottles.

Reformulating and reimagining products

Some beauty brands have taken to reformulating and reimagining products in a bid to become more sustainable. Axiology uses recyclable packaging made from 100% recyclable paper for its Lip-to-Lid Balmies. More than that, however, the brand substitutes more sustainable sunflower wax and plum oil for ingredients such as beeswax and palm oil, and it uses child-labor-free, earth-derived pigments such as micas and iron oxides.

Ethique and Lush both produce shampoo bars instead of traditional liquid shampoo. Ethique’s plastic-free bars are made with non-toxic ingredients and according to sustainable practices. The brand says that one of its shampoo bars is equivalent to three 350-milliliter bottles of liquid shampoo. On the other hand, one of Lush’s bars is equivalent to three 250-milliliter bottles of liquid shampoo. 

With dedication and innovation, these beauty brands are striving toward greater sustainability. Given that consumers are more conscious of their purchasing decisions and what they use in their skincare routines, other brands are likely to follow in their footsteps soon.

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