THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY'S PLASTIC PROBLEM

Updated: Nov 16, 2019


You have finally bought your new body lotion. Excited to start using it you start to unwrap. Getting into a new beauty product is never easy. First, you've got to tackle the layers of cardboard, cellophane, tissue paper and boxes until you reach the end goal: a plastic container housing the product you've been waiting for. Without a doubt, packaging plays a huge part in the sale of a beauty product. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to all this packaging and where it will end up?


How bad is the plastic problem?

Think about your own plastic consumption in one day. We are so used to plastic in our everyday lives it may even be easy to forget that things as mundane as cellophane covering our vegetables at the supermarket or the bottled drink we had for lunch are harming our environment. When you add up your own usage, it may become completely understandable why, according to the UN, we let out eight million tonnes (!) of plastic in the world’s oceans every year. Shockingly, up to five trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once — and then thrown away. Of course, there is not only one industry to blame but the beauty industry does contribute to this problem with single use products and hard to recycle packaging.


Although we all try to recycle and reuse, research reveals that only only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled, putting a huge burden on our landfill sites. What's perhaps more frightening is that a lot of the plastic we use ends up in the ocean through litter, transport errors and through our sewer systems. In fact, if current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.


What impact does this have?

When you're snorkelling, diving, or surfing here at Hawaii, you definitely get an appreciation for the ocean and the sea life that inhabits it. It's sad to think that so much of our plastic consumption ends up there. Not only that, but it's that very sea life that suffers. In fact, plastic debris causes the death of more than 100.000 marine mammals and more than a million seabirds per year. Also, its been proven that the microplastics ingested by fish travel up the food chain to us.


What's being done about this?

It may be depressing to learn about all these awful statistics, and the situation may look pretty hopeless. However, the public consciousness around the plastic problem has changed in the last couple of years and solutions are starting to come through. Earlier this year, Hawaii put into place the prohibition of the use of plastic straws. This was followed by government ban of free plastic bags in stores. The beauty industry has started to take initiatives. Lush has started to sell naked products without packaging. TerraCycle is working on making it easier to recycle its packaging, as is Origins which recycles empty jars from any brand. Aveda has started to use post-consumer recycled plastics in its packaging. And of course, Hawaii Skin Treats which aim at zero waste with compostable packaging. Progress is coming.


What does the future hold?

The beauty industry is one born of innovation. We think it's expected to see more skincare brands looking for creative, thoughtful, and sustainable ways to reduce their packaging. After all, we all know you don't have to sacrifice on quality in a bid to reduce plastic consumption.

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