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Although packaging has the highest environmental footprint of cosmetic products, Organic Monitor research finds that it is generally overlooked when beauty companies look at sustainability. Beauty brands are focusing on green formulations, resource efficiency and life cycle assessments of their products when developing sustainability plans. Although companies are aware of the environmental impact of packaging, they have been slow to embrace sustainable packaging solutions.
Even organic beauty—many of which have sustainability built into their corporate ethos—are lagging in adopting sustainable packaging, according to the research. Such companies have been pioneers in adopting natural and organic cosmetic standards, implementing fair trade and ethical sourcing programs, and broader CSR initiatives but few are focusing on reducing their packaging footprints.
With consumer interest in ecological products continuing to strengthen and sustainability high on the global agenda, the beauty industry appears to be behind in adopting sustainability packaging initiatives. For instance, the food industry is increasingly using ecological packaging. Organic Monitor finds that organic fruit and vegetables sold in most European supermarkets now have some type of bioplastic packaging. Consumers buying "chemical-free" products are demanding ecological packaging. While organic foods are meeting consumer expectations, natural and organic beauty products are not.
Although there is growing research in bioplastics packaging, there remain few applications in beauty. High heat sensitivity and water permeability prevent such packaging to be used for products such as creams, lotions and shampoos. Biopolymers are mainly used in color cosmetic cases. However, packaging suppliers aim to overcome existing limitations by improving performance of its biopolymer packaging. Mirel, for example, is developing bioplastic materials to replace petroleum polymers such as Polypropylene (PP), High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Polycarbonate (PC).
Most beauty companies are looking at recycled packaging materials. Some natural beauty brands, such as Neal’s Yard Remedies, are using Post Consumer Regrind (PCR) Poly Ethylene Terephthalate bottles. Others, like Burt’s Bees are going further and making commitments to use only recycled materials. The U.S. company has also pioneered the use of Terra Skin Wraps, a paper alternative packaging for bar soaps.