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New Trends in Sustainable

By: Jillian Salansky
Posted: July 12, 2011, from the July 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The waste generated by beauty companies can be significant; loss prevention methods promote larger packaging as safer for the bottom line, but that has led to excess waste that often ends up in landfills rather than recycling centers. Programs that decrease the amount of new plastic resin used to create products while providing options for a reclaiming system through which all of the primary and secondary product and packaging can be recovered for recycling is an answer for this waste. The reclamation can happen behind the retail shelves or by involving customers at the point of sale, similar to plastic bag reclaiming programs promoted by supermarkets. Once plastics are received, they can be sorted, washed, dried and extruded, turning the plastic contents into pure-grade PCR resin . The resin pellets can be returned to the packagers, allowing them to reuse their own plastic waste for new products, even in those that require FDA approval—closing the loop on the product life cycle.

Substantiating Sustainable Claims

When creating a sustainability program, it is important that brands market around the science that was used to determine the environmental benefit. Claiming such benefits comes with great responsibility and brings with it immense scrutiny. A growing tendency toward irresponsible or misleading environmental claims, a.k.a. greenwashing, has led to government intervention and consumer skepticism. The growing adoption of sustainable alternatives has also brought with it an explosion of creativity by marketing departments around communicating the unique properties and characteristics that set their material or products apart, leading to confusion among brand owners and consumers alike. The Federal Trade Commission has even stepped in with the Green Guides—a set of guiding principles related to environmental marketing and advertising claims, requiring scientific substantiation in order to claim benefits such as recycled content, biodegradable and compostable. Many responsible brands are even taking their certification a step further by conducting Life Cycle Assessments, third party cradle-to-grave scientific analysis evaluating the environmental impacts of a product or service.

What’s in Store

As America aims to move further from its dependence on petroleum-based resources such as traditional plastic resins, the market for alternatives will continue to expand. Eliminating plastics altogether is not a practical solution, but adapting manufacturing and marketing programs to promote more prudent consumer use will be a trend for years to come. Each alternative has its own valuable characteristics and so there is room in the market for many, but only a few of the innovations seen today will gain large acceptance. The technologies that will thrive will be those meeting the consumers’ needs, the brand’s values and government’s regulations.

Jillian Salansky is a director of purchasing and customer service for Nextlife, a provider of sustainable solutions for the consumer, food service packaged goods and housewares industry. Its mission is to offer practical sustainable packaging and product solutions based on high quality PCR materials, scientific substantiation, brand marketing support and unique closed-loop recycling programs.