Plastic has become a dirty word. Synonymous with waste, over-consumption and pollution, single use plastic is being shamed as a key contributor to the environmental issues we face today. Australian not-for-profit organisation The Plastic Free Foundation aims to tackle this with its Plastic Free July campaign, ‘a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities’. I had a look at their promotional video and it’s amazing how many single-use plastic high volume everyday items I’ve already removed from my daily routine (pat on the back). Plastic shopping bags: replaced with cloth bags. Plastic water bottle: swapped for a reusable one. Coffee cup: also traded for a reusable one. Plastic straw: cafes and restaurants have done all the hard work for me on this one and switched to paper versions, although I’ve just recently been gifted a metal one to use at home too. So what about my beauty products? How do they measure up to the Plastic-Free July challenge? Established beauty brands are starting to bring changes to their packaging, with the likes of Dior replacing their plastic display shelving with glass and Guerlain reducing their packaging weight by 60%. Natural beauty brands tend to be a step ahead, with Tata Harper using recycled glass, soy ink on their labels and 100% post-consumer waste paper, and Love Beauty and Planet using 100% recycled plastic bottles. Looking through my bathroom cabinet, the skincare products displayed certainly don’t all boast plastic-free packaging. However the ones that do tend to be small independent brands who’ve really made a conscious effort to choose alternative materials. So here’s a celebration of plastic-free beauty.
Metal packaging such as this convenient tin from Love Absolute provides protective packaging as it’s a great barrier against water, oxygen and light. For beauty products this means that the active ingredients in the formula are protected from external factors without the need for preservatives. Metal is 100% recyclable and can go through the process an infinite number of times without any performance degradation. Even better, it boasts high re-usability: once I finish this Love Absolute block of vegan facial soap I will be re-purposing the tin as a candle holder. For more of this type of sustainable packaging, check out indie brand BUFF Natural Body Care which boasts 100% recyclable and 99% plastic-free jars and tins, including a hand & body butter encased in what looks like a traditional shoe polish tin – love it.
Before the high consumption of plastic, glass was the go-to material for housing beauty creams and oils, and is still very much in use by apothecary-style beauty brands. Glass is 100% recyclable yet in 2017, 67.6% of glass in the UK was recycled. Not bad, but in Sweden the rate is close to 100%, where a deposit and return scheme sees consumers receive cash for every glass bottle they recycle. Imagine if the UK government introduced a similar scheme… well watch this space. Benefits of using glass packaging include its impermeable capabilities, meaning it protects whatever’s inside from external factors. It also doesn’t tamper with the scent, flavour or purity of its content, unlike plastic which can contaminate it with hormone-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates. In natural beauty the amber-tinted glass bottles are often preferred as they protect from UV light, preserving the natural ingredients. Fushi use these apothecary-type bottles for their fresh-pressed virgin oils such as this sustainably sourced antioxidant-rich Sea Buckthorn Oil. Additionally when it comes to avoiding plastic and recycling, this brand uses paper packaging and re-purpose their outer boxes to pack orders. And for the non-laminated labels they print with vegetable ink.
According to Konjac Sponge Co, ‘the Konjac potato is a perennial plant native to Asia […] Made of 97% water and rich in minerals, the plant is naturally alkaline, which leaves skin perfectly balanced.’ Blended with volcanic water, these chemical-free, 100% biodegradable sponges offer a great vegan alternative to single use cotton pads and have been used in Japan and Korea for hundreds of years. This little pore refiner can be used with cleanser or just hydrated with water, and I recommend the travel cleansing pads which last up to 3 months. Other beauty products that feature natural fibres include sheet masks, which can be made of bamboo. This means that although the product is single use, it is biodegradable and can naturally decompose. The issue with sheet masks lies in their packaging, as they tend to involve plastic or foil in order to protect the mask’s moisture levels.
I don’t often come across wooden packaging in beauty. At times it might be a certain element of the packaging, like an outer box, or a lid (check out Caudalie’s French Kiss lipbalm with its wooden lid), but the issue with wood is that it is an absorbent and porous material, so not ideal as primary packaging for a beauty product. It is however resilient and hard-wearing, so ideal to use in transit and as outer packaging. What is incredibly interesting with this Happi Body Co pot of facial cleanser is the material is it made of. Wood yes, but sourced from Finnish eco specialists Sulapac, the microplastic-free material is made from FSC-certified sustainable Nordic wood. The 100% biodegradable container can be added to your compost once emptied, or even better it just begs to be re-purposed as a sleek trinket box. Proof that this is the beauty packaging material of the future? Chanel have invested in Sulapac.
Are you participating in Plastic-Free July? What are your tips for leading a less plastic-heavy lifestyle? Leave a comment below to let me know.
Features gifted product.