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Every year, over 120 billion units of packaging are produced by the global beauty industry. | Photo source Lush

5 innovative ideas in sustainable beauty packaging

Fashion & Beauty

From do-it-yourself shampoo to reusable mascara tubes, here are some of the best sustainable beauty innovations we’ve seen in recent months

Every year, over 120 billion units of packaging are produced by the global beauty industry, most of which rely on plastic. If this trend continues, landfills will receive 12 billion tonnes of plastic by 2050. The United Nations has declared the situation a “planetary emergency,” with no industry exempt from being reviewed, including beauty.

It wasn’t long ago that beauty products did without plastic packaging. Soaps came in bars, perfumes were contained in glass bottles and creams were kept in jars or tins.

However, the plastic revolution of the ’90s opened up a whole new range of possibilities for the beauty industry. Not only was plastic cheaper, but it was also much lighter and resistant compared to glass or tin — meaning that products could be transported (and sold) across greater distances. 

Now, cosmetics alone can occupy entire aisles at supermarkets. Correspondingly, the packaging industry is thriving, with a global market value of almost €23 billion.

Given the scale of the situation, eliminating or even reducing packaging will be no small challenge. Thankfully, there is an increased demand from the public for plastic-free alternatives and governmental implementations such as the ban of single-use plastics.

The idea of sustainable packaging encompasses a combination of factors that reconsider how beauty products are produced, distributed, preserved and consumed. 

From do-it-yourself shampoo, reusable mascara tubes and packing made from cork, here are five of our favourite sustainable beauty innovations we’ve seen in recent months.

1. FIRST-EVER ‘CARBON-POSITIVE’ PACKAGING MADE FROM CORK

Photo sourced from Lush

The British natural-cosmetic company Lush has developed what may be the first-ever “carbon-positive” packaging. The new packaging is made from cork instead of plastic. In addition to having a low carbon footprint, cork is anti-bacterial, water-resistant, strong and can even be composted. 

Lush recently received its first order of 6,000 cork pots and aims to purchase an additional half a million more in the next year. Not only is cork biodegradable, but it also comes from bark, which is harvested every ten years and does not require cutting down trees during the process. To produce cork, more trees have to be planted, meaning more C02 will be absorbed from the atmosphere. By encouraging the planting of trees, Lush’s packaging aims to go beyond carbon-neutral to be “carbon-positive.”

2. STUDENT INNOVATION BRINGS SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION TO MASCARA

Photo sourced from Pippa Bridges

Pippa Bridges, a recent graduate from Loughborough University, used her interest and experience with sustainable design to tackle a problem many might not even have noticed. Nearly one billion mascara tubes sell every year worldwide. These tubes usually end up going straight to landfill, contributing to huge amounts of land waste. Bridges’ innovative new production method, Infinity Mascara, aims to reduce this waste.

She designed a reusable capsule to replace the disposable tube. The capsule can be refilled as required. Normal mascara tubes need replacing every six months in comparison. Bridges also replaced the regular mascara brush with a unique fingertip applicator that can last up to 10 years. The new design should receive a new refill component every six months and the outer casing can be reused. The entire process is a closed-loop system, resulting in improved environmental and financial efficiency. All the components last longer and function more efficiently than in standard mascara tube designs. 

3. PAPER CONTAINERS HOLD LIQUID WITHOUT GETTING WET

Photo sourced from Nippon Paper Group

Japan-based Nippon Paper Group has designed a new kind of paper container to hold liquids. The material is similar to cardboard and does not get soggy when wet, according to the company.

Spops containers resemble milk cartons and are designed to replace refillable plastic pouches. The company has also launched a line of paper straws. Spops containers could potentially replace plastic for household detergents, soaps and shampoos. The company plans to make the containers commercially available by the end of the year.

4. A ZERO-WASTE OPTION FOR MAKING SHAMPOO AT HOME

Photo sourced from Cleanyst

US-based Cleanyst has created a home appliance that makes custom-made cleaning and hygiene products. The machine can shrink your plastic footprint and save money, the company says.

Cleanyst is part of a growing trend of zero-waste retail options that include homemade cleaners and other products. Its appliance, which Cleanyst compares to a Keurig or Nespresso in terms of ease-of-use, mixes a batch of product in minutes. It uses a reusable container, tap water and packets of concentrates shipped by the company. The waste is minimal and the packets are recyclable. 

5. AUSTRALIA’S FIRST BULK ECO-REFILL STATION

Photo sourced from Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

Australian-based Flora&Fauna is creating an interactive marketplace for zero-waste goods and services. Customers will be able to recycle and learn about eco-friendly lifestyles through workshops and pop-ups.

The store will also include the first bulk eco-refill station in the country, providing customers with the opportunity to bring their own containers to refill with shampoo, conditioner and laundry detergent. 

Flora&Fauna’s founder, Julie Mathers, created the store five years ago to help promote zero-waste and cruelty-free living. At that time, it was an online shop, offering everything from bamboo toothbrushes to ethical makeup. However, the new bricks and mortar store in Sydney goes beyond offering zero-waste goods. The aim of the store is to provide a space for sharing advice and helping shoppers make better choices.