A growing category in beauty is “zero-waste”, which is where brands avoid contributing to landfill throughout the whole process of making a product, from sourcing the ingredients to formulation, manufacturing and shipping. Here’s 4 swap in the zero waste beauty world these days:
Did you know that beauty brands produce about 77 billion units of plastic packaging per year, and over 70 percent of that ends up in landfills? Or that packaging accounts for 40 percent of the world’s plastic waste? In major cities, it’s estimated that 38 percent of the VOC emissions in air pollution comes from the spritzing and slathering of hairspray and serum and perfume. 7.6 billion pounds of makeup wipes are sent to landfills every year—and that’s just makeup wipes. I mean, imagine the environmental impact of our collective skin care, hair care, body care, and makeup routines!
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1. Use less.
You’re probably familiar with the motto “reduce, reuse, recycle”—but there’s another “R” word that belongs at the top of that list, and it’s “refuse.” In other words: Don’t buy things you don’t need.
Fewer products mean less stress for your skin barrier and healthier skin. Singer’s almost-unreal radiance can attest to that, but so can some of the year’s biggest skin care trends: “skin fasting,” “skip-care,” and the fall of exfoliation. Multitasking makeup products fit into this zero waste beauty model, too.
2. Upcycled cosmetic ingredients
A true zero-waste beauty routine would also eliminate “bioaccumulative” ingredients—substances that build up in the environment and never break down. Although upcycled ingredients are gaining traction, this is really just the beginning of the movement towards zero waste beauty. As cosmetic ingredient manufacturers broaden their portfolios to cater for every formulator’s need, the industry will welcome products made entirely from by-products and leftovers, meaning no new resources will be created.
Why not buy organic herbs and oils in bulk and DIY? I personally make most of my zero-waste skincare products—including cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and masks—this way, using my own (reusable!) glass jars and bottles.
3. Swapping out single-use products.
On top of that our conditioner bottles, lipstick tubes, mascara wands, dry shampoo, and eyeshadow palettes might technically be used more than once but they still have a limited lifespan and once they’ve been used up, off they go to landfill to join the rest.
But there is headway being made where make-up’s concerned. Lush for example, have massively expanded their ‘Naked’ packaging-free selection which now makes up 50 per cent of their core range. Lush was once the only real option for those who wanted to ditch single-use products, and a host of new brands and online shops are cropping up in response to growing demand.
Hanna Pumfrey launched Acala in April 2018 as a platform for other plastic-free brands, selling things like washable cotton rounds, refillable make-up (including mascara), Konjac sponges, shampoo bars, and toothpaste tablets. There is now with an own-brand offering too. Pumfrey recommends starting with easy alternatives. “Super simple swaps to zero waste beauty include bamboo toothbrushes and refillable floss,” she says.
The waste created by single-use beauty products is no joke and although it can take months or even years to change a routine fully, it’s worth making the change if you can. It’s great for the planet and, on the whole, great for your skin too. And if you can’t make the change? Look out for in-store recycling schemes, drop your used packaging at a TerraCycle recycling point and repurpose your packaging. Tweet, email or write to your fave brands and encourage them to invest in offering a wider range of package-free, refillable, and reusable options that are accessible to as many people as possible.
The packaging industry currently accounts for most of the plastic used worldwide. Did you know that over 95% of beauty packaging is thrown out after just one use? Or that just 14% of plastic makes it to a recycling centre? To help tackle overconsumption of single-use packaging, brands are favouring reuse and refill schemes instead of solely relying on recycling efforts. Although the concept isn’t new, if refill designs were to be applied to all bottles in beauty and personal care (as well as home cleaning), packaging and transport savings alone would represent an 80–85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. With the rise of zero waste beauty/sustainable beauty products trend, manufacturing brands have begun taking environmental responsibility by using packaging materials that pose minimal risk to the environment.
There are ways to side-step all pesky plastic. Package Free’s physical locations in New York City offer bulk “fill stations” for oils, deodorants, dry shampoo, and toothpaste, among other things. Customers simply bring their own containers to fill.
Zero waste makeup packaging means that each packaging product should have a circular life cycle, whereby it never ends up as waste. An example is whereby a brand uses packaging embedded with seeds that can later be planted to grow into vegetables after their initial use.
There’s also no burning or burying of zero-waste packaging or in other words, go into your zero waste beauty routine. In essence, they’re meant to remain in circulation once manufactured, and never end up in the environment in a manner that causes pollution or accumulation. The difference between sustainable packaging and zero-waste packaging is that while the former seeks to have a lesser environmental footprint, the latter strives for no footprint at all. However, both are great options for environmentally conscious brands and consumers toward zero waste beauty.
Companies that use eco friendly packaging also try to make use of as little packaging material as possible. The types of packaging materials that are considered sustainable include: Bamboo, Glass and Metal, Compostable/Biodegradable Paperboard, Recycled Plastic and Silicone.
5. If the thought of your plastic- and petrochemical-filled bathroom cabinet makes you want to get rid of it all and start fresh… don’t.
If you want to create zero waste beauty routine , don’t just throw away all your shit and buy new stuff. I always suggest using up what you already have before getting something new. This makes for a smoother transition, anyway. Once you finish your current tube of toothpaste, try a sustainable Tooth Powder. After that, who knows? Maybe you’ll feel more comfortable trading in your silicone-soaked shampoo for package-free shampoo bar.
If every single person who reads this article commits to just one low-waste product swap this month, we can make a difference. You don’t have to change your zero waste beauty habits all at once, you can make one different choice now, and gradually, over time, it adds up.