Looking for EPC? We're the same team, with a new look! Meet the Team

Redefining Cosmetics Packaging within a Circular Economy

Redefining Cosmetics Packaging within a Circular Economy

Monday, June 19th, 2023

The Ugly Truth: The Plastic Packaging Problem of Personal Care and Beauty

The personal care and beauty sector manufactures over 120 billion units of packaging per year globally, the majority of which end up in landfill

Some more facts and figures:

  • Packaging from the global beauty industry accounts for 70% of total waste from the industry.
  • Only 9% of plastics actually get recycled.  Recyclable doesn’t mean it will be recycled (even if the consumer attempts to!).  More complex packaging designs (e.g. squeezable, twistable) are even more difficult to recycle in reality.  
  • The ‘average’ pot of moisturiser takes 1,000 years to decompose.
  • The actual production of plastic also has a significant carbon footprint, as it requires a lot of fossil fuels and energy to produce.

The Demand for Authenticity

Increasingly, consumers are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact. Recyclability became the go-to solution when it comes to single-use products: but today’s consumers are less susceptible to ‘green washing’ and demand authenticity in sustainability claims.  Brands that have not moved forward or lack transparency are being called out for it.  This shakeup within packaging is consumer driven and underlined by climate change concerns. 

The responsibility no longer lies with the end consumer to do their part: brands and manufacturers are expected to truly step up and take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products. 

More and more sustainability issues are becoming a critical business consideration: innovation in response to sustainability concerns results in clear economic gains and savings. 

PCR and Glass: Good Enough?

Many brands are reacting and attempting to phase out harmful plastics e.g.

  • L’Oréal has set a target to reduce PCR plastics by 50% by 2025. 
  • Estee Lauder targets 25% or more PCR plastics (but is currently falling short of this target).

While it’s a move in the right direction: the reality is PCR plastic is more expensive, supply is not meeting demand and requires a lot of fossil fuel for production. 

EMF’s Plastic Initiative Lead Sander DeFruyt highlights that PCR plastic must be adopted in conjunction with brands removing single and virgin plastics from their usage cycles to truly make a difference.  

The consensus is that PCR and glass are an improvement but not good enough. Before we delve into the optimum packaging solutions, how can cosmetics and personal care products be manufactured within a ‘circular economy’?

The Circular Economy in Cosmetics Manufacturing

In a traditional and linear economy, bands take non-regenerative resources from the earth.  They make a product.  Consumers throw it away after use, and it eventually ends up in landfills.   

The circular cosmetic approach, on the other hand, forms a closed cycle that extends from production to recycling of the packaging materials and fully utilises all of the product’s resources. It’s a regenerative process where products are sustainably produced and recycled, and reused. 

circular economy beauty packaging

Cosmetic manufacturers and brands can and are expected to be part of the circular economy solution.  For new brands and startups, it is even easier as there is no challenge to create and change existing supply chains.  There are a number of ways brands and manufacturers can adopt this model.  As one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions in the cosmetics and personal care industry is single-use packaging, our spotlight is on refillable packaging as an essential solution for cosmetics brands and manufacturers to embrace.

The stats below highlight how important it is for brands to offer sustainable packaging solutions, including refillable and reusable solutions. 

packaging beauty industry

Curbing the Cosmetics Industry Waste through Refillable Solutions

Refillable packaging won’t solve all sustainability problems, but it is a BIG step in the right direction.  It’s no longer a niche ideal, and while it has taken time to be widely accepted, it has hit the mainstream, and it is being demanded and expected more and more by consumers. 

The benefits of cosmetics and personal care refills include:

  • Reduced shipping size and weight (and reduced associated costs)
  • Reduced plastic waste
  • Improved recyclability
  • Reduced costs to the consumer
  • Improved carbon emissions profile
  • Improved brand perception

innov8 LABS Top Strategies for Refillable Cosmetics and Personal Care Packaging

We are proud to be able to offer refillable systems to our customers – they are the future and a central part of the circular economy. When it’s time for the customer to re-purchase the product, all they need to do is purchase the refill.

  • Depending on the product, they typically contain 50-75% less plastic than ordinary packs.
  • Products that can be concentrated/dilute at home mean less water needs to be transported.  This, along with more compact packaging, means fewer trucks on the road and less emissions.
  • In addition to reducing unnecessary plastic, customers can save on retail prices.  On average, we note approximately 20% of savings can be passed onto customers. 

Some of our current reusable and refillable options include:

  1. Refill pouches and tubes.
  2. Refill Pods and Modular Packaging Systems
  3. Glass Refills and fully re-usable aluminium bottles. 

Innov8 LABS Reuse and Refill Goals

It’s evident that one most effective ways to meaningfully reduce plastic use for good is to shift to reusable and refillable packaging. We understand that the refillable solutions we offer must be effective, convenient, and affordable to be truly embraced.  We have also learned that refillable packaging must be designed specifically for each product and product category. 

As part of our commitment to innovation and sustainability, our R&D team are continuously challenging our existing designs, materials, and packaging solutions.  We are focused on the future of packaging.  Right now, we are continuing to test and refine our packaging and offer new and better refillable solutions and formats that will benefit our clients and the end consumer.  We have learned a lot over the past number of years, and we have benefited from experience, experimentation and real word feedback. 

We’re at an exciting stage where we believe we can build momentum and truly make a difference.  We can’t do it alone: we need buy-in from our clients, retailers, transport providers, suppliers, and end consumers.  Governments must also help promote innovation and investment.  innov8 LABS will continue to do what we can to help promote a refill and reuse revolution. 

Contact our team to find out more about how our refillable solutions can be part of your journey.