The Beauty Industry’s Waste Problem

The Beauty Industry’s Waste Problem

Waste in Beauty

The beauty industry has been a major contributor to the overall global plastic waste issue. The problem of packaging is exacerbated by the use of mixed materials (paper, fabric, or metal fused with plastic) which makes recycling extremely difficult.

How Much Waste the Beauty Industry Creates Per Year

Every year, the beauty and personal care industry generates more than 120 billion units of packaging, the vast majority of which is not fully recyclable. In 2018, nearly 7.9 billion rigid plastic units were produced in the United States solely for beauty and personal care products.

The global cosmetics market is expected to generate approximately US$ 341.1 billion in 2020, rising to US$ 560.50 billion by 2030. This is undoubtedly a plastic pollution source that must be addressed.

How to Cut Down on Beauty Waste &  Sustainable Beauty Hacks

What can Brands Can Do? 

Despite an increased emphasis on environmental sustainability, critics claim that the beauty and skin care industries are not doing enough to reduce waste and plastic consumption. Waste is built into the beauty business model, just as it is in the apparel industry. 

However, most beauty waste-reduction efforts have focused on packaging while ignoring other sources. Waste is also produced by formula testers, unsold or returned products, and items that expire in warehouses or on store shelves. Compounding the problem is a lack of data on how much waste occurs, as well as a lack of solutions for better waste management. 

With retailers returning unsold inventory to brands, expired or discontinued products being discarded, and unused products sitting in customers' homes, it's impossible to determine the true waste figures in the beauty industry.

A few emerging brands that specialize in personalized, made-to-order beauty products and their business model can help to alleviate the problem. Their potential impact is dependent not only on consumer buy-in but also on their ability to shift the industry more broadly. 

Custom production that provides another way for consumers to purchase more products is unlikely to reduce overall waste, but it helps to nudge the industry to reevaluate how it operates and encourages consumers to demand change from their favorite beauty brands. Personalization brands are bringing the beauty industry to an eco-friendly future.

A few environmental friendly approaches are:

  • paper packaging
  • no water formula
  • consumer segmentation to personalization
  • made-to-order production

What Consumers Can Do?

Thankfully, there are ways to use cosmetics and personal care items while lowering individuals' plastic consumption. Here are some suggestions.

  • Keep in mind that the best packaging is none at all. “Naked” products with minimal packaging are very eco-friendly.
  • When shopping for cosmetics, look for options with minimal or no plastic packaging, as well as stores that will refill containers.
  • You can save money and reduce packaging by experimenting with do-it-yourself (DIY) personal care products at home.
  • If you must buy something packaged in plastic, buy in bulk or in larger containers. Smaller containers or single-serve pouches mean your personal care products contain a lot more plastic and less product. 
  • Set personal packaging standards. Choose products that have recyclable packaging and are ecologically friendly.  
  • Glass is infinitely recyclable without compromising its integrity, making products made of glass a practical option. Metal packaging, such as steel or aluminum, is also completely recyclable.
  •  Cardboard and cork are good biodegradable solutions, and there are many innovative solutions in the works, such as packaging made from seaweed or mushrooms.
  • Explore waterless beauty and cosmetic products. Use bar soap instead of a plastic bottle filled with liquid, or try a shampoo bar. The future of eco-friendly beauty is in bar-form. When water is removed from the equation, a new world of possibilities emerges. It reduces bacterial growth, reduces shipping weight, and eliminates the need for plastic packaging. Shampoo and conditioner bars, lotion bars, facial scrub bars, deodorant bars, shaving bars, massage bars, and other products are now available. The best part is that the majority of these are wrapped in paper.
  • Embrace products that have reusable packaging or containers. You probably already have many products that can be used instead of single-use ones. Consider using washcloths, towels, washable cotton pads, facial sponges, and reusable cloth pads instead.
  • Adopt a capsule beauty routine. Less is more, and more is less. People have a tendency to stockpile beauty products, buying things on sale or on a whim, resulting in a bathroom cabinet or drawer crammed with products, the majority of which will never be used up before expiring and being discarded. Resist the urge. Purchase only what you adore and reach for on a daily basis.
  • Use it all up. Commit to using up the products you purchase, just as you might commit to wearing out your clothes. Discover fun new looks by repurposing items from your collection that you've previously overlooked. Know your products expiration dates, and make sure you consume all of them before they are due. When purchasing beauty and personal products, buy smarter.

However, many products contain two types of plastics. Due to their size and the internal components of pumps, plastic hand pumps used on soap bottles and lotion products, as well as small caps and closures used on smaller products like moisturizer tubes and lip balm, often cause a variety of issues when it comes to recycling.

As consumers, we can use our voices to help normalize the presence of ethical and sustainable beauty options in the long run. If we are willing to change our relationship with the clothing industry for the sake of the planet, we can very much do the same with our toiletries. 

Let us normalize this change in order to save our one and only true home. The Earth is the only planet that can sustain human life. So, might as well consider it in every aspect of every industry in the world. Our habits and actions will shape the future.

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