In the wake of COP26 and Eco week, it seems the subject on everyone’s minds is climate change and particularly what we can do to help.
You would be forgiven for thinking that what we eat, how we travel and how we power our homes are the biggest factors and the main things we can make changes too, but many of us forget the effects of the beauty industry and our consumption of cosmetics.
While in comparison to the dramatic consequences of the burning of fossil fuels, or the mass deforestation caused by animal agriculture, the beauty industry may not be the main culprit but it definitely makes a hefty contribution. The amount of beauty waste produced is eye-watering. According to a study by Zero Waste Europe, the use of beauty and personal care products produced 142 billion units of packaging in a single year. That is a lot of single-use packaging headed to landfill.
How much of an effect does the beauty industry really have on the planet and how can we as both businesses and consumers make a significant change?
Like many industries, there are a number of ways in which the beauty industry contributes to climate change. One of the key issues is packaging, in fact around 70% of the beauty industry’s waste comes from packaging alone.
According to the latest reports from Zero Waste Week, beauty packaging amounts to 120 billion units every year. That includes plastic, paper, glass, and metals, all of which end up in landfills year after year. Many would resort to the solution of recyclable packaging, however this is not always an option as most cosmetic packaging is made from mixed materials and is complex and time consuming to separate. So much so that around 56% of British people admit to not recycling cosmetic packaging for this reason.
Whilst reducing unnecessary packaging and making recycling an easier and more efficient process is one way some brands are choosing to tackle the environmental impact of their products, the beauty industry’s waste issue does not stop at packaging.
Waste is generated by formula testers, unsold or returned products and items that expire in warehouses or on store shelves. With a vast number of retailers sending unsold inventory back to brands; expired or discontinued products being sent to the landfill; and unused products sitting on customers’ vanity shelves, it’s impossible to pinpoint the true numbers of the beauty industry’s waste. Co-founder and CEO of Prose, Arnaud Plas, estimates that between 20 and 40 per cent of beauty products, depending on the category, end up as waste.
It is clear that beauty’s waste issue is a compex one to tackle, however the dramatic effects it has on our planet make it an all the more pressing challenge and one that is not impossible to improve.
Understanding the effects that our choices ultimately have on the environment can be overwhelming and can often leave many of us feeling helpless and confused as to how we can help. However, small changes can make a big difference.
Many issues plague the cosmetic industry, from waste to overconsumption and farming practices that harm the ecosystem. However, beauty brands are taking notice of the fact that consumers are opting for sustainability. Therefore, some brands are taking steps to be more ethical, transparent, and environmentally safe.
Choosing natural beauty products is one way we can be kinder to the environment and kinder to our bodies too. Cosmetics with toxic ingredients can cause irreparable damage to your skin, health, and the environment. From bath products to make-up and sunscreens, there are so many cosmetics made with natural ingredients available.
Buying from sustainable beauty brands is another simple way to adjust the way we shop whilst making a big impact on the environment. Look out for the brands that operate on sustainable practices like using renewable energy sources, minimalist or recycled paper packaging, and sustainable palm oil.
Finally, choosing products that generate ‘zero waste’ or far less waste than many products on the market. A number of brands now produce products such as shampoo bars and even toothpaste tablets that eliminate unnecessary bottles and packaging.
Whilst there are many ways we can improve our impact on the environment, making small and simple changes that can become everyday habits can have a substantial effect on reducing beauty waste.
A number of new and existing beauty brands are working hard to have a more positive impact on the environment whilst creating effective beauty products. With some offering personalised beauty products that limit products stuck in warehouses and often ending up in landfill and others using discarded ingredients from food companies and turning them into luxurious skin care products, there are tons of ways to shop smarter.
Here are some of our favourite beauty brands that are doing all the right things!
The circular economy sits at the heart of everything UpCircle does. With the name hinting at ‘upcycling’, or the process of making something better from things that already exist. Their ultimate mission is to make the world better by transforming ingredients that would otherwise be discarded into natural, organic beauty products.
UpCircle Beauty makes formulas with ingredients from food companies that were being discarded — repurposing 8,000 mandarin oranges to date for its toner, for example, and over 350 tonnes of used coffee grounds in its eye cream and exfoliators.
The Citrus Blend – Coffee Face Scrub offers gentle exfoliation for dry and dehydrated skin using rosehip, sweet orange and lemon verbena essential oils. It is also 100 percent vegan, cruelty-free and UK-made. Housed in a glass jar with an aluminium cap in fully recyclable packaging.
Pure Culture is a science based skincare brand that uses personalisation to offer the best skincare results whilst limiting the production of unnecessary products and limiting waste.
An at-home test kit collects information about a customer’s pH balance, living bacteria of their skin and other variables. This information is then combined with the results of a questionnaire about lifestyle factors, such as diet and sleep, to determine personalised formulations for products including cleansers and moisturisers.
From clean ingredients to sustainable packaging, Pure Culture takes their environmental impact seriously. Their Custom Skincare Set offers the perfect selection of products tailored to all of your individual skincare needs. Featuring a custom cleanser, serum and moisturizer and promising to tackle issues from fine lines and wrinkles to clogged pores and breakouts.
L’Oréal’s first internally incubated niche brand, Seed Phytonutrients launched in 2018 and has had a huge impact on the green beauty market. From their organic, locally-sourced ingredients to their recyclable, compostable, and paper-based packaging. The company partners with innovative recycling company TerraCycle to ensure every part of every bottle, including the mixed materials pump dispenser, is able to be repurposed. They also collaborate with a number of local, family-run businesses, such as Barefoot Botanicals, on their hair, face, and body offerings.
Their Balancing Shampoo Powder is ideal for all hair types and textures and one bottle of this concentrated shampoo is equal to one liter of a traditional shampoo.
The powder formula is infused with sunflower and camelina seed oils which transform into a creamy foam once water is added. Hair is left with beautiful volume, bounce, and shine, and as no gummy thickeners are used and left sitting on your hair, you will likely feel like you can wash it less often, result!