Summers are getting hotter, waters are rising, and landfills are crowding. The state of climate change and plastic pollution can no longer be ignored, and the personal care industry is a huge part of it.
With all the single-use packaging that a perfect beauty routine can generate (it’s estimated over 120 billion units of beauty packaging are produced annually, and most are not recyclable), buyers are looking to beauty and personal care brands to create impact. So, when brands tell us they’re doing all they can to help the environment, it’s a reason to get excited. After all, they probably know what they’re talking about, right?
Many brands are doing good things, and we shouldn’t undermine that. Others, though, may be making “green” claims that are vague, misleading, or ineffective at actually making an authentic difference in protecting our beautiful planet.
The key to knowing what’s really helping? Study up on your sustainable labeling terms!
First, eliminating a product entirely is the only real “zero waste”option. The term “sustainable” gets tossed around in beauty, but the truth is there is no product that generates zero waste and uses zero resources. Eliminating a product is the best impact a brand can make, although eliminating aspects of a product or its packaging is much more common.
Reusing packaging is the next best thing. A reusable package will be used over and over, reducing waste. Some brands have begun to participate in programs like LOOP to make options like this available to their customers. There is still a long way to go in order to reach massive adoption, scale, and environmental impact with this type of solution, but there’s hope on the horizon as more people and brands start to engage with this new kind of offering.
What are recycled or recyclable materials, anyway? The words “recycled materials” and “recyclable” are found all over the beauty aisle, so how is there so much waste in beauty? The answer is that these words are so vague and broad that their use doesn’t guarantee any real impact.
A package made with recycled materials used reused resources at some point in the process. This is much better than using “virgin” materials. Be sure to note the percentage of recycled materials used, though. If it’s negligible, then the brand is probably recycling the bare minimum for marketing purposes.
Also, a “recyclable” package may actually be difficult-to-recycle through traditional programs. Aluminum and uncoated paper are the easiest materials to recycle, followed by plastics #1 and #2, glass, and cartons. They are typically recyclable through municipal recycling, but even these materials aren’t guaranteed to be recycled.
If the packaging is not recyclable via your municipality, sometimes brands will choose to make it recyclable with a private recycling program, like TerraCycle.
“Biodegradable” and “compostable” aren’t silver bullets. One might think that dumping a biodegradable or compostable container causes no harm, since it will break down in the landfill. It’s quite the opposite. Landfills don’t have the right conditions for these materials, so they behave like regular plastic.
Other terms should be considered with research and scrutiny. Any other terms for packaging, like “bioplastic,” “plant-based,” or “renewable” should be researched because their benefits change individually. For example, bioplastic reduces fossil fuel usage, but at what cost? It’s possible that the plants used to make the plastic were grown on land that was previously a rainforest.
It’s important that media outlets, as a consumer resource, take a side in this fight towards sustainability by educating their audience on these terms. Armed with this knowledge, buyers can vote with their dollars to show brands they want sustainable products, not sustainable marketing.
A perfect example of one of these brands that media outlets should be talking way more about is Eva NYC. For starters, your hair will love it. Free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates, you can be sure you’re treating your hair right.
Being conscious of all living things, Eva NYC is also certified vegan and cruelty free. And with most of its packaging in aluminum, their products can be widely recycled by common consumers with their free local curbside recycling programs. Not stopping there, Eva NYC even ensured that any other packaging that couldn’t be converted to aluminum (like pumps and triggers) could be recycled through their program with TerraCycle.
Whether we are consumers, brands, or recycling companies, we are all playing on the same team. We’re all fighting for our future and our planet’s health. Working together, we can create the future we dream of.