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Plastic Wastage In Beauty Is A Real Problem—Here’s What The Industry Is Doing About It

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Hasina Khatib

With climate change no longer a distant possibility looming on the horizon, it has become necessary to examine every aspect of our lives to weed out the culprits. While plastic straws draw ire for the state of the world’s landfills—India alone is said to be producing a formidable amount of 3.3 million metric tons of plastic waste every year, according to studies—they aren’t the only catalysts. The beauty industry is said to produce 120 billion units of packaging around the globe every single year, usually dominated by non-recyclable plastic boxes, pots, and pans, as well as an alarming amount of superfluous packaging in a bid to make products more appealing to customers.

The unchecked usage of plastic and the use-and-dispose nature of products is said to contribute generously to the 11 million tonnes of plastic making its way into our oceans. Take a step back, and you’ll find that this paints an ominous picture for our future on the planet—if our current rate of plastic consumption is allowed to continue, it is predicted that we’ll have more plastic than fish in our oceans by the year 2050.

It is a sobering statistic that calls for immediate reform within the beauty industry. So, how can you do your bit to become a conscious consumer and dial back your plastic footprint? For starters, it helps to make the switch to brands that will help you reduce the amount of plastic in your everyday beauty routine. Ahead, we take a look at the brands fighting the good fight:

How Beauty Brands Are Working On Reducing Plastic Wastage?

The beauty industry’s plastic problem is a multi-faceted one, which means that the solution would need to follow a multi-pronged approach as well. The first step comes from big corporations working on overhauling their production processes to minimise the usage of plastic in all forms of packaging. A heartening step in that direction has been taken by WOW Skin Science’s first-of-its-kind paper tube for its Vitamin C Brightening Face Wash. For co-founder Manish Chowdhary, the inspiration came from the need to negate the non-biodegradable nature of plastic packaging. “In the bid to attract consumer attention, most beauty brands spend extensively on plastic packaging and wrappings that end up in the landfill. Since plastic is non-biodegradable, it remains on the surface for hundreds and thousands of years, effectively choking the soil and the planet. This is where our collective responsibilities lie,” he explains.

In order to follow through on its eco-conscious vision, the brand looked for innovative solutions for its packaging; “We decided on a paper-based tube after extensive research and decided on virgin kraft paper, a 100% recyclable option, for our bestselling face wash that reduces plastic usage by 45% in the tube sleeve,” he explains. Based on the response, the brand will be employing the same approach across its portfolio of products.

While corporations are holding up one end of the boat, the other needs to come from smaller brands that can be more nimble with revamping their processes. For Megha Asher, chief operating officer and co-founder of Juicy Chemistry, this has meant moving away from mere lip service. While the brand had initially started a recycling rewards program to incentivise consumers to return used bottles and tubs to be further recycled but eventually hit upon a stumbling block. She elaborates, “The logistics and data we gathered made us realise that the recycling program was not solving our plastic problem. Consequently, we brainstormed and recently launched a Plastic Neutral Program in partnership with The Disposal Co. to recycle more plastic than we consume.”

Elsewhere, younger brands are heralding in a wave of change by opting for product innovations, such as Code Beauty. Founded by celebrity makeup artist Bianca Louzado, the brand offers a wide range of plastic alternatives, such as eco-conscious mascara wands and lipstick applicators constructed from bamboo to ensure minimal impact on the planet after they are disposed of.

How You Can Help Solve The Beauty Industry’s Plastic Problem?

It is clear that the beauty industry’s plastic footprint cannot be erased overnight—it will require concerted effort along every step of the chain, from multinational corporations who can affect change at the macro level to younger brands that can opt for innovative solutions and change consumer behaviour in everyday life. The last link in the change comes from you, the consumer who can choose to create real change by not just demanding better from the brands you choose but also taking small steps every single day towards a planet-friendly beauty routine.

Asher advises looking for eco-friendly options wherever possible, and says, “A tub may seem less convenient than a bottle with the pump but bear in mind that the pump is a lot harder to recycle.” Opting for eco-friendly accessories such as linen bath mitts and wooden toothbrushes can also serve as a helpful step forward. “What makes an initiative truly effective is when consumers participate as well because it is a two-way relationship. It is a 50:50 partnership and both parties need to be equally invested in ensuring that plastic isn’t consumed at a rapid pace,” she signs off.