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What can beauty brands do about plastic waste?

Plastic packaging has staying power, even in a zero-waste beauty economy.

In last week’s DUviews I was talking about the momentum that aluminum and steel and stainless steel packaging are gaining in the cosmetics and personal care marketplace.

Understandably, this metal packaging movement has some folks who work in plastics a bit concerned. But plastic isn’t going away and that’s exactly why it’s been villainized in the first place. If in our zeal for a zero-waste economy we insist on plastic-free beauty brands, all we will be left with is plastic waste.

Popular Personal Care Brands are Opting Out of Plastic

And the zeal for zero-waste beauty is very real. As is the shift to plastic-free beauty packaging.

Just this month, Tom’s of Maine (one of the brands in Colgate-Palmolive’s personal care product portfolio) moved the Natural Strength Deodorant line to plastic-free packaging.

And these sorts of changes have real consumer appeal and can put a terrific dent in corporate waste-reduction goals. The new Tom’s of Maine packaging will, according to a recent press release, “start reducing plastic waste by over 60 tons this year.”

Tom’s new deodorant packaging is paperboard. But glass and metal materials have similar traction in the shift to a circular beauty economy.

There’s More Than One Way to Recycle Plastic Beauty Packaging

But let’s get back to plastic, because plastic isn’t going anywhere—and that is precisely the problem and the promise of plastic.

The fact that conventional plastic is not degradable, along with the fact that it loses integrity after just a few trips through the recycling process, are what make plastic a readily disposable material, which makes it waste.

If all the plastic that humanity has created thus far is waste, our only option now is to ensure that it doesn’t disrupt the rhythms of the natural world.

One of our two best zero-waste options is to find ways to keep using plastic, to retrieve it, to return it, to recycle it, and to reuse it.

If you’re concerned about packaging and sustainability, you’ve heard about TerraCycle and that purpose-driven company’s dedication to collect and reprocess hard-to-recycle materials.

Our other zero-waste option, given all the existing and forthcoming plastic in the world, is to prove that it is not impossible to degrade plastic.

Beauty makers are already working on this and investing sophisticated new technologies.

In mid-2019, L’Oréal acquired a minority stake in the green chemistry company Carbios; and together, they’re collaborating to scale biorecycling technology.

Carbios specializes in what’s called bioplasturgy: the use of biological mechanisms to process plastics. (There are certain medical applications that will still call for newly created plastic but that’s not the case in the beauty business.)

The Future of Beauty Packaging is not One-Sort-Fits-All

It will take time to perfect and scale and implement solutions that will eliminate not plastic but plastic waste. And in the meantime, metal beauty packaging will have another moment in the sun.

You see, ours is not an all-or-nothing world. Indie beauty and Corporate beauty coexist and so can metal and plastic packaging …and the same holds true for glass and paper, for wood and ceramics, and cloth and any number of other materials.

What does the future of beauty packaging look like from your perspective?

Please do leave a comment, I’m sure we have a lot to discuss!

Thanks for watching and I’ll see you here next time on DUviews.

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this DUviews item was originally posted to LinkedIn and now appears on


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