Sustainability of cosmetics packaging progresses slowly

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Sustainability of cosmetics packaging progresses slowly

Cosmetic companies are making slow progress in reducing their packaging footprints, says Organic Monitor. Although the cosmetics industry has become preoccupied with green initiatives, few steps have been made to tackle the environmental impact of packaging, the market research firm says.

As far as packaging sustainability is concerned, most developments are occurring in ecodesign, reveals a recent research by Organic Monitor. Actually, many brands are focusing on the reduction of packaging materials by changing design structures.

Less material but more products

Sustainable design is epitomized by SOU, a mass-market brand recently launched by Natura Brasil. SOU toiletries and skin care products are housed in flexible packaging that have 70% less plastic than rigid plastic containers of the same volume.
As a consequence, most changes in packaging design are only leading to an incremental decrease in packaging materials. This is not so bad since, according to the OECD, packaging comprises over half of all household waste in developed countries.

In some cases, the reduction in packaging material may be impressive. Unilever, for instance, introduced a new ‘compressed’ can for a number of its deodorant brands earlier this year. The deodorant cans are about a third smaller, reducing packaging material costs as well as transportation costs.

However, there are many cases where the ecological benefits from less packaging material are offset by higher unit sales. “More radical solutions involving materials are necessary to make significant changes to the packaging impact of cosmetic products,” underlines the market research firm.

Few new material developments

According to Organic Monitor, relatively few developments are occurring in packaging materials. Although some cosmetic brands are experimenting with sustainable materials like bamboo and wood, plastic packaging still prevails.

Plant-based plastics, once hailed because of their biodegradable nature, have yet to make headway in cosmetic applications. Some companies like Procter & Gamble are using hybrid polymers to overcome the limitations of bioplastics. Its Pantene Pro-V Nature Fusion packaging is mainly made from biopolymers sourced from sugar cane.

However, Organic Monitor considers that few companies have managed to innovate with green packaging. “A closed loop system whereby waste is used as raw materials is considered the way forward for many cosmetic brands taking the green road.”

To further explore this issue, Organic Monitor has placed sustainable packaging at the core of the upcoming Latin American (18-20 September 2013, São Paulo) and European (21-23rd October 2013, Paris) editions of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit. Discussion topics include environmental impact of packaging, ecodesign innovations, novel packaging materials, bioplastics in cosmetics, and green packaging success stories; papers will be given by Natura Brasil, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Arkema, Selerant, Aptar, ABIHPEC, etc.

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