This Is Plastics: Circular Beauty II: Plastics Help Beauty Brands Reach Sustainability Goals


Circular Beauty II: Plastics Help Beauty Brands Reach Sustainability Goals

Learn how plastics are essential to helping beauty brands big and small advance sustainability goals.


Responding to market trends and consumer demands, brands across the beauty industry have sought to limit their environmental footprint and champion sustainability. Nearly 76 percent of consumers who shop for personal beauty products intentionally seek out sustainably made products. Though some brands have aimed to do so by substituting plastics with alternative materials like glass, paper or metals, these moves ignore plastics’ sustainability advantages. Plastic products are produced with less resources and are lighter weight, which results in fewer emissions during transportation than alternative materials. Once used, advanced recycling technologies can transform plastics into new products. Thankfully—from hair care to skin care and more—brands big and small are realizing that plastics are ideal to create more sustainable product operations.

Skincare companies can repurpose plastics to increase recyclability and reduce emissions

Skincare companies are engaging in innovative ways to recycle plastics. Farmacy—a farm-to-face skin care brand—has set a goal of 100 percent waste-free packaging by 2022 and honors this pledge by recapturing the empty containers of customers with TerraCycle waste-free boxes to recycle packaging parts that are not recyclable through curbside programs. Farmacy has also launched a 10 percent Waterless Vitamin C Serum that is fully recyclable by using mono-material polypropylene, a type of plastic polymer. To reach sustainability goals, the beauty industry requires plastics, along with innovative ways to repurpose them, rather than switching to less sustainable alternatives.

Dermalogica, another skincare brand, is using plastics to increase its products’ recyclability. The company examined their best-selling facial cleanser containers and realized that metal springs originally included in their pumps made them more complex to recycle. In turn, Dermalogica partnered with packaging company Aptar to create a pump with a spring made out of polyethylene plastic instead of metal, allowing the entire pump to be recycled. Even further, plastics’ lightweight nature means Dermalogica can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with shipping and transportation, providing additional sustainability benefits.

Hair salons use plastics to promote sustainable solutions  

While the beauty industry at large has acknowledged its waste challenges, hair care companies have also found ways to both reduce waste and transform their plastic waste into more valuable products, promoting circularity. Green Circle Salons, a hair salon chain based in Toronto, Ontario, partners with over 40 companies across North America to recycle and repurpose up to 95 percent of their beauty waste. In the past, Green Circle Salons handled hair waste by repurposing it into bioplastics, which have helped clean up oil spills. Green Circle Salons still turns hair follicles into bioplastic pellets, but they have since shifted towards using these bioplastic pellets to manufacture items like mirrors, shelves or brushes that can go right back into salons.

In addition to using bioplastic pellets, Green Circle Salons is also collaborating with a researcher at Virginia Tech to use both recycled plastic and collected hair fibers from haircuts to make a new and stronger type of plastic. This new plastic can then be converted into recycling bins specifically repurposed for hair salons. Instead of unnecessarily wasting useful materials, Green Circle Salons is leveraging the power of plastics to help the industry become more sustainable.

Repurposing plastics in personal care products helps build a circular economy

Beyond helping smaller brands promote sustainability, innovative initiatives like TerraCycle and its infinitive Loop™ are leveraging the power of plastics to promote sustainability and circularity among big-box brands. As evident in the name, Loop™ focuses on finding “closed-loop solutions” for a circular economy that creates additional applications for plastics beyond their initial use. By partnering with personal care companies like Gillette and Pantene, Loop™ offers consumers the chance to send in empty bottles, tubes and containers for proper sterilization. Once sterilized, these packaging containers can be sent back to their manufacturers to be refilled. Along with many big-box partners, TerraCycle and Loop™ have the ability to reach a wide consumer base and obtain sustainable solutions with plastics.

In addition to partnering with Loop™, Pantene has been collaborating with the recycling industry to develop clear polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles that can be recycled more easily. PET plastics also tend to be lightweight yet durable, reducing GHG emissions. The company has recently launched its first line of PET plastics by switching the Costco Advanced Care shampoo and conditioner into these lighter and easily recyclable PET clear plastic bottles. Big-box personal care companies can unleash the power of plastics by partnering with initiatives like TerraCycle and Loop™ and by increasing collaboration with plastics industry leaders to develop sustainable plastic solutions.   

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