There’s been much talk of the harmful effects of plastic on wildlife and our environment, thanks in no small part to Sir David Attenborough and his illumination of the problem on Blue Planet II, back in 2017. Many people have made significant changes to reduce their plastic use and retailers have followed suit to reduce unnecessary packaging and single-use plastic.
There are parallels with the climate change crisis in that fossil fuels are at its heart and its cumulative effects are the big issue. For years, we’ve been burning oil, coal and gas and have been slowly adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Similarly, the plastics we’ve used and thrown away in recent decades have been accumulating – and breaking down into smaller pieces. Just days ago, the New York Times reported that over 1000 tons of microplastics rain down on wilderness areas in the American West, every year. To put that figure into perspective, that’s between 123 million and 300 million plastic bottles worth.
2019 saw the first Plastic-free Beauty day, launched by the ethical haircare brand, We Are Paradoxx and they’ll again be promoting the day in 2020. The beauty industry produces a phenomenal amount of plastic packaging; more than 142 billion units of packaging were created in 2018. While we’d hope that it would all be recycled, the reality is that much of it won’t be and what is recycled, will degrade in terms of quality over time.
A number of beauty companies have been finding ways to avoid using plastic for their products. We Are Paradoxx and Kjaer Weis are two brands who use metals rather than plastics. Lush create solid items, such as shampoo and conditioner bars as well as solid deodorants and bath bombs. Supermarkets and high street brands are making inroads too with all of the major supermarkets (bar Tesco), Boots and Superdrug own-brand cotton buds now using paper rather than plastic for their stems. The Body Shop have started using Community Trade recycled plastic to make the plastic packaging for some of their products and hope to expand the scheme further.
L’Occitane and Lush both offer a plastic packaging collection service. L’Occitane will accept any empty plastic beauty product packaging, regardless of brand and will offer you a 10% discount on their products. Lush accept their packaging back for recycling and will take plastic bottle tops if your local authority isn’t able to recycle them.
It’s heartening to see that the beauty industry is taking positive steps to help tackle the plastic crisis and we’re hopeful that even bigger changes are to come.