Widely engineered by plastic and chemicals, the beauty and personal care industry is one of the roots of environmental destruction. Whilst some brands are actively cleaning up the industry, too many others are hiding behind flawed eco-creds and empty green promises. We are taking a closer look at the core issues making greenwashing so common in the beauty and personal care industry.
Today, the shelves are dominated by plastic and unsustainably packaged products. The standard shelf life of most beauty and personal care products means that after a couple of months, plastic tubes and bottles are discarded only to be replaced by new ones. Introducing recycled and recyclable plastic has done little to help end the problem of plastic pollution. With only 9% of all virgin plastic having been recycled, the recycling model is not enough to stop the loop of plastic waste and its disastrous consequences on the environment.
As more re-usable and refillable options are introduced, it is important to acknowledge that reusable plastic will still find its way into landfill, whether in a week or several years.
As trends come and go, overconsumption is at its highest today. With brands encouraging and driving impulse buying, having the latest product now prevails on buying what’s needed. The ‘collectible’ aspect of beauty and personal care products makes it easy for consumers to hoard and keep adding products to their shelves. This ultimately generates waste, throwing away products that are often unused or unfinished.
Looking at ingredients is also a great way to determine how ‘clean’ a brand really is. Popular amongst the industry giants, using a new and improved eco-friendly packaging misleads consumers into thinking their formulas are also green and clean. The most widely used chemicals in beauty and personal care are petrochemicals, which means their origin and/or method of production is reliant on petrol. Extracting and refining these ingredients is extremely polluting, and wrapping them in sustainable packaging does nothing to counter their unsustainable nature.
As the industry continues to grow, there should be a sense of responsibility for both established and new brands to do better. With greater means, established brands have the resources to find alternatives and be a driving force for sustainability, whilst newer brands have the option to add to existing problems or offer solutions.