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Here’s How 3 Beauty Brands Are Tackling The Plastic Packaging Issue Head-On

by Lina Lecaro

Sustainable beauty is more than a trendy buzzword. Self-care is a priority for many, but so is caring how the things we use and consume might adversely affect the world. Thankfully, makeup and skincare brands are taking note, turning to locally sourced ingredients and recyclable and refillable packaging to reduce their carbon footprint. The cosmetics industry produces 120 billion units of packaging each year, so buying from brands that consciously design and use recyclable and refillable containers can still have a huge impact.

“We are in a global environmental crisis,” says Christin Powell, cofounder and CEO of skincare brand Kinship. “The personal care and beauty industry is a huge source of plastic refuse—most of which is not truly recyclable and a lot of which ends up in our oceans and landfills.” Kinship uses recycled ocean plastic and post-consumer recycled materials and is on track to use 100 percent recycled plastic or glass packaging by 2023. To date, Kinship has removed over six tons of plastic from the ocean by employing local fishing communities in and around the Java Sea. The brand’s formulas are also largely plant-based and biodegradable.

For makeup brand Axiology, sustainability means transitioning from a linear economy (make thing, use thing, put thing in trash) to a circular economy (make thing with recycled materials, use thing, put anything you didn’t use in compost or recycling bin). “The goal is to mimic nature—to make sure nothing ends up in landfills, incinerators, or the ocean, and can be reused in some fashion,” says Axiology founder Ericka Rodriguez. Axiology’s top sustainable product is a multiuse face crayon called Balmies, which has zero-waste packaging that’s both recyclable and compostable.

Sustainability drives many new brands, but it’s also being embraced by legacy brands such as Shiseido. “This year alone we have introduced two new sustainability innovations from the brand—our Refills and the new WASO collection,” says Jessie Dawes, vice president, integrated marketing strategy and consumer engagement for Shiseido. The eight-piece WASO collection combines Shiseido’s scientific innovations with locally sourced Japanese ingredients and packaging made from upcycled rice husk recycled plastic and Forest Stewardship Council–certified paper. Portions of WASO sales are donated to Shikuwasa farmers in Okinawa, Japan, with the goal of planting 3,000 trees by 2024. Shiseido is also engaged in the development of alternative and biodegradable polymer plastics, and they say that’s just the beginning. “We’re expanding our use of biodegradable materials for cases and packaging while pursuing biomass-based materials, which emit less CO2 than petroleum-derived materials,” says Dawes.

With more brands using eco-friendly materials and ingredients and implementing refill and recycling programs, there’s hope that beauty will become a more sustainable-minded industry overall. 

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