As is the case with many fast moving consumer products, packaging is invariably the most significant part of the carbon footprint for beauty products, but the market researcher says that even companies focused on green beauty continue to neglect packaging as part sustainable product development.
Even among natural and organic certified beauty providers, sustainability plans have tended to focus on the sourcing of ingredients, the implementing fair trade and ethical trading programs as well as addressing a variety of Corporate Social Responsibility Issues.
Packaging design might not reflect sustainability
When it comes to packaging, often the design will reflect the company ethos, depicting images representing the natural ingredients and using earthy colors invariably associated with all things natural.
Lulling consumers into an even greater sense of security is the fact that many of these products bear natural, organic or fair trade logos that consumers often connect to the packaging, whether it is green or not.
But with consumer interest, awareness and knowledge of ecological products growing all the time, more and more are looking for beauty products that provide the whole ‘green package’ – from the formulation all the way through to the packaging itself.
One of the biggest advances in packaging that could be used bridge this gap is bioplastics. Bioplastics are formed from naturally sourced materials, such as vegetable oils and corn starch, as opposed to petrochemical sources.
Bioplastics are derived from renewable sources
The big advantage is that bioplastics are derived from a renewable source, and, depending on what material they are made from, can also be compostable or biodegradeable.
However, Organic Monitor points out that there remains a number of challenges in specifying bioplastics as part of the packaging for beauty products, especially high heat sensitivity and water permeability.
Although research is ongoing to develop bioplastics that meet these requirements, these challenges have restricted their use to products such as color cosmetics, at the expense of more sensitive formulations such as creams, lotions and shampoos.
Sugarcane polyethylene packaging
However, in answer to this challenge, a Brazil-based company called Braskem has come up with a sugarcane polyethylene packaging material that is garnering an increasingly high profile in the beauty industry on account of the fact that it is compatible with a variety of liquid formulations.
Likewise, as well as being made from a renewable source, it has exactly the same properties as other polyethylenes, which means it is relatively easy to recycle.
Already the packaging material is being used by Brazil natural cosmetics players Natura for a cream hand soap product, while Procter & Gamble has included it as part of the packaging for products in its Pantene Pro V hair care range as well as its Covergirl and Max Factor color cosmetic ranges.
The forthcoming Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, to be held in Paris, 18 – 20 October, will devote a considerable part of the program to discussing the issue of sustainable packaging materials.
A series of workshops and presentation will explore areas including recycling and reducing the amount of packaging materials that companies use. For more information, click here.