Does the industry need a kick start to get green packaging in gear?

By Simon Pitman contact

- Last updated on GMT

Does the industry need a kick start to get green packaging in gear?
Although many initiatives have been introduced by cosmetics companies to reduce their carbon footprint in recent years, new research suggests packaging is an area where things are still lagging behind.

There are a few frontrunners when it comes to sustainablity, according to market research company Organic Monitor, but the environmental impact of cosmetic and personal care packaging has been overlooked by many players who are invariably challenged by technical obstacles and the higher costs associated with such initiatives.

One company that is bucking this trend is Brazil-based naturals player Natura, which has made many green initiatives in recent years, but has also completed the picture by stressing eco-friendly packaging as part of its product development.

Natura’s Sou brand leads the way in green packaging

According to Organic Monitor, Natura’s new Sou skin care brand is the latest line out of the product development stable and has been developed with a clear emphasis on green packaging by incorporating 70 per cent less plastic packaging than standard containers of the same size.

Indeed, less packaging materials is proving to be the most popular means of reducing the environmental impact of plastics packaging, mainly because it also helps to reduce the amount of raw material used.

But what is often holding back this strategy for packaging designers is the fact that lightweighting the packaging often means that it is technically more challenging to produce and can often raise the unit price of the packaging by unit.

Alternative natural packaging materials

A few other companies are also experimenting with more sustainable materials, the market researcher points out, with materials such as bamboo and wood being occasionally incorporated into some brands’ packaging.

But these are the exceptions to the general rule, as ‘relatively few’ such developments with respect to packaging materials are currently hitting the market – with, once again, higher costs often proving the major reason to the low uptake.

Plant-based bioplastics are still on the horizon as an alternative packaging material, but Organic Monitor points out that there remains few examples of it on the market = P&G’s use of hybrid polymers for its Pro-V Nature fusion packaging being one of the few exceptions.

However, P&G’s major rival Unilever could be about to gear up to some big new initiatives, having started an overhaul of its environmental footprint with a promise to focus on packaging design that has been kicked off with the launch of a new compressed can for its deodorant portfolio that uses significantly less packaging material.

According to Unilever, the packaging is about one third of the size, reduces material and transportation costs and reduces the overall carbon footprint of the product significantly.

Recycling, instead of land fill

Manufacturing the packaging is only a part of the carbon footprint equation though, with recycling being the icing on the cake, but also one that proves to be one of the biggest challenges, as recycling options invariably depend on what is available to the consumer on a localized level.

To ensure that recycling takes places, a number of companies have introduced their own ‘in house’ recycling initiatives, with companies such as Estee Lauder’s Organix brand, and oral care brand Tom of Maine introducing programs to ensure their packaging can be recycled.

Organic Monitor says that many of these themes will prove a focal point to the forthcoming Sustainable Cosmetics Summits taking place in Latin America and Europe. For further details, please click here​.

Related topics: Packaging & Design, Packaging

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