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- The beauty industry produces 120 billion units of packaging per year.
- In an effort to combat this, companies have recently been doubling down on sustainable packaging.
- Below, we round up 18 beauty companies that offer reusable or recyclable packaging.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Each year, the beauty industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging — "95% [of which] is thrown out after one use," said Yolanda Cooper, founder of skincare brand We Are Paradoxx, during a recent webinar to mark her Plastic Free Beauty Day initiative.
Luckily, many brands are adopting environmentally-friendly initiatives that are already helping consumers engage in more responsible purchasing and disposal decisions. TerraCycle, for example, partners with companies such as Burt's Bees, L'Occitane, eos, and Living Proof (to name but a few) to recycle beauty packaging that isn't typically accepted curbside. Meanwhile, Loop offers a refill service for brands such as REN, Dermalogica, and Puretto, professionally cleaning the (typically aluminum-based) packaging before topping up your favorite products and shipping them back out to you.
However, experts agree that for significant and long-lasting transitions to occur within the industry, companies themselves need to initiate changes — and, fortunately, some are already making strides in doing so. From big to small, here are 17 personal care brands doing their bit in the world of sustainable packaging.
Most of Neighbourhood Botanicals' products are housed in a recyclable glass or aluminium tin and. Where this isn't possible, the brand strives to use 100%t post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. They're about to launch their zero-waste refill scheme, their shipping materials are entirely plastic-free, and they use carbon-neutral couriers to deliver orders. And if that wasn't enough? Neighbourhood Botanicals states it is the UK's first carbon "negative" beauty brand.
Everist's shampoo and conditioner formulations are waterless, making them smaller and lighter to transport, which produces less carbon emissions. The product is contained in infinitely-recyclable aluminium tubes — which, with their minimalist white design and eye-catching pop of yellow, will look über chic in your shower. As for their plastic caps? Send them back, free of charge, for recycling through Everist's CapBack program. As a final gleam to the halo, the company overall is carbon-neutral and Climate Neutral Certified.
We Are Paradoxx
All the bottles, tins, and lids that this UK brand produces are made from aluminium, meaning 90% of its packaging is plastic-free. (It's just the pesky pumps that are proving a challenge — one We Are Paradoxx continues to work on.) The company is also a member of 1% For The Planet, which sees them donate one percent of their annual revenue to environmental causes, and they work with manufacturing companies that also take steps to reduce their carbon footprint.
While avoiding environmentally unfriendly packaging and product waste, this brand's vitamin C serum capsules still feel totally luxe. Containing the right amount of serum for a single use, the capsules are made from algae and plant-based starch, and colored with food-grade dyes. This makes them 100% biodegradable, so pop them in hot water when you're done and watch them dissolve. Meanwhile, the outer carton is made of recyclable cardboard (although it's so pretty you'll want to keep it), and their shipping packaging is also recyclable.
This Australian brand is earth-friendly in name and nature. Inika means "little earth" in Sanskrit, and their ingredient formulations and product packaging are made of materials Mother Nature would be proud of. The glass bottles and jars in the brand's skincare range are 100% recyclable, and tubes are made of biodegradable sugarcane — just the pumps that are made of plastic. Plus, the lids are made from fully-recyclable aluminium and the boxes that house their chic containers are created with sustainably-sourced FSC (responsibly harvested or recycled) paper.
This newbie brand's debut product, the Performance Crème, comes in a tube made from a blend of low-impact sugarcane compound and sprucewood bi-product obtained from the carpentry industry. And, although the attached pump and cap are plastic, there's no metal components involved, meaning they're fully recyclable. Plus, the brand's shipping envelopes are 100% recycled and recyclable, and they use biodegradable, corn-based packing peanuts for padding.
Whereas some brands can state their packaging is almost plastic-free, Ethique's entire range meets this marker. Everything, down to the "bubble wrap" your products arrive in, is made from paper and/or cardboard sources, and has no plastic coating — making it not only recyclable, but compostable in your own backyard; something the brand actively encourages. It doesn't end there: They take steps when designing packaging to make it as less production-intensive as possible, and the brand is carbon neutral, offsetting 120 percent of their carbon emissions.
This vegan brand states 'it has strived to be better for our planet' since its 1997 launch – and their packaging backs up the claim. In addition to using recyclable glass for some containers and jars, Pacifica incorporates PCR into their plastic bottles and tubes, which saved 500,000 lbs of virgin plastic from going to waste last year alone, and can be recycled afterwards. Products purchased via their website are packed in PCR and paper boxes, and the brand also has a recycling program, whereby customers can print a pre-paid shipping label to send back empties for recycling, and through which they'll earn points towards discounts.
When a brand deliberately names itself to reflect the concept of upcycling, you know they'll bring the eco-friendly goods. This London-based company's gorgeous pastel packaging is 99 percent plastic free: They use glass for bottles and jars, and aluminium for tubes and jar lids – both of which can be recycled. Although their pumps and pipettes are made of plastic, these can be recycled through TerraCycle. Many products are also available as refills so that you can re-use your pump, and everything comes boxed in recyclable cardboard.
MyKirei by Kao
If the pretty packaging wasn't enticing enough, MyKirei's approach to sustainability will lure you in. Their innovative 'Air' bottle design comprises three thin layers of plastic film that are joined together and expand like a balloon, using up to 50 percent less plastic compared to a standard bottle. Nifty, huh? When you're done, switch the pump onto a refill pouch. While their hand and body washes don't come in an Air bottle, they are designed to be infinitely refillable – and all their bottles, pumps, and refill pouches can be recycled through TerraCycle.
REN Clean Skincare
Plastic is used for a large proportion of REN's packaging, but they aim for all of it to meet their 'Zero Waste Pledge' (can be recycled, contains recycled materials, and/or can be reused) by the end of 2021. Currently, one bottle variety is made from plastic otherwise headed to landfill or the incinerator, and can be entirely recycled (including the pump); and another comprises 20 percent reclaimed ocean plastic and 80 percent from recycled plastic bottles. Meanwhile, some jars are made using 100 percent recyclable glass with recyclable plastic caps. They've also ditched plastic sample sachets, have created recycled/recyclable aluminium tubes with removable and recyclable nozzles, and partner with ocean organizations to fight plastic waste.
The Body Shop
This brand may be known for its love of animals, but its affection for the planet is a close rival – with a goal for all packaging to be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2030. Strides are being made: 80 percent of the packaging is technically recyclable now; more than 25 percent of plastic is derived from recycled material (this is set to exceed 50 percent by 2025, and some bottles already comprise 100 percent recycled plastic); they're investigating recyclable pumps; and plan to incorporate more aluminium in place of plastic. The company is also introducing refill stations into stores so customers can top up on various shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, and hand washes.
This British brand's serum bottles are made of glass, 40% of which comes from recycled sources. While some other bottles remain plastic-based to help formulations retain their stability, they comprise post-consumer recycled plastic. Plus, they're slowly introducing refill options. The pump on the Press & Glow Toner can be easily transferred onto a refill bottle and lasts for five swaps. There's no plastic inside their boxes, and all their cardboard is FSC-certified and 100 percent recyclable.
The majority of this brand's products come housed in vibrant, recyclable, green glass casing that will give your bathroom a spa feel. Where glass isn't an option, tubes are made from recyclable sugarcane, and their Water-Lock Moisturizer is available as a refill. Boxes are made from certified paper from sustainably-managed forests, and their ink is created from biodegradable soy. Tata Harper put their money where their mouth is, too: supporting eco-focused charities such as the Climate Reality Project.
These folks commit to only using natural ingredients in products, and this ethos is reflected in much of their packaging. They have a range comprising 100% plastic-free packaging, three of their products are zero waste, and others can be found in recycled/recyclable aluminium or glass casings. Where plastic bottles are used, they're made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of plastic that's widely recycled. Plus, for shipping, the brand has ditched bubble wrap for corrugated cardboard and uses reinforced paper tape, leading to a 90 percent reduction in plastic.
This iconic brand may be over 150 years old, but their approach to sustainability is well and truly modern. Some containers are made from recyclable glass, and 80 percent of their plastic packaging is derived from recycled material. To avoid bottles and jars being thrown away after one use, a variety of their bestsellers are available in refill form. You can also send back empties through their Recycle & Be Rewarded Scheme, which has so far recycled over 11 million units of Kiehl's packaging, and offers rewards such as cash discounts (yes, please).
Herb + Flora
While their product names and designs hark back to Greek mythology, this brand's planet-friendly attitude is anything but ancient. Both skin care products currently on offer — eye gel and face serum — are refillable by simply swapping the inner tube. A large portion of their packaging is made from recycled material, and they're set to incorporate ocean plastic into the mix shortly. Plus, when you're done with your empties, pop them in the post to Herb+Flora's HQ to be recycled by TerraCycle.
Bathing Culture provides sumptuous body wash in a gorgeous refillable glass container. You can order refill containers off the website, or bring your bottles to brick-and-mortar stores for a refill. The wash smells like redwood trees, making it a perfect unisex fragrance you'll love having in your shower.
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