How Beauty Brands Are Combating Waste With Sustainable Packaging

In 2022, it’s no wonder why the conversation around sustainability is top-of-mind for beauty brands. With reports signaling a bleak outlook, the onus has been shifted from the consumer back to the companies making accessibility to single-use plastics so easy. Hannah Gay spoke to three Australian brands on the steps they’re taking to challenge the status quo when it comes to sustainable packaging solutions.

The focus on sustainability from within the international beauty community is ever-growing and adapting to parallel public discourse, with changes in product packing at the forefront of consumer demands. According to a report released by The United Nations Environment body in 2018, 400 million tons of plastics are produced by the world every year, over one-third of which is used to create product packaging that is largely single-use only. Of these figures, a mere nine percent of plastics are recyclable.

While excessive plastic waste alone plays havoc on the environment, the lesser known issue remains in that “more than 99 percent of plastics are produced from chemicals derived from oil, natural gas and coal — all of which are dirty, non-renewable resources,” states The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “If current trends continue, by 2050 the plastic industry could account for 20 percent of the world’s total oil consumption.”

So how does this affect the beauty industry? A 2021 report released by The Plant Based Products Council (PBPC) surveying 1054 American adults revealed that 61 percent are more interested in companies using plant-based products. In an interview with, PBPC executive director Jessica Bowman made clear the evidence that consumers want more eco-friendly options. “We’re seeing companies respond to these demands by innovating not only the materials that make up cosmetic products but also the materials that those products come in… Renewable, plant-based materials can be used for the beauty industry’s packaging needs and serve as a solution to many of the environmental and economic challenges presented by traditional plastic packaging.”

Much like their consumer brand counterparts, salon-stocked brands are uptaking the responsibility in droves. Dermlogica recently made headlines for its transition to a mono-material pump across its cleansing range. The move, which involves the use of the ‘Future’ pump by Aptar and is made entirely out of recyclable polyethylene (PE), is the first of its kind for an internationally acclaimed beauty brand. Cosmeceutical brand Medik8 holds a 360-degree approach to sustainability with an ethos deeply rooted in producing products designed to improve the skin with as little detriment as possible to the environment.

Notably the vast majority of brands used by Australian aestheticians boast a commitment to sustainability, whether in the form of environmentally-friendly packaging, or otherwise. However, a lack of familiarity around plastic types, correct recycling methods and the steps involved in producing such plastic in the first place are ongoing issues impacting public understanding and response to these issues, both in Australia and abroad.

[Top to bottom] Synergie Skin, INIKA, and The Secret are three brands working toward a greener future

For Synergie Skin founder Terri Vinson, sourcing sustainable solutions is top of mind for 2022 as she follows through on her ‘Clean Science’ philosophy. The brand, which boasts a line-up of highly efficacious skincare, recently announced updates to its product packaging – a goal that sat on Terri’s wish list through COVID delays and the need to pass through various regulatory bodies.

“We have been sourcing smarter packaging solutions for a number of years, but last year we decided to give Synergie Skin a total sustainable makeover, and begin a rollout of our ‘new look’ environmentally friendly range.” As part of the roll-out, the brand is using petroleum-free inks as they “do not contain any crude oil.” Instead, Terri says, “vegetable-based inks reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other environmental contaminants such as hazardous chemicals. This is just one of the major steps we’re taking to become a more sustainable brand.” Recyclable glass materials will also be introduced, and all eCommerce orders will continue to be packed in biodegradable and compostable material, saying a big ‘sayonara’ to bubble wrap.

The duo behind new-to-market skincare brand, The Secret have launched with an eco-conscious mindset, with all products in their core range made-to-order in an attempt to eliminate waste. Directors and co-founders, Dr Clara Hurst and Dr Deb Cohen-Jones also utilise recyclable glass however, they explain, “have recently taken a look into our packaging and processes to see where we can improve.” In further questioning the women on what prompted them to take action in this area, they responded: “having seen the negative effects of over-consumption of skincare first-hand held a kind of weight on the two of us as owners of a skincare brand. From the outset of creating The Secret Skincare, we decided to make a conscious effort not to let our brand fall into the same vicious cycle.”

Similarly, skincare and cosmetics brand INIKA have reinvented the wheel when it comes to plastic use, announcing that their new premium range is certified Plastic Neutral by Waste Revolution, Australia’s Plastic Neutral Certification Body. “Our new collection has been very carefully redeveloped and packaged using a combination of sustainable materials such as glass, aluminium, card and PCR plastic that are both upcycled and recyclable,” says Tony Rechtman, Chief Executive Officer of Total Beauty Network. “The use of PCR pl astic (i.e. reused or post-consumer recycled plastic) means that we are reusing plastics that would otherwise end up polluting our environment or in landfill.” INIKA, which means ‘little earth’ in Sanskrit, is also taking a community-focused approach by confirming its partnerships with Blaze Aid and Plastic Forests – two Australian charities working to “repurpose the plastic we collect into fence posts for Australian farmers that have been devastated by bushfires and droughts.”

Such innovation has not been met without hurdles, particularly from a time and financial stand-point. For Clara and Deb, the decision to take sustainable packaging measures, while vital, came with considerable challenges: “sustainable options are almost always more expensive than others; you have to be ready and willing to accept some losses in this capacity. As a start-up business, our biggest hurdles have come from trying to source sustainable packaging options. Lack of information, as well as extremely high MOQ’s would be two stand-outs to us.” Tony echoes this sentiment, describing the difficulty the company faced in converting to environmentally-friendly packaging. Tony also argued that “many of the world’s suppliers have not yet caught up with technology in the sustainable space. Making products that are good for the environment and aesthetically appealing to consumers is indeed a challenge.”

“Sustainable options are almost always more expensive than others; you have to be ready and willing to accept some losses in this capacity.”

While the goals of these Australian beauty brands are shared, those at the top remark that the industry is still slow to catch onto change. “We need the industry to work together towards a common goal – as suppliers, manufacturers, brands, retailers and consumers – to make sustainable packaging easier and more affordable to source, and to affect the environmental changes the world needs,” Tony says.

For The Secret duo, further training on the topic is required to get teams up-to-speed. “Beauty manufacturers, packaging manufacturers in particular, would benefit from taking an educational approach on their websites in regards to sustainable options. Having the information so readily available to brands would help significantly to inspire taking a sustainable approach.”

This article originally appeared in the March-April 2022 issue of Professional Beauty.

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