What shoppers – and brands – can do to support packaging sustainability.

It’s no secret that the beauty industry produces massive amounts of consumer waste. TerraCycle has estimated that beauty product packaging is responsible for 120 billion units worldwide each year and, even worse, only 9% of the world’s plastic since 1950 has been recycled. This means that our consumption of beauty products is a massive contributor to an already catastrophic problem.

So what can be done?

Some beauty and personal care companies have already noticed and adjusted their packaging standards to take small steps towards more sustainable practices and according to a recent report consumers are becoming more discerning with how they spend their money, insisting on better environmental practices from brands. they support.

This demand has also led to an increase in greenwashing where brands make green claims about their sustainability and research that are either misleading, vague or completely untrue in an effort to make themselves seem more desirable to conscious consumers.

Meet Novi

A new platform called Novi, co-founded by Kimberly Shenk, is a resource for brands and consumers to help identify what makes packaging sustainable and make more informed choices.

Novi was developed to connect clean cosmetics brands with manufacturers and suppliers who have verified sustainable practices and help them prepare for retail with the best ingredients and packaging they can have while remaining with low impact on the environment.

Local Vancouver clean beauty brand Ilia is one such company that has partnered with Novi and is widely considered a leader in clean beauty beyond Canada. In order to take packaging and product sustainability to another level, Ilia has also partnered with Pact Collective to recycle the hardest to recycle products. People can request a prepaid shipping label to send Ilia up to 10 beauty products per month from any brand for proper disposal.

Sephora has also jumped on the bandwagon with Novi, even going so far as to create its own packaging standards and restricted substances list.

But when it comes to beauty packaging specifically, environmental sustainability has many facets and is determined by the type of material, place of origin/production, transportation methods and end-of-life care, for to name a few. Novi has identified critical criteria for successful sustainable beauty packaging that it uses as a benchmark for the brands it works with, but these rules can also serve as a guide for consumers consulting a beauty counter for their next product.

Novi’s rules for selecting sustainable packaging

The design and decoration of the ship

Not only does a beautiful bottle stand out on a shelf of other products, luxury packaging will always attract someone to more than something utilitarian. We want our beauty products to look good on our counters as well as on our faces, but decoration can make or break a product’s durability. Brands can make all the right decisions about packaging material, size, and compatibility, but decoration can make it completely unrecyclable. Thus, maximizing durability and recyclability begins in the design process.

Primary packaging with circular materials

Most beauty products have primary and secondary packaging. Primary packaging is the container designed to hold a product, preserving the formulation from contamination or oxidation. This can take the form of jars, bottles, tubes, lids, caps and pumps. According to Novi, “this is often the primary focus for brands and retailers because primary components present the most sustainability challenges. Keeping aesthetics and functionality in mind, brands are opting for materials that are better for the planet, such as compostable post-consumer recycled paper and plastic.”

Strategic secondary packaging

Secondary packaging, sometimes referred to as shelf-ready packaging, comes in the form of outer boxes and cartons used to protect the primary packaging during transit or while it sits on a store shelf. It also usually includes cardboard inserts or tissue paper, but for the most part secondary packaging is immediately discarded when a product is taken home and opened. Novi identified this as an area of ​​”opportunity for brands to extend their commitment to sustainability throughout the supply chain”. Recycled cartons and boxes are an option, but some companies go so far as to reduce and eventually eliminate secondary packaging altogether.

Transparency standards

Just as Sephora publicly announced a list of banned ingredients, other brands have followed suit and taken the practice a step further with a fully transparent supply chain, ingredient list, and ethical business practices mandates. . As a consumer, the best way to avoid greenwashing is to also look for brands that have incorporated third-party certifications. For example, the Forest Stewardship Council offers certification for wood and paper products. Sappho New Paradigm local brand Vancouver wood handled brushes are certified. Companies must pay for these certifications and third-party policies add credibility to any environmental claims made.