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The global beauty and cosmetics industry is responsible for a whopping 120 billion units of non-recyclable packaging waste annually, according to figures from the Zero Waste Week campaign. From cling film, cardboard, tissue paper, boxes and plastic bottles – to the actual products themselves that can contain plastic particles such as microbeads, our beauty and makeup regimens generate vast amounts of pollution. Thankfully, public awareness and outcry about the global plastic pollution problem and ocean crisis has driven companies to adopt more responsible packaging. One of the companies developing more eco-friendly packaging is Lush, who have recently come up with a “carbon positive” process.
The UK-based cosmetics company, Lush, have launched a new “carbon positive” packaging solution – one that eliminates plastic altogether, does not involve cargo shipping, and removes additional carbon dioxide from the air. Carbon positive is not the same as net zero emissions – it means that an activity actually creates an environmental benefit by removing additional greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Through a collaboration with non-profit organisation Eco Interventions, Lush sources regeneratively-grown cork oak from Portugal to create cork containers that will be shipped via commercial sailboats rather than cargo ships. For each cork pot, Lush will pay the non-profit 5 Euros, which goes to provide forest owners the necessary resources to cultivate re-plantable oak trees without pesticide use.
“Transporting goods by sail cargo is a good fit with our ethics and ambition to reduce harm to the planet as its largely carbon neutral,” said Lush trade compliance manager Derek Hallé in an interview with Fast Company.
While shipping by sailboat takes more time and is more costly, the more environmentally ethical practice is likely to win out in the future from a long-termer’s investment perspective. As consumers continue to demand environmental and social responsibility from corporations, those businesses that choose to scale up climate-friendly solutions now are likely to reap the rewards in the long run. Projects are already underway to attach sails to existing cargo vessels in order to cut fossil fuel use without having to ditch existing cargo infrastructure. The Wind Challenger Project led by the University of Tokyo, for instance, are currently working on a system of manoeuvrable and retractable wind sails that could be fitted onto cargo decks as early as 2021.
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Other notable cosmetic companies have also tried to rethink packaging. Garnier has partnered with upcycling company TerraCycle to offer customers a take-back program for specified beauty products. L’Oreal has also jumped on the bandwagon, signing on PureCycle Technologies to start adopting bio-sourced and recycled plastic packaging. However, these solutions still fail to remove plastic from the packaging equation and remain carbon-emitting processes due to transportation factors. What is necessary in beauty and cosmetics sectors (and most industries) is a transformative reset that can overhaul the packaging and logistics structure.
More companies need to be implementing not just carbon or climate neutral, but climate positive solutions. This can be done by switching to renewable energy, eliminating waste, utilising local production, and offsetting carbon footprints through funding reforestation projects to counteract any residual emissions from the manufacturing and transportation process.
Lead image courtesy of LUSH UK.