Consumers value ethical businesses with a commitment to the environment and the cosmetics industry is no exception.
According to a study by Klarna, consumers across all generations are concerned about sustainability when purchasing beauty products.
The clean beauty movement isn’t just about launching organic, cruelty-free product lines — it also extends to implementing eco-friendly cosmetic packaging.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the ins and outs of eco-friendly cosmetic packaging, including its benefits, the types of materials used, and how you can implement it in your business.
Let’s dive in.
What is sustainable packaging?
Sustainable packaging refers to any earth-friendly packaging. Its materials don’t harm the environment, or at the very least, have lower carbon emissions.
In the world of cosmetics, this means cutting down on disposable packaging prevalent in the industry. Reusable, recyclable, or refillable materials are preferred.
Besides the environmental aspects of packaging, economic and social factors also come into play. For example, the use of plants to create eco-friendly cosmetic packaging should not put the rainforest at risk or disrupt the ecosystem.
Finally, the end shouldn’t justify the means. Paper is a great sustainable packaging material, but more often than not, paper production tends to be resource-intensive, involving a great deal of water, fossil fuels, and chemicals.
It’s only sustainable when manufacturers adopt environmentally friendly paper-making methods or replenish the resources they consume.
Understanding sustainable and zero-waste packaging
Zero-waste packaging supports sustainability, but it goes a step further. Compared to sustainable packaging, zero-waste packaging achieves a much higher standard: leaving no trace of its existence.
Packaging should follow a circular life cycle, whereby they don’t end up in landfills. It can be recyclable, refillable, or completely usable.
One great example is SOAPBOTTLE. The company designs packaging materials made of soap for products used for personal care and hygiene. A customer can use the container as hand soap after using up its contents.
Why is eco-friendly cosmetic packaging important?
It’s no surprise that eco-friendly packaging options have become extremely popular recently. Here are the main reasons for its rise in the cosmetics industry:
- It satisfies customer interest. Most customers today are eco-conscious, advocating for companies to design products that can be recycled or reused. Eco-friendly cosmetic packaging is a great way to showcase your brand’s commitment to sustainability.
- It reduces production costs. Smaller cosmetic companies will appreciate that eco-friendly cosmetic packaging often entails fewer materials to create and can be purchased in bulk, allowing the price per unit to be reduced. In addition, these materials can easily be repurposed. And unlike plastic waste, most biodegradable materials are compostable.
- It reduces shipping costs. Most eco-friendly materials tend to be more lightweight than plastic materials. This means cheaper shipping costs from your supplier. And if you offer free shipping to your customers, you win twice over.
- It benefits the brand. Being socially and environmentally aware is excellent for brands. Environmental advocacy plays a significant role in boosting customer loyalty. In fact, 47% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products.
- It’s safer for customers and employees. Traditional packing materials usually contain by-products that are potentially harmful to humans. The same can’t be said for natural, sustainable materials.
- It aligns with government initiatives and policies. In many countries around the world, it’s now common to ban the use of materials that contribute to global warming. Furthermore, many organizations support and reward companies that use sustainable packaging materials.
Types of eco-friendly cosmetics packaging to consider
Many cosmetics, skincare, and hygiene products — from deodorants to facial creams and lipsticks — are packaged in plastic. If your brand wants to offer sustainable solutions, here are some materials to consider:
Bamboo packaging looks sleek and expensive but is eco-friendly. It’s also considered to be renewable because it’s derived from a plant that thrives easily. In addition, the bamboo sheath makes for lighter and more portable packaging, while the plant itself is great for creating durable containers.
Tay Skincare is one of the first cosmetic brands to use bamboo containers. Take a look at how aesthetically pleasing and functional their bottles and jars are. It would be a waste to throw them away when they’re so easy to refill and reuse.
Silicone comes from silica, the principal component of sand. It’s similar to plastic in the sense that it doesn’t decompose. However, it’s reusable and doesn’t release toxic substances when reused or in contact with water and soil. It can be used as a heat-resistant, flexible, and long-lasting substitute for plastic bottles.
Sand, soda ash, and limestone are used to produce glass. None of these materials is renewable, but they are plentiful. Additionally, glass containers are pretty easy to recycle. When it comes to cosmetic products, it’s pretty common to see liquid products packaged in brown glass bottles, and glass jars are commonly used to store creams.
WEARTH, a company that produces skincare products, packages them in environmentally friendly materials such as glass and cork.
Metal containers are easily reusable since they don’t corrode easily. Another benefit is their low melting point, so recycling them requires less energy. The most common materials are aluminum and stainless steel.
Due to the sturdy nature of metals, cosmetic brands can use less of other packaging materials, decreasing the bulk and weight. However, customers might not appreciate the opaqueness of the materials because it makes it difficult to see how much of the product is still left.
Bee You Organics, an online brick-and-mortar store that began as an Etsy shop, not only creates organic products but also uses sustainable product packaging. For example, their moisturizers are packaged in tin cans.
Source: Bee You Organics
5. Biodegradable paperboard and other paper products
Biodegradable paperboard is compostable. After being thrown away, they break down quickly without damaging the environment and living organisms. It’s often used as outer packaging, but some innovative cosmetic manufacturers have begun using it as primary packaging.
One example is Native, a brand that offers hygiene products. Their containers are 100% plastic-free because they are entirely made out of paperboard.
Recycled paper makes for an excellent alternative to bubble wrap when packaging orders for delivery. In addition, you can switch from packaging tape and plastic bags to paper tape or stickers and padded mailers to further secure your products while in transit.
6. Other organic materials
Cosmetics packaging is becoming increasingly innovative thanks to advances in technology. New materials such as cornstarch, seaweed, mushrooms, and beeswax have proven to be excellent candidates for sustainable packaging.
Each of these materials has its pros and cons. Suppose cornstarch packaging becomes more common, there’s a possibility it will disrupt the food supply chain. Seaweed packaging works great for liquid-based cosmetics, but it might be better suited for food products because it’s edible.
Beeswax and mushrooms are reusable. Beeswax can substitute plastic, while mushrooms can be magically turned into boxes. This concept has been explored further by Haeckels, a boutique beauty brand that already uses algae bottles.
Tips for implementing eco-friendly cosmetics packaging
Choosing the right material is important, but if you are planning on moving to more sustainable packaging solutions, there are more things to consider. Below are some tips to get you started:
1. Work with a sustainable packaging supplier
Startup beauty brands might have difficulty finding the right supplier to work with, but it pays to do some research. It’s crucial to work with a reliable and consistent supplier who’s familiar with renewable materials.
Knowing recycling and waste separation techniques enables them to create more appealing recycled materials. For instance, noissue uses natural materials and bio-polymers exclusively in their products and supports reforestation programs.
2. Invest in technology and research
These days, cosmetics buyers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable product packaging. So it might pay off to acquire good technology or engage in research and development. You can create a brand that sets itself apart from the competition through eco-friendliness.
3. Prepare a budget before you start
Many brands find it difficult to switch to sustainable packaging due to its higher cost than plastic materials. So when moving to eco-friendly cosmetic packaging, make sure you are financially ready. The good news is that aside from being part of a good cause, you can charge higher prices because sustainability will be a strong point of differentiation for your brand.
4. Reduce the materials used in your cosmetic packaging
Elaborate packaging has always been an essential aspect of the beauty industry, but it’s also often unnecessary. You can start removing wasteful elements from your current packaging even if you can’t wholly transition to sustainable packaging.
Rethink your existing packaging and leave out details that have no clear purpose or are wasteful, like single-use plastic. It’s still possible to offer your customers beautiful and perfectly tailored packaging by adding inexpensive, eco-friendly additions such as a stamp or tissue.
5. Don’t tackle it alone
Eco-friendly brands should promote carbon footprint reduction initiatives. Work with your employees and brainstorm ideas to support your initiatives, such as offering a refilling or recycling program — post about it on social media or leverage email marketing to encourage your customers to join the conversation.
Getting your staff and potential customers involved also helps to promote your products and cause. And the best part is that you can reduce wasteful post-consumer packaging when you spread awareness.
Wrapping it up
As far as sustainability is concerned, beauty and cosmetics are still far from achieving their full potential. Because of this, the cosmetics industry is increasingly looking for sustainable packaging options.
Making a conscious effort to reduce your carbon footprint through your packaging is a good start and can help long term. To get quality results, it's vital to choose the right materials and work with the right supplier.