Beauty's Plastic Problem

The beauty sphere is awash with plastic. We're here to change that.

The problem

The global cosmetics industry produces over 142 billion units of packaging every year - the vast majority of which contain plastic. What’s more, there are over 500 officially recognised microplastic ingredients being used within formulas. It’s no secret that beauty has a huge plastic problem!

When it comes to beauty packaging, 95% is thrown away after just one use and only 14% of it makes it to a recycling centre. 

Plastic outer packaging can be as big a problem as the product itself; the boxes, cartons and stickers too.

With brands releasing new products all the time and promoting the “fast fashion” of beauty, it’s all too easy to see where these huge numbers come from.

The UN has predicted that if the rate of waste production continues, by 2050 our oceans will carry more plastic than fish, and an estimated 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic

Thankfully, some brands are working on improving their eco-credentials and sustainability - but there’s still a long, long way to go.

The cost of sustainability

Leading a truly sustainable life is an extremely complex challenge. We’re well aware that lipstick is not an essential, but with over 900 million being sold each year - and eventually ending up in our oceans or landfill - changing the way they are made is a good place to start in our battle against plastic.

Unlike most beauty brands who choose off-the-shelf plastic packaging for their products, we research, design and develop our own bespoke and innovate solutions. Unfortunately, choosing to work in this considered way and with sustainable materials (in our case, aluminium), is much more costly. That doesn’t stop us though, and we are committed to always choosing the most sustainable solution possible, even when it is more difficult and expensive to execute. 

The truth about recycling

Recycling is a hot topic but the term “recyclable” can be extremely confusing and misleading. It’s important to remember that just because something can technically be recycled, it doesn’t mean that it will actually get recycled!

Did you know, since the 1950s only 9% of the world’s plastic waste has actually been recycled? Shockingly, every piece of plastic ever made still exists in some form, so recycling plastic doesn’t get rid of the problem. 

There are many reasons why things aren’t efficiently recycled, but one of the main issues is because of ‘contamination’. If you look at most lipsticks, for example, they are actually made of several different materials and components. Inside there will be a cog made from one type of plastic, and then an inner tube made from another kind of plastic. The outer plastic shell may be coated in a thin layer of aluminium or enhanced with various design techniques - all held together by strong glues. In order for any of these ‘recyclable’ materials to actually be recycled, they need to be separated and processed individually. This is very difficult and extremely costly, and so it just doesn’t happen. 

'Eco-friendly' plastics

In addition to conventional plastics such as PET, PS, PVC, PP, PE, etc, there are now many so-called ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘bio’ plastics available. These plastics may sound good but in fact they simply take hundreds of years to break down into micro-plastics and nano-plastics that are still damaging our marine life and polluting our planet at an unprecedented rate. That’s why we don’t use them for our Juni products!  

Some exciting bio-materials have recently been developed from materials such as wood pulp, plant cellulose, food waste, grass, algae and mushrooms. These materials can be made into trays, punnets and clear, flexible films that look and behave like conventional plastic, but with two key differences; at the start of their lives these materials can be sustainably sourced ideally in full or in part, and at the end of their lives they can be composted into bio-mass to regenerate depleted farming soils. Look for compostables that comply with the EN 13432 standard or are labelled as “OK Home Compostable”. 

We are in touch with researchers about developments for future Juni products but unfortunately none are quite right just yet.

A Plastic Planet have an informative list on their website about various plastic and non-plastic materials, as well as a fantastic Material Library for businesses looking to use plastic free alternatives.

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The problem with refills

The beauty industry has recently seen a rapid rise in refillable solutions. Refills can be a fantastic option for some products, such as hand soap or body wash, which are packaged in simple bottles (often aluminium or glass) and can easily be recycled. In terms of make-up products, however, it’s a more complex issue… 

Cosmetics are often very delicate and have to be carefully packaged to ensure they are kept hygienic and can travel well. It is not uncommon to see brands promoting their refillable make-up cases yet failing to mentioned that the refill packaging itself contains plastic.

Choosing refills, for sustainability reasons, means committing to repurchasing the same products for many years to come. What happens if you no longer like them, they no longer suit you or if the fashions change? Or what if the brand no longer produces the refills?

Also, the refillable outer cases may not actually be environmentally-friendly. When purchasing something that is refillable you need to ask yourself if you will actually repurchase that product for a very long time, and what will happen to the case when you eventually stop using it.

At Juni, we hope to one day offer a truly sustainable refill system, but at the moment we’re simply unable to find a solution that meets our stringent criteria.

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