A comprehensive guide to understanding the plastic problem within the beauty industry
In this guide
Juni's plastic philosophy
The beauty sphere is awash with plastic pollution. We’re here to change that.
Juni is uncompromising in our philosophy to be as environmentally-friendly as possible. That means minimising our impact, treading lightly and encouraging conscious consumerism. We advocate buying less and buying well.
Our innovative 100% plastic free lipsticks are genuinely plastic free in all aspects. This is just the start of our plastic free revolution….
“It feels as if many brands want to stress their environmental credentials at the moment as a selling point. However, for me it’s not a marketing device, it’s my life and I am passionate about it.”
- Madeleine, Founder of Juni
The plastic 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, lots of 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.
That’s why we opted to use 100% aluminium - the “green metal” - for our innovative lipstick bullet. By using just one material (a ‘mono-material’) there is no need for separation when it comes to recycling your Juni lipstick. On top of that, aluminium is infinitely recyclable, which means that it can be recycled over and over again without losing its properties. Recycled aluminium is used to create new products, which means it can be referred to as a ‘circular economy’ material.
The truth about ‘eco-friendly’ plastics
In addition to conventional plastic such as PET, PS, PVC, PP, PE, etc, there are now many so-called ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘bio-plastics’ 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 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.
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) that 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 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.
Plastic Soup Foundation
Plastic Soup Foundation is an environmental non-profit organisation that fights against plastic pollution.
After the successful launch of their ‘Beat the Microbead’ campaign in 2012, the increased awareness surrounding environmental risks posed by the presence of microbeads in personal care & cosmetics products encouraged both companies and countries to take up stringent measures against microbeads. Thankfully, several countries have now completely banned cosmetic products that contain microbeads, including the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Sweden, to name a few.
However, other types of microplastic ingredients are still abundant in many cosmetic products, which is why it’s so important to look for the ‘Zero Plastic Inside’ badge.
Their fantastic 'Beat the Microbead' app allows the user to scan the ingredients list on their beauty products to discover whether they contain microplastics or not.
So, how is Juni working with Plastic Soup Foundation to raise awareness and eventually see the total ban of microplastics within cosmetics?
In September 2020, we ran the ‘Juni Rivals Plastic’ campaign with support from the Plastic Soup Foundation. The campaign was designed to highlight the disastrous amount of plastic within the beauty industry, encourage consumers to make more environmentally-conscious choices and break down some of the many false claims out there.
In December 2020, we supported Plastic Soup Foundation in their #BeautyWithoutMicroplastics crowdfunding campaign to fight against plastic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products by rewarding a lucky donator with a Juni lipstick.
"Plastic in cosmetics is a design error"
A Plastic Planet
A Plastic Planet is a campaign organisation with one singular goal; to ignite and inspire the world to turn off the plastic tap!
Via extensive global media coverage, A Plastic Planet is at the forefront of lobbying the government for necessary change and educating brands, retailers and consumers on the damaging effects of plastic.
We are so proud to hold the Plastic Free Certification Mark on our products, and regularly keep in touch with Sian Sutherland, the co-founder, and with A Plastic Planet’s latest findings and research.
What can you do?
- Buy less, buy better
- Scan your products with the 'Beat The Microbead' app
- Support brands that are genuinely plastic free and can back-up their claims
- Follow environmental change organisations
- Ask questions, educate yourself and demand more from companies and the government