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Plastics Are Clogging the Beauty Industry

By Larraine Roulston:

Last month was declared “Plastic Free July.” Our man-made problem and addiction to single-use plastics all too often are cluttering our beaches and killing sea life.  All over the globe, plastic entering the ocean just circulates there forever, leaving swirling cyclones of plastic soup.

When our disposable culture discovered microbeads in the ocean, the eyes of the world turned toward the beauty industry. Microbeads were introduced into various toothpastes, shower gels and body scrubs in the early 2000s. This type of plastic had been washing into the sewer systems which then flowed into all waterways. In 2013, plastic pollution activists undertook campaigns to ban microbeads that eventually led to their being phased out globally.

Personal care products definitely use many types of plastic. Rather than setting up a system to refill containers of shampoos, liquid soaps and lotions, manufacturers opted for packaging that contributes to vast numbers of bottles being discarded. Several different plastics are involved in the production of pump bottles that contain lotions. Their tall shape, as well, makes it difficult to use all the contents. For market appeal, some shampoo/conditioner bottles have extra large screw caps for which both the purchaser and the environment pick up the tab.

However, in 2017, a burgeoning trend within the beauty industry for sustainable packaging began. Several small companies such as LOLITrue Botanicalsand Gunilla Skin Alchemyas well as larger multinationals such as  Unileverand L’Oréalare leading the way. Unilever also committedto “ensuring all its plastic packaging was reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.”

Using a percentage of recycled content to manufacture its packaging is not advisable for disposable personal care containers, as there could be unknown chemicals in the recycled content. In addition, continually recycling plastic weakens the fibers. Recycled content is best added or made into patio furniture as well as items that are not intended for further recycling. The best long-term solution is to avoid plastic altogether, which many top natural brands are doing.

The following suggestions are ways for you to maintain the pressure to advance sustainable packaging and at the same time help our precious waterways recover:

  • Become organized with your friends to encourage the manufacturers of beauty products to lessen their use of plastic.
  • Corporations listen to their loyal customer base; therefore, contact your favorite cosmetic brand company to inquire about their commitment toward sustainable packaging.
  • Ask your supermarket or drug store to offer the option of providing their brand name cosmetic liquids in a dispenser that allows you to reuse your container.
  • Start your journey by washing your hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar, using the “No Shampoo” or “No Poo” method.
  • Look for shampoo bars.
  • Purchase bars of soap in health or bulk stores where they are not packaged.
  • Tell hotels/motels and B&B homes to offer guests shampoos, conditioners and lotions in dispensers rather than in tiny disposable bottles.

In order to keep pace with the growing number of its conscientious customers, the beauty industry is aiming toward sustainable packaging.

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Larraine writes children’s illustrated adventure stories on composting and pollinating. To view, visit: www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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