By: Nikita Shah
Does this sound familiar? You’re walking down the aisle shopping for cosmetics and you pick up the item you came for. You walk a little further down and you see some other great buys. Add to cart – literally! Have you ever noticed, once all is said and done and you’ve opened up all your new products, just how much trash you’ve accumulated? From the outer boxes to the inner boxes (and sometimes inner-inner-boxes), to the cellophane wrap and tissue paper - it’s endless! And it’s a huge problem for the planet.
The beauty and personal care industry creates over 120 billion (with a b) units of packaging annually, which contributes to the loss of 18 million acres of forest per year. To put that in perspective, 18 million acres is the size of Panama. Yes, the country. “But,” you might say, “all of this paper and plastic and glass gets recycled! So it’s ok!” Well, yes and no.
Despite what we’ve been taught as children, placing something in the blue bin doesn’t reincarnate the waste into a fresh new product. There are several types of plastics in different textures, all serving its own purpose. Some flimsy plastics are used for food while there are hard flexible plastics used for lids and other hard non-flexible plastics that get used for containment. Each type of plastic requires its own process for recycling, and these materials cannot be recycled if they’re mixed. Especially if an item consists of several types of plastic (like pumps, for example). In fact, of all the plastic ever created, only 9% has been recycled, 12% gets incinerated, and the remaining 79% goes to the landfill. Considering that 95% of beauty packaging is thrown out after one use, we need to start taking responsibility for our purchasing choices. And many people already have!
Recent studies have shown that 62% of consumers prefer to support brands with sustainable packaging, with 50% of consumers stating that they’d be willing to pay more in order to avoid plastic packaging. As an industry and as consumers, we can all decide that we don’t want to pollute the planet. Consumers often forget that they have power within the economic system. With more and more brands emerging with eco-conscious missions and accessible pricing, consumers can opt for the green choice. And as the market trend veers in a sustainable direction, everyone will need to keep up in order to stay relevant and desirable.
Here at Lithe, we designed our product and its packaging with the planet in mind. All paper packaging is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and we make sure to avoid any treatments that would make the paper less recyclable. Oftentimes when paper isn’t recyclable it’s because of inks, glues, or other materials that become inseparable from the paper. We skip all those bells and whistles to make sure our product packaging is sustainable. Similarly with our shipping boxes and envelopes, we steer clear from plastic wraps, laminates, and/or heavy tapes or non-recyclable stickers.
The tools and accessories we sell also come in biodegradable pouches, and the lashes themselves are held in a tray that’s both reusable and biodegradable. These custom designed trays are meant to store your lashes in between wears while keeping its shape and curl. Frustrated with the lack of storage care options (and eco-friendly ones at that), founder, Linda Secondi, drafted Lithe’s signature holding trays. “I went to Dad back in March 2018 with my sketch pad and asked him to help me create a 3D rendering of my tray,” Secondi said. “I specified that it should not only keep my lash band in shape but it should also have a unique groove in order to maintain the natural J and L curl of each lash.” And Dad said “No problem kiddo.” The trays designed by Secondi and her dad slide into a paper sleeve for safe and easy storage, either at home or on-the-go. The lashes are all made of synthetic materials (no mink, horse, or human hair) and are reusable for up to 25 wears.
Not only are there other brands like us that put sustainability at the centre of their production, there are also people who are tackling some of the biggest issues in beauty packaging. TerraCycle is an organization that exists in several countries that aims to recycle the unrecyclable. By partnering with individuals and businesses they collect and recycle waste that municipal facilities can’t manage. They even include a Loop store where you can shop for familiar brands in eco-friendly packaging. Currently the Loop store operates out of the USA, the UK, and France, with a Loblaws-partnered Loop store coming soon to Canada.
Industry visionaries like Julie Corbett, who founded Ecologic, continue to generate ideas to make packaging less wasteful. Ecologic is a California-based company that specializes in green packaging solutions. Corbett has put forth the “so-crazy-it-might-just-work” idea that plastic pumps should be a standard size, able to switch from product to product, extending its life for decades. She also scrutinizes our obsession with turning all of our products into liquids when powders and solids are much easier to package and transport.
We may not have realized it but the beauty industry is turning a corner. Consumers are already demanding sustainable options and brands are delivering. From small businesses like Lithe Lashes delivering ethical, sustainable products, to huge corporations like Unilever making grand sustainability pledges. The battle to create a green future may be daunting but never, for a moment, think that you’re alone or that you have no choice.