how sustainable beauty brands are solving the plastic problem

art: livia kirasic

If you’re not already aware of it, our world is facing a serious issue that is changing our environment and contaminating our oceans — the overproduction of single-use plastic. Single-use plastic is more damaging than most other plastics because it is discarded after just one use. It can be recycled, but when it isn’t, it ends up littering our landfills and traveling to the most important ecosystem on Earth — our oceans. 

In 2015, the main cause for the increase in plastic production was packaging which made up 42% of all non-fiber plastic produced that year, according to EarthDay.org. This source predicted that by 2050, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish, which is a horrifying thought. 

As much as I hate to admit it, the beauty industry is known for their contribution to the single-use plastic problem due to their packaging, producing nearly 120 billion units of plastic each year, according to Commercial Waste. If you’re interested in reducing your plastic consumption, the beauty industry is a great place to start. 

I don’t mean you should stop buying makeup, because I would never ask anyone to do that. Believe me, I couldn’t. However, it does mean you can be more mindful about the beauty brands you are choosing to support. There are plenty of sustainable brands that are making an effort to reduce their plastic use or who are using alternatives to plastic so their products don’t contribute to this plastic problem.

There are some circumstances where it seems like plastic may be a necessity, but there are always more sustainable alternatives. Think about your shower products, like your shampoo or conditioner. If they were made of glass, that would be an obvious hazard, so many cosmetic brands rely on plastic packaging for shower-specific products. 

In an article by Commercial Waste, they discuss how the brand Lush has effectively found a solution for these shower products that don’t use plastic at all. Instead of using plastic bottles for a product like shampoo, they have replaced them with shampoo bars. 

Another brand making sustainable efforts in the industry is Ren, specializing in skincare. In 2018, Ren made a commitment to become waste-free by 2021 and they’re well on their way despite the challenges 2020 brought to businesses. First, they have made use of post-consumer recycled pellets, which make up the packaging of their best-selling products. In total, they purchased three tons of these pellets that are processed from plastic and are transformed into recycled packaging. Using this type of packaging keeps the plastic from entering landfills. 

Ren has also reclaimed ocean plastic by creating a bottle, “made from 80% recycled plastic and 20% plastic debris reclaimed from the ocean,” according to their official site. This means that buying Ren products is a way to contribute to the removal process of our ocean’s plastics rather than adding to the problem.

Similar in their sustainable practices, Aveda has made use of post-consumer recycled materials. The brand specializes in natural skin care, hair care and beauty products.

 “Now more than 85% of our skin care and hair styling PET bottles and jars contain 100% post consumer recycled materials,” Aveda claims. Aside from their bottles, Aveda’s packaging is also made entirely from post-consumer recycled materials. When these materials can’t be used, Aveda combines them with bioplastic. 

Innovative companies like Aveda, Ren and Lush are setting high standards for sustainable practices in the beauty industry. By simply supporting brands with similar efforts, you’re minimizing your own plastic consumption in the industry and motivating non-sustainable brands to make a change.

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Hi, I’m Maria McGinnis, a senior journalism student from Stow, Ohio. I’m also the editor in chief of A Magazine. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine.

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