There is no denying that the planet is going through a massive climate change with rising temperatures in summer and cold storms in winter… and weather will keep showing unusual activity with the El Niño phenomenon, so prepare for another hot summer after the freezing storm this winter in the Northern hemisphere.
Choose your battle
When looking at global impact we need to identify three aspects: Climate change, Pollution & Resources depletion. In our report on WHY we need to become more sustainable we give you guidance on what you need to look at and why. It’s important to choose your battles, as some actions can cause Pollution while increasing Climate Change (increased CO2 emission) for instance. In our report we give guidance on what you need to understand first.
Life Cycle and Circular Economy
Secondly, it appears paramount to understand the full life cycle and to move from a linear economy to a circular one. Again, it’s not that simple, and it will take years for us to achieve circularity as our Gérald, our packaging expert, explains.
After looking at the overall impact on the planet, then the product life cycle through linear or circular lenses. You can use the waste hierarchy as a strategic guideline. You may well be aware of this inverted pyramid with the waste hierarchy with 3Rs, 5Rs or even the 7 steps hereafter: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Treat, Dispose. This gives us a framework and clear actions that we can take at product level. Most companies use the 3R approach with Reduce, Reduce, Recycle which is the “easiest” to implement. We find that the “product” approach can address all aspects of sustainability.
Reduce Carbon Emission
One aspect that is often overlooked is the carbon footprint. Most beauty companies reduce the number or the size of their packaging or reduce the number of ingredients in their formula and consequently reduce their carbon impact. We think that we can probably multiply our efforts when looking at the source and use of low impact materials for instance.
How to mine Low Carbon Materials?
We’ve recently come across innovations in that field. For instance, Element Packaging has released a captured-carbon PCR packaging. In essence, PCR materials are used with a captured-carbon additive, meaning that there is a dual reduction of CO2 emissions with the use of recycled materials + captured carbon.
They have partnered with carbon capture and utilisation technology company, Oco, to apply their material into plastic packaging for beauty. It’s the first and exclusive application in the market for the cosmetics industry. It's a powder additive made from sequestrated CO2 and inorganic powder feedstock which gives more strength to the plastic materials; it increases tensile strength, longevity and durability. It is extending the lifespan of recycled plastics by at least 4 times when mechanically recycled. “We're upcycling waste instead of introducing new virgin materials to the world.” states Madison Savilow, co-founder of Oco.
Wood and wood derivatives
Another company, who is a newcomer in the beauty industry is mPackting. They specialise in natural and renewable materials that feature carbon sequestration properties, mostly from wood. For example, they can make packaging using FSC™ certified wood, or mBlack™, a proprietary material that comes from the fermentation of bacteria and contains biochar derived from upcycling industrial residues of the production of wood components. “ Suitable for packaging applications, mBlack™ acts as a Climate Cooling Service because it stores CO2 in the long term, which is good for the Earth ” explains Paolo Minelli, Responsible for mPackting.
We’ve also seen innovation from Lanzatech with applications in packaging and formulation. Carbon upcycling solutions take a lot of technology and investment, so they are not easy to develop but they seem to be a more believable and less greenwashing option than carbon offsetting. We’ll let you explore options on your side and make up your mind.
Keep reading us for more insights.