How the Beauty Industry Impacts the Plastic Crisis
Are we in for an environmental awakening? It's no secret that we have a severe problem with plastic pollution. And as alluring and feel-good as the beauty industry may be - it's a significant contributor to the plastic crisis. The beauty industry alone produces more than 120 BILLION units of packaging every year.
The harmful nature of disposable or single-use plastics used in packaging is a jarring example of the problems with throwaway culture. What makes them so bad? How is the beauty industry contributing to consumerism? What can you do to help? Read on to learn more.
Where Does Plastic Come From, Anyway?
Almost all plastics are made from chemicals that come from the production of planet-warming fuels.
Plastic comes from raw materials like crude oil, natural gas, or plants extracted from oceans, rock formations, or the earth's soil. First, the raw materials undergo a chemical reaction to create ethane and propane, then ethylene and propylene. Finally, the "polymerization" process is the last chemical reaction that creates malleable plastic resins used to make consumer goods.
Why is Plastic so Detrimental to Our Planet?
Most plastics are polymers synthesized from crude oil and natural gas. These cause the starkest environmental harm because plastics in this category tend to persist in the environment for longer - while also wreaking havoc on the water and air.
Some plastics have their place, but single-use plastics are the real culprit. Single-use plastics are what you'll see used for packaging, grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, etc.
For example, the beauty sector creates 122 billion single-use sample sachets annually, with very few recycled.
50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away. So much time, money, and effort go into creating single-use plastic (and plastic in general) just for it to be thrown away. But what effects does plastic leave behind after it's tossed in the trash? Burning plastic releases toxic gases into the air we breathe, contributing to climate change and air pollution. Also, plastic lingers in the environment for ages, threatening wildlife and spreading toxins. Finally, marine wildlife often mistakes plastic waste for prey, eventually causing their untimely death due to starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic. According to the UN, if the plastic crisis continues, by 2050, oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight.
"Only we humans make waste that nature can't digest." - Oceanographer Charles Moore.
The World's Largest Single-Use Plastic Consumers
ExxonMobil contributes 5.9 million tonnes to global plastic waste, followed by Dow, Sinopec, and a seemingly never-ending list of multi-billion dollar corps. While you may not be shocked to hear big-name businesses on the list, have you ever thought about who is manufacturing your beauty products?
Did you know that beauty products like shampoo bottles and refillable compacts used to be made of glass? But that came to a screeching halt around the 1950s when plastic manufacturing became widespread.
Unilever, a British multinational consumer goods company, owns 38 beauty brands, including Dermalogica, Kate Somerville, Living Proof, Hourglass, Ren, Murad, and Garancia. Researchers have highlighted several ethical issues with Unilever, including environmental reporting, habitats & resources, palm oil, pollution, toxics, human rights violations, animal rights issues, among other questionable claims.
When it comes to beauty packaging, 95% of it is thrown out after just one use, and only 14% of plastic makes it to a recycling center.
What's Being Done About This?
Reading through these stats may make you question if you can even make a dent in the eight million tonnes of plastic we're dealing with here. But you CAN make a difference. There's hope. Let's take action.
Here are a few simple, easy ways you can make a big difference in the plastic crisis.
Wean yourself off disposable plastics. Think about the plastic you use daily. Things like plastic straws, water bottles, and grocery bags come in sustainable, eco-friendly options made from earth-friendly materials. Americans toss 500 million plastic straws every day!
Reuse containers. Things like plastic food containers can be used to store small items. Do you have plastic bottles lying around? Check out 60 ways you can reuse plastic bottles.
- Recycle. We know, duh. But it's still important to remember how much impact you can have by tossing your plastic items in your local recycling bin.
- Shop brands that put people over profit. More small businesses in the beauty space and beyond are working to value the global community over profit.
How Bellavana Beauty is Fighting 'The Pretty Packaging Problem'
At Bellavana Beauty, we are doing everything we can to help ensure a better future. We follow the Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 interlinked global goals created to build a more sustainable future for all. 5 of these goals, including Good Health & Wellbeing, Responsible Consumption & Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water, and Life on Land, are directly related to plastic use.
We set actionable goals and initiatives in place. For example, by 2023, Bellavana Beauty strives to completely switch to glass or other innovative recyclable materials to package our products. While we use plastic in some of our products (mainly for safety concerns), we're working to source glass jars that are strong enough to not break on impact to keep the little ones and our customers safe.
We have used plastic since our inception with the intention to encourage and educate our community on plastic use, the problems it causes and reusing and repurposing plastic items. Bellavana Beauty uses biodegradable packing peanuts in our packaging, and we opted out of using additional exterior packaging for our products to reduce unnecessary waste. In addition, we plant trees to aid in climate change. Trees help remove carbon dioxide from the air that's caused by pollution and release oxygen into the atmosphere. Finally, we offset carbon emissions using an extension on our website called Eco Cart. With every order, our customers are given the option to offset pay with a few extra cents. This helps provide clean water in Columbia.
A cleaner, safer beauty industry is possible. Be a part of the change today.