What Does It Mean To Be Plastic Negative?
Using less plastic in our skincare and bathing routines is our new ‘thing’. So we’ve taken a deep dive into what is means to be plastic negative as a beauty brand. From offsetting programmes, to refill services, these are our favourite brands taking plastic waste seriously.
No matter how much you dislike it, we can’t help but be surrounded by it. Plastic is the least sexy material out there, but it’s basically everywhere. Since it’s introduction onto the market in 1907 as Bakelite, plastic has dominated our lives. What was once seen as a wonder material, has quickly become so commonly used that there’s 8 million tons of it washed into our oceans every year. However it’s only been recently that a wider conversation about the necessity of plastic has begun.
Zero Waste Week, an annual awareness campaign for reducing the amount of things that end up in landfill, reports that more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry. Not only that but the cardboard that envelops perfumes, serums and moisturisers contributes to the loss of 18 million acres of forest each year. We’re fully aware of how detrimental the use of harmful chemicals has on our skin, but are we considering the impact our need for packaging has on our environment with the same committed care?
Ever wondered where plastic waste goes once you throw it in the bin? According to rePurpose, the majority of plastic waste (91%) never makes it to recycling. Instead, all that waste ends up in our ecosystem, and it remains there for centuries. Unfortunately, the infrastructure needed to tackle this problem is severely underfunded and requires an urgent push. This starts the eye-opening discourse around how to achieve zero plastic or negative plastic standards. What does that mean, precisely? While the definition of plastic zero (or plastic-free) is more intuitive – it simply means that packaging doesn’t include any use of plastic. Being ‘Plastic Negative’ addresses the issue from a different angle.
A lot depends on which packaging specifically we’re trying to tackle. When talking about a solid shampoo bar, avoiding plastic should come as a natural consequence. Sustainable sourced card is an eco friendly and practical option, and one adopted by beauty brand Ethique. Other products that are in liquid form are more tricky. Serums and products that would require the use of a pump are an example. Alternatives like glass and metal can replace plastic bottles. However it’s also important to bear in mind that while glass is recyclable, it is heavier to ship than plastic and aluminum meaning more emissions are created through the supply chain. Pumps, unfortunately, are still predominantly made using plastic and plastic derivatives for functional reasons. So you can see that the solution becomes more complicated than simply removing all plastic from packaging.
Offsetting Our Plastic Use
When avoiding plastic is near impossible, opting for a plastic-negative initiative comes into play. Initiatives like rePurpose save 112,436 lbs of plastic waste from oceans and landfills through their rePurpose Impact Projects. Sounds great right, so how does it work? Each consumer or company can calculate their plastic footprint using rePurpose’s calculator. They then donate a reasonable amount of money to compensate for their footprint. The contribution will keep the promised amount of plastic out of our oceans and landfills while simultaneously increasing their partners’ recycling capacity and empowering impoverished waste workers.
Liike many offsetting programmes, brands aren’t merely paying a fee to erase their own footprint. By working with a plastic negative initiative, they pledge to make their own efforts to remove as much plastic from their products and supply chains as they can.
Many cosmetic brands are already embracing the plastic-free and plastic negative path. Some have adopted rePurpose’s Plastic Negative programme, others are forging their own path through refill programmes. Here are some of our favourites picks, but we are confident that it’s just a matter of time before they’ll be joined by many, many more.
Brands Taking Plastic Waste Seriously
Ursa Major is a clean skincare company based in the USA that proudly announced its Plastic Negative partnership with rePurpose Global. By becoming Plastic Negative, Ursa Major will fund the removal of twice as much plastic waste from nature as it uses in its packaging and operations. By donating a percentage of every product purchased to plastic reduction efforts, Ursa Major enables the removal of low-value plastic waste otherwise landfilled, burned or flushed into the oceans every year. The brand will be supporting a vetted waste management social enterprise in Nairobi, Kenya. Becoming Plastic Negative is only the first step in Ursa Major’s journey to reduce plastics: the brand is also committing to reducing single-use plastic output by 75% by 2025.
Evolve is the UK’s first Plastic Negative beauty brand. The organic skincare brand, thanks to their partnership with rePurpose Global, is now contributing to the removal of twice as much plastic from the environment as they use in their packaging and shipping. This means that every product you choose will now carry a Plastic Negative Footprint. They will be helping to fund their rePurpose Global partner, CARPE India, with the goal of removing as much multilayer plastic packaging from the environment as possible. Impressive, right? 100% of their glass packaging, plastic bottles & lids and paper cartons are recyclable, and they’re inviting their customers to reuse their plastic pumps in their Dump The Pump campaign to save on single-use plastic.
In 2018, REN launched it’s ‘Clean to Planet’ initiative and pledged to go Zero Waste by 2021. They have introduced biodegradable films on their gift boxes, as well as recycled zips, and continue to repack their skin care to make it entirely recyclable. On top of that, REN is setting the bar higher with its Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Body Wash. The bottle is made from 20% reclaimed ocean plastic waste, and the other 80% comprises of recycled plastic bottles. Additionally, Ren have partnered with Loop™ to offer customers the opportunity to refill products in their Clean To Skin Range. The glass bottle and plastic pumps are cleaned and sterilised by Loop™ who then refill your product before sending it back to you.
Phytonutrients is the cosmetic brand preserving seed diversity. This basically means they save seed varieties that are endangered due to a variety of factors, one of which is over-commercialisation. After you’ve used up all of the product in your paper bottle, you can crack it open to discover a beautifully-designed packet of a range of heirloom herb seeds. They’re also committed to fighting the use of plastic, and they created the first shower-friendly paper bottle. It’s made of 100% post-consumer recycled paper with a post-consumer recycled plastic liner, resulting in 60% less plastic than a traditional bottle. They have partnered with TerraCycle® to create a free recycling program for their pumps which can be upcycled and turned into items such as farm fences or Adirondack chairs.
Circla is a platform dedicated to eliminating plastic waste from your bathroom. Their carefully edited range of independent skincare brands are already packaged responsibly. However Circla also offer a refill service via a handy door to door model. Simply choose your products, you can make a one time purchase or join the auto-replenishment service. Once you’ve used up your product, simply leave your empty bottles and jars outside in your Circla bag where they will be collected by bicycle courier or electric car. They sterilise the packaging and refill it for you. Customers also earn points when they return packaging meaning each shop gets cheaper.
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Disclaimer: The content of this article is for general advice only and should not be used as a substitute for professional healthcare or beauty advice. We make every effort to ensure we only recommend safe products however you should always do a patch test when trying new products. This post may contain affiliate links.