Ecoresponsible cosmetic packaging: very well, but how?

If no one can deny that all issues related to cosmetic packaging have to do with ecodesign, brands are constantly faced with the same question: what is the most relevant solution? As real pathfinders, Pascal Brousse and Gérald Martines carried out a study, called Eco-Green Packaging, to explain the main parameters to take into account depending on the product and recommend a pragmatic, operational approach.

As an introduction, the two experts warn about preconceived ideas. “Plastic pollution has become much visible and is a real issue, but it should not mask the problem of climate change, which prevails over all others as regards systemic risks. As a matter of fact, materials considered less polluting, like glass and aluminium, actually emit a lot of greenhouse gases. It is the target that should be taken into account: all consumers are not ready for the same sacrifices,” emphasizes Gérald Martines. The first step consists in analysing all scopes in terms of sourcing, manufacturing, distribution, use…,” adds Pascale Brousse.

The study clearly shows the need to focus on the well-known three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. “Provided they are taken in the right order. They are not on the same level. It is not because you choose one of them that you are over and done with the whole issue.

To start with, it is recommended to reduce anything unnecessary. “We noticed that even luxury brands could lighten their packaging without compromising on desirability,” note the two specialists. The notion of weight as a luxury marker seems to be losing ground to more uncluttered, minimalist versions.

The second step consists in following the path of reusable packaging – the closest to the zero waste approach. “If there is room for improvement, it is definitely in this field,” explains Gérald Martines. Paradoxically, this approach puts the spotlight on the container. “Why throw an object for which resources have been extracted and energy spent? This strategy is more or less easy to implement depending on the product categories. If things have already changed for perfumes and rinse-off products, skincare requires a longer transitional period. The study highlights initiatives like CoZie’s, whose technology makes it possible to deliver skincare from fountains, and also via white labelling, as a first answer.

In the meantime, the refill solution is finding its own place. “It is better than throwing away the whole jar, but capsules and Doypacks remain single-use solutions. Again, the best is yet to come, with new technological developments which will eventually make it possible to recycle flexible bags – for now, these are based on plastic multi-layer materials.

There is a last aspect to consider: the fact that packaging should be recycled. “There are ecodesign recipes: packaging is not spontaneously recyclable, it should be designed accordingly. It should contain only one material or be easily separable, and above all, there should be a whole collection and sorting chain available. The European Directive will encourage this by imposing a double constraint by 2030: a minimum percentage of 50% recycled materials in packs, and the impossibility to market a pack for which there is no recycling chain. These two measures involving both upstream and downstream operations will help implement a circular economy,” explain the study’s authors.

Ultimately, as it is designed to be immediately applied to brands’ needs, the study provides a broad portfolio of examples. “It is a practical, pragmatic study filled with cases brands can draw inspiration from. They can just do their shopping,” conclude Pascale Grousse and Gérald Martines.