As a manufacturer of natural cosmetics, packaging is a particularly important topic for me. I think that if you fill natural cosmetics in conventional plastic tubes without thinking about it, the concept has not been thought through to the end. But what does packaging have to be able to do? I once learned the following requirements for packaging at school:
But how well can these requirements be reconciled with the demand for sustainability?
I quickly realized that ideology is easier than practice. Packaging has to protect the product, it should be stable and leak-proof, provide the customer with all the necessary information, and it should be practical and pretty. During production, too, it should pollute the environment as little as possible and ideally be recyclable.
I haven't found the perfect solution yet.
The more I deal with the topic, the more complicated and confusing the matter becomes. It's not that simple. Each material has advantages and disadvantages and these must be weighed against each other.
We have to be aware that the packaging only makes up a small part of the eco-balance of a cosmetic product. The ingredients, the manufacturing processes and transport routes are much more decisive for the balance of the product. For the customer, however, the packaging is the most obvious thing, and I personally find it very important to find the best possible solution and to sensitize the market to the topic.
So what is the best course of action? Recycle, Reduce or Reuse?
Reusing is the most obvious solution for me. But in practice this is extremely difficult to implement. I spoke to industry professionals who, after analysis by an environmental consultant, IMMEDIATELY stopped the cleaning process of used containers and instead recycled the glass containers. The energies and resources used for the professional cleaning of the products were anything but sustainable.
Recycling is probably the most common method. After all, most packaging materials are recyclable - at least in theory. In practice, this often fails because people are either too lazy or lack the infrastructure to sort waste correctly.
Here, the manufacturer must ensure that materials with the highest possible recycled content are used during production. Packaging should also consist of one and the same material if possible - this simplifies the recycling process. If one speaks of recycling, the process for the processing of used materials must also be taken into account and, depending on the material, this is more complex than the production of new packaging. Difficult.
Which brings me to the last point.
Reduce - An approach I follow in all areas of life. We should and could reduce so much more - everyone, everywhere. For cosmetics packaging, this means considering how radically we can reduce without damaging the product or ignoring legal requirements. Not an easy task.
An approach I definitely want to pursue further. For this reason you can also send the cans of Deo Cream, Lip Care and Solid Perfumes back to me - I will use them again if possible. And you get a discount on your next order for your efforts. More about the refill service.
It's all so much more complex and bigger than you think. First of all: Sustainable packaging in natural cosmetics is - at least for companies with a sense of responsibility - the holy grail. Nobody has cracked it yet and found the perfect solutions, especially since it depends on so many different factors. Every product has its own individual characteristics and this results in different demands on the packaging. Which in turn cannot be fulfilled with certain sustainable materials.
So which materials should you choose? I don't have all the answers to this question yet. But I am very concerned with the topic and will constantly optimize and try it out.
In the 2nd part of the "Sustainable Packaging" blog series you will learn more about the different materials and their advantages and disadvantages. Coming soon.