In an industry dedicated to beautification, many brands unfortunately don’t consider the impact that manufacturing and packaging has on the beauty of our own planet.
Defacing our once-pristine beaches and waterways with non-biodegradable plastics is something that should concern all industries.
Fait avec Coeur is a brand that promotes sustainable living and aims to elevate your everyday life with gorgeous beauty products. We want to take the time to address a concern that’s near to our heart: the rampant use of plastic in the skincare industry. We’ll cover everything from what plastic is used in, to why, and the impact it has on our environment.
How Is Plastic Used in the Beauty Industry?
Plastic is used everywhere – from packaging to containers, to microbeads. It has become such a big part of our culture that it’s almost impossible for a household to go completely plastic-free.
Products such as shampoo contain microplastics. They come in a plastic bottle and are often encased in plastic packaging. The plastic label puts a lid in the coffin. The worst part is the fact that most of this plastic isn’t recyclable.
Microplastics or microbeads are pieces of plastic less than 5 mm in size that are used as emulsifying agents or as cheap filler material. Microplastics don’t make up a large portion of the total plastic problem, but they act as vectors of transport of pollution, thus exposing our marine life to toxic pollutants. And on an individual level, microbeads in toothpaste and other dental care products can get stuck in the gums and cause dental problems.
Here are some shocking plastic usage stats:
- According to National Geographic, the amount of plastic packaging on US products has increased over 120 times since 1960.
- Almost 70% of the aforementioned plastic is lying in landfills, with most of the rest floating about in our oceans.
- The overall rate of plastic recycling is dismal – just 8.7% in 2018.
Why is all this plastic a problem?
The Environmental Consequences of Using Plastic
Sustainable living and plastic pollution don’t support one another. If we want a healthy, problem-free future, we need to take our plastic problem by the horns and tackle it. Here’s how plastic is problematic:
- It does not decompose.
Unlike biodegradable materials such as paper, cloth and cardboard, plastic does not biodegrade – at least, not in a reasonable time period. It can take a couple hundred years for a piece of plastic to decompose, which means that all the plastic we use and throw away daily is piling up, waiting to decompose.
- It’s eaten by our marine wildlife.
Turtles, seabirds, dolphins, and seals (among other creatures) fall prey to the lure of plastic. They mistake it for food and end up consuming it or feeding it to their young. It then fills their stomach and causes intestinal blockage, eventually killing the animal.
- It leaches toxic chemicals into the soil.
While our plastic lies in our landfills, it gradually leaches toxic chemicals into the soil. The chemicals then make their way into our underground water system. These toxic chemicals are then often consumed by us by way of absorption into our crops or in our drinking water.
- It’s non-recyclable – no, really.
Okay, so plastic is recyclable, you say, but there are so many ifs and buts in that process (fickle demand, virgin plastic being cheaper, not all plastics being recyclable) that it’s simpler for people and companies to consider it non-recyclable and toss it in the landfill. This is another reason why it’s piling up in our landfills and polluting our oceans.
The list can actually go on further with problems caused by plastic, but let’s focus in on plastic use in the beauty industry.
Why Do Brands Use Plastic in Their Products?
Plastic has a lot of uses, which is why brands use it so widely. Nobody wants to actively harm the environment – it’s just that plastic gets the job done, and it does so cheaply. We’re a brand dedicated to sustainable living, but even we acknowledge that plastic is a useful material. (Our face masks, for instance, come in thin plastic sheaths for hygiene reasons that can’t be avoided in a time of global pandemic.)
Let’s look at some reasons why plastic is used in the beauty industry.
Plastic is perhaps the best material for packaging and containers, because it’s lightweight, flexible, sturdy, attractive and even waterproof. With soap and other products now being available in liquid form, companies need sturdy waterproof containers for them.
Microplastics and microbeads are used in products that help cleanse, for their ability to scrub and lift surface stains. They’re often used in facial scrubs, toothpaste, and other cleansing beauty products.
Another reason why plastic is used widely is because plastic is cheap. Alternatives often cost dozens of times more than plastic. And to add to the problem, virgin (or unrecycled) plastic is cheap. So, brands choose to go with unrecycled plastic because it’s the most cost-effective and fuss-free solution. Consumers often make their purchase choices based on the lowest cost possible, so our actions as consumers go up the chain to the manufacturers’ decisions as well.
Perhaps another reason may be the fact that the harmful effects of plastic aren’t becoming problematic yet to us humans. If toxic chemicals and plastic pollution were actively making life difficult, governments might ban the material outright, but the problem is still considered one of the distant future, so many people (and brands) lack the foresight to avoid plastic.
Going Plastic Free: A Ray of Hope
The good news is that there are many brands around the world that are trying to reduce their usage of plastic. With bath bombs and shampoo bars instead of bubble bath and bottled shampoo, some companies have changed the way people use certain products, and in the process, cut down on a lot of plastic. A lot of beauty products are largely water, and these liquid-form products need waterproof containers. By cutting out the water and converting the product to (mostly) solid form – think soap bars and eyeliner pencils – brands can cut out the plastic.
Reusable containers are another way in which brands can promote sustainable living. Some makeup companies have been working on refillable containers, which can be used and reused for years.
It’s possible to replace some plastic packaging with paper or cardboard – for example, in soap bars. Most people don’t want to buy a soap bar that’s completely unpackaged, but packaging made of paper is a good enough alternative for most purposes.
Fait avec Coeur and Sustainable Living Go Hand-In-Hand
Sustainability is one of our goals, and it saddens our hearts to see the mess consumers and manufacturers have created for ourselves. What’s worse is the fact that the plastic problem has already begun to take a serious toll on our beautiful marine wildlife, but there are people who still don’t know about the problem, or who don’t care.
We want to help educate our readers so they realize the scale of the problem and can make changes in their lifestyle to become more sustainable. The ocean is made up of individual drops of water, and like those individual drops, with the growing number of people wanting to help, we can truly come together to make a change.
At Fait avec Coeur, we do our part by ensuring that all our products are as sustainable as possible. We try to minimize our use of plastic and avoid using it in our packaging unless truly necessary. You’ll find more and more of our new zero-waste product launches, such as the zero-waste face cleansing truffle. In addition, silk is a sustainable material, which is one of the reasons why we chose it for our products.
The next time you need to buy something, try and opt for a company that makes its products sustainably. It’s a small change, but this small change will go a big way in making your household that little bit more sustainable, and with millions of people like you doing the same thing, we can save the Earth from a plastic-choked future.