The beauty industry is one of the worst culprits when it comes to ocean pollution. We may have woken up to the damage of microbeads, but this is just the beginning. The beauty world is overflowing with plastic products, containers, and solutions that contaminate the earth and clog our drains.
This blog post has been inspired by a recent trip to the city of love, ‘Paris’, where out and about, I happened to come across an entire exhibition on ocean plastics in a public square just a few blocks from the Louvre. I was disturbed to learn how many cosmetics (or rather what's left of them) end up in the ocean. On display, there were lipstick containers, bottles, foundations, and lids and pumps from all types of beauty products that had been fished out of the sea to form a huge display. This got me thinking. How many products do I alone use that can not be recycled? With the ever-growing giant garbage patch in the Central North Pacific Ocean, and New Zealand's inability to recycle most plastics, where will these products end up when I'm finished with them?
Photo Ellen Taylor
I want you to do me a favour right now If you’re reading this at home. Go into your room or bathroom and count how many moisturisers, cleansers, lipsticks, foundations, and hair products you own. How many of those products are in plastic containers or bottles? Majority of them right?! And how many other girls and guys out there may have just as many or maybe more of these than you? It’s a scary thought. According to Euromonitor, the cosmetic industry created a whopping 120.8 billion units of packaging in 2008. Considering how much the makeup industry alone has progressed in the last 10 years, how much plastic packaging are we creating in this consumer-driven, fast fashion economy now?!
Above: Just a few items in my bathroom made from plastic or with plastic lids and containers. Shameful to admit I am not as plastic-free as I thought.
If you walk through any cosmetics store, supermarket or beauty section, there are honestly thousands of products lining the walls that are marketed to you, wrapped in plastic, and made from plastic. There’s got to be a solution, and there is. I did some digging, and it turns out there are lots of plastic free/low waste alternatives to plastic based cosmetics. In fact - there are now hundreds of innovative companies that are creating products from biodegradable/plastic free or 100% recyclable materials, like glass or aluminium. You can even buy plastic-free glitter 'eco-glitter' on Asos, as traditional glitter is a form of microplastic which is extremely harmful to the environment.
Take Elate Cosmetics (a Canadian Cosmetic company) for example. This sustainable brand makes all their palettes, compacts and tools with sustainable bamboo which is a self-regenerating natural resource, unlike timber. The products are also vegan and toxin free. Sometimes small plastic parts may be included in their products but more often than not these conscious companies provide a take-back program where the consumer can send back the empty containers for reuse. A huge step forward from most products that are encased in an entirely plastic outer body.
Pictured above: Elate's bamboo beauty.
Some high quality make up brands that are using sustainable materials and have ditched the plastic are;
Elate Cosmetics - Mentioned earlier, create their tools and palettes with sustainable bamboo
Eco Tools - Who make their brushes from sustainable bamboo
RMS Beauty - They make all their products with food grade / organic ingredients so they are safe for your skin and the environment. Although they haven't entirely ditched plastic packaging, most products come in recyclable containers.
Kjaer Weis - Stainless steel products including lipsticks and palettes which are 100% recyclable and refillable. Another brand that has a take-back program.
Tata Harper - 100% natural and non-toxic, all their products are packaged in glass bottles and without plastic labels, something we tend to forget about.
Antonym - A certified organic beauty label that uses bamboo packaging and no plastic labels, they print directly onto the wood.
Ilia - Another cosmetic brand that uses recycled aluminium, which can be recycled fully again. A lot less harmful than plastic to our environment.
Ethique - Ethique is a New Zealand brand that makes shampoo bars, cleansers, and body bars that use NO plastic whatsoever. A brand that I personally started using a couple of months ago and highly recommend to everyone. They are plastic free, vegan, palm oil free and sustainable. Their body butter bars are to die for.
Plain Products - If you've tried out shampoo bars and have found they aren't for you then Plain Products might be the way to go. Their hair products are SLS free and biodegradable and come in 100% recyclable and refillable aluminium bottles. Woo!
Above: A (well used) shampoo bar and body butter bar from Ethique with their biodegradable bamboo soap container.
I challenge you to be better and to be a role model for your friends. Don’t go for the cheap and convenient approach to beauty, go for the conscious approach. Every single person can make a difference.
If you want to find more low waste/plastic free beauty products that are accessible easily in New Zealand, check out these sites.