The beauty industry has acknowledged it has a sustainability problem and is working diligently to change its ways, but success also requires a shift in consumer behavior. Common sense dictates that refillable products are far better for the environment, but sustainable packaging experts The LCA Centre quantified the impact. The purchase of a refillable product creates 70% less CO2 emissions, uses 60% less energy, and 45% less water than buying a brand-new bottle.
Brands like indie clean makeup brand Kjaer Weis, L’Occitane, and Le Labo are reducing packaging through refill concepts, but the question remains: are consumers willing to change the behavior for the sake of sustainability? i-D magazine asked experts.
Victoria Buchanan, Senior Strategic Researcher at trend forecasting agency The Future Laboratory, admits refillable beauty has its challenges. “It requires quite a big behavior change on behalf of the consumer as well as redesigning the supply chain.Therefore, in order to really create an impact, brands need to combine eco-friendly and cost-saving innovation with products often associated with luxury.”
Millie Kendall, CEO of British Beauty Council, has long been a fan of refillable beauty, but she too has her reservations. “Whilst I love the idea of the sustainable refill, I do think there is some way to go to make the refillable beauty product that beneficial to the planet,” she tells i-D. “Skincare and body products can be refilled, but jars and receptacles need to be sanitarily cleaned so that they are hygienic. I do worry about that aspect as it’s bound to throw up all manner of sensitivity and allergy issues.”
“Refillable beauty ties into this environmental approach to beauty that is resonating with eco activist consumers,” explains Lisa Payne, Senior Beauty Editor at global trends analysts Stylus. “Currently, it’s harder for brands to get across the importance of this strategy in regards the wider issue of waste, but we predict stronger uptake in the future the more media traction the ‘plastic problem’ garners, and as more retailers make refillable beauty not only a part of their offering, but a really fun, attractive part of it.”
Beauty retailer Cult Beauty is championing refillable beauty brands. “We are starting to see a trickle of brands come out with refill versions of their products and we are really supportive of this concept. It’s not only eco-friendly, but it allows beauty companies to design beautiful, original vessels that really embody their branding and the consumer saves money on subsequent refill buys, which encourages loyalty. It’s a virtuous circle where everyone wins,” promises Cult Beauty founder Alexia Inge.
“I think the government needs to add eco-taxes to one-use plastics immediately and ‘Robin Hood’ the funds raised to subsidize bio-degradable technologies. For example, cellulose-based packaging, which is currently too expensive to use because they don’t have the economies of scale needed to be a viable alternative,” recommends Inge.
Olivia Crighton, founder of Glasshouse Salon, believes multi-use products are the way forward. “Reducing the number of products we buy and use in the first place is a huge step towards a more sustainable routine,” she explains. That’s why she created a multi-use hand, hair and body wash, for use by an entire family. “This means [customers] can cut down on the number of bottles they use, reducing consumption and therefore, waste. And we designed the bottle to hold 500ml as opposed to the more standard 250ml.”
Read the full story in i-D.
Photo: Sayed Hussanini via Unsplash