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Published April 23, 2021
Published April 23, 2021
Pact Collective

We all know the numbers. We’ve seen the images. And as an industry, we have been complicit in creating the plastic problem wreaking havoc on our planet. The recycling and composting of plastics are crucial elements of the circular economy, but they are complex processes that are influenced by numerous factors. The term “recyclable” itself is ambiguous and is contingent upon multiple aspects of packaging, local infrastructure, and the existence of end markets for recycled material. Just because a package is recyclable doesn’t mean it actually gets recycled.

According to Zero Waste, the beauty industry generates an estimated 120 billion cosmetic packages annually across the globe—most made with virgin plastic—and a very small percentage is successfully recycled. While there are a lot of creative founders trying to tackle this massive problem, most of them will be stuck as niche propositions because solutions to the plastic problem lie in the ability to scale and become mainstream. The solution to this problem will require collaboration, not competition, and happen at the business-model level—mindful choices around packaging solutions and clever marketing will not move the needle enough.

Concerned with the enormity of the environmental impact of cosmetics and skincare packaging, a group of beauty industry leaders teamed up to form Pact Collective, the first not-for-profit recycling program dedicated exclusively to the beauty industry. The creation and launch of Pact is driven by four founding members: Credo Beauty, MOB Beauty, Hudson Bay, and Element Packaging.

Pact’s mission is to provide a sustainable solution for “hard-to-recycle” beauty packaging and work toward greater circularity in the industry. “Hard-to-recycle” is defined as plastic packages smaller than a yogurt cup, squeezable tubes, pumps, caps, and other common formats that are unlikely to be recycled in curbside programs or even “single stream” bins.

Education will be a key focus for the collective, which aims to tackle misinformation and greenwashing in the beauty industry. The materials collected in the take-back bins are sent to a recycling partner where they are sorted, cleaned, and then recycled, upcycled, or reused. Mia Davis, VP of Sustainability and Impact for Credo, says, “We founded Pact to take responsibility for beauty packaging’s impact on the planet. We are recycling packages that otherwise end up in the landfill or incinerator—or as toxic pollution in the environment. And with accurate, truthful information, we’re going to change the future design and material choices, and work toward greater circularity.”

Pact will open the collective to other industry members later in 2021, with plans to scale. Victor Casale, co-founder and CEO of MOB and formerly MAC Cosmetics, says, “The collective is powerful because we have representatives from across the industry who have come together to create a not-for-profit recycling solution. Pact will bring much-needed inclusivity and transparency to the beauty packaging system from design to end-of-life.”

Pact launches across North America with recycling bins available in all 10 Credo stores in the US and 20 Hudson’s Bay stores in Canada. Hudson’s Bay plans to roll out to all 87 stores throughout 2021. Other program extensions are in beta testing, including a mailback program being led by MOB Beauty.

Sustainability is a journey, not a destination. Real change can only happen if we work together.


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