The beauty industry is one of the biggest contributors to plastic pollution in the world. Most of your favourite products are covered in the stuff, and for reason – pliable, cheap and easily shaped, when it was created it was the most obvious choice for covering easily breakable product or liquid being transported to all corners of the globe. But as the world moves towards reusable metal straws and supermarkets clamp down on one-use plastic bags, it’s time the beauty industry does the same.
The problem with plastic
Last year, a Zero Waste Week campaign highlighted that the cosmetic industry processes a 120 billion units of packaging each year. Now, a staggering 150 million tonnes of plastic litter our oceans.
As plastic is hard to break down (hundreds of years, to be exact), it’s either unrecycled or dumped in landfill to eventually overflow into our oceans to sit on the ocean floor or be consumed by sea life. This means in a short space of time, a large proportion of marine life will die out, meaning there will be more plastic than fish. If you’ve seen David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, you’ll know what we mean. It’s not good news for anyone involved.
With brands like Lush opting to go ‘naked’ and introduce plastic-free products, awareness about the industry-wide problem is growing. Leading Aussie hair stylist Kevin Murphy is the first beauty brand to act on the dangers of plastic pollution and is intent on implementing a change in the industry. He is working on moving his entire brand to use 100 percent recycled ocean plastics (OWP), and to encourage others to do so.
“I wanted to be part of the solution rather than the problem, so I wanted to do whatever we could whilst still retaining a positive experience of washing your hair. But it really comes down to cost, but hopefully the technology over time will cheapen, and be more accessible to other brands,” Murphy explains.
The idea is to implement a circular supply chain. Murphy is producing new bottles that will float to the surface of the ocean and will be picked up by trawlers, eliminating the waste on the ocean floor. The bottles are in production and tests are being conducted.
“The oceans are choked at the moment; they are at real breaking point. We have to act,” Murphy says.
“From August 2019 you will begin to see Kevin Murphy bottles made from 100 per cent OWP, working towards full line conversion of our bottles in 2020. Every time you choose a package that is made from OWP versus virgin plastic, it is the equivalent of removing 3-4 plastic bags from the ocean.”
Whilst other manufacturers have committed to using 25 to 30 percent OWP in their packaging, Murphy decided to use 100 percent, meaning that the entirety of the bottle will be ocean waste friendly. He intends to produce 14.5 million pieces of plastic in the production of the bottles next year from ocean waste, meaning that he will remove 360 tons of plastic from oceans. This is the equivalent of taking out 14 million plastic bottles from the sea.
This gradual awakening is sure to have an impact on global brands and retailers, as the pressure to become plastic-free in the industry gains consumers support. It could also have an impact on the price of the product as the cost to manufacture increases, as well as a rise of independent retailers that are choosing to go plastic-free. As it stands it will be interesting to see how the rest of the beauty industry reacts to Kevin Murphy’s initiative.