With strong consumer demand for greater transparency and reduced waste, beauty companies have started to clock onto the need to take ownership of the products they produce and take a cradle-to-cradle approach to sustainability.
While the push to close the loop is stronger than ever, beauty is only at the very beginning of the tough but necessary circular journey.
New Zealand-based beauty brand Emma Lewisham is one of the few players in the beauty space that are going above and beyond to close the loop.
Launched in 2019, the brand operates its own recycling programme in partnership with Terracycle and uses innovations like refill pods to meet its goal of becoming 100% circular.
It believes there is an urgent need for beauty and personal care brands to take a more proactive approach to protect the environment.
“I believe that if you are claiming to be a sustainable brand, you need to have on the agenda how you're moving to become a circular brand. We know that moving to a circular refillable model reduces our carbon emissions by a minimum of 70%. And it also means that we would divert billions of units of packaging away from landfill and our oceans annually… The only way forward for beauty needs to be a circular model,” said CEO Emma Lewisham.
In the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has arguably been the catalyst of intensifying the APAC consumers’ interest in the environment and how their lifestyle choices affect the planet.
“We have seen at least two to three times more inquiries from our customers related to products that fit into the circular product chain. Europe and the US are definitely leading the charge, but we also definitely see an increase in interest in South East Asia and China,” said Cheung Hon-Man, executive director, global supply chain operations & Asia commercial, Meiyume.
Meiyume is a beauty packaging firm based in Hong Kong that has been developing solutions to help cosmetic companies close the loop. For instance, it has experimented with aluminium to create bottles, jars and lipstick cases, as the material is 100% recyclable and retains its properties indefinitely.
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However, the firm acknowledged that achieving circularity is not always as straightforward in practice.
“One of the big concepts of circularity is using the waste material as raw material… Right now, the infrastructure that we have isn't really efficient enough to be able to capture or recycle all of the recyclable materials that we are putting out there,” said Jan Porter, vendor compliance and sustainability.
For more expert insight on the progression of the circular beauty movement and challenges facing cosmetic companies today, check out our video above.