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The Environmental Impact of Common Cosmetic Packaging


For many years, the contribution of plastic to the accelerating rate of climate change has been mostly hidden. Last year, it was finally placed under the spotlight when videos of sea creatures choking on plastic, as well as pictures of oceans and beaches littered with single-use plastic, went viral.

The Environmental Impact of Common Cosmetic Packaging

Marine plastic is a very serious issue, but in the bigger scheme of things, it doesn’t even compare to the overall impact of plastic, from production to disposal. 

Yale Climate Connections noted that if the world’s reliance on plastics persists, plastics will account for 20% of all oil consumption come 2050. Based on the most recent report by Zero Waste Week, the global cosmetics industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging per year, thus greatly contributing to the plastic problem of the world.

The Harms Of Cosmetic Packaging To The Environment

In the cosmetics industry, it is typical for beauty products to rely on exorbitant and excessive use of plastic packaging to make their products more appealing to the public. After all, brands are more or less selling the same products and are encouraged to turn to product packaging to rise above the rest. Cosmetic packaging is primarily made of single-use plastics that are extremely difficult to recycle due to their inflexibility.

An article by The Guardian wrote that while 40% of plastic packaging is disposed of at sanitary landfills, 14% goes to incineration facilities and 14% is collected for recycling. Since nearly all plastic is made from fossil fuels, incinerating it — as a waste management method — creates the most carbon dioxide emissions while refining it for other use is considered to be the most greenhouse gas-intensive.

Meaning to say, all of the disposal methods do more harm than good to the environment. To make matters worse, cosmetic packaging is often mixed with other materials that make them look prettier and more destructive to the environment. For instance, Insider reports that the glitter decorations in packaging are microplastics that when washed down the drain can make their way up to the food chain after being consumed by fish and birds.

The Things Being Done & Things We Can Do

Fortunately, last year exhibited a real tipping point for public consciousness towards plastic pollution. The plastic pollution in the oceans showed how colossal the plastic problem is. Marine plastics pushed different government offices to rally for bans on single-use plastic items, and different beauty brands to make an effort to reduce their plastic use.

The states of California, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, and Delaware have already banned single-use plastic, while beauty brands like Unilever and L’Oreal signed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s “New Plastics Economy” and aimed to make 100% of their packaging reusable, refillable and compostable by 2025.

As a consumer, there are many ways you can help in the fight against the use of plastic. You can begin by finding more eco-friendly alternatives to your usual cosmetics and personal care products, and by focusing on buying only the products that you need. Go for brands that use natural components, have an alternative and creative approach to packaging, and are signatories to initiatives that are against the use of plastics.

Make it a habit to read a product’s label to check its ingredients and inspect its packaging, especially if you have a little one. While most products geared towards kids are packaged to look cute with colorful plastic, Toddle shows how these products can be good for not just your kids, but the environment as well.

Offering an all-natural vegan skincare line for kids made with fully biodegradable packaging, the brand shows that it’s entirely possible to find a middle ground. You can also turn to the internet to look for the best eco-friendly products. For instance, this list from Best Products made sure to only include products that will help you swap out single-use plastics for good.

The torrential hurricanes, widespread wildfires, and devastating earthquakes that are happening all around the globe are solid signs that the effects of climate change are already here. While it may seem like it’s too late to turn the tide, if everyone works hand-in-hand and does something in their little ways, we will all be able to see the changes we want to see in the world.

Adopt a greener lifestyle that is free of plastic, promotes energy conservation, and forwards reusing and recycling whenever possible. Have a read of our ‘5 Simple Ideas For an Eco-Friendly House and Lifestyle’ post for more tips and tricks on how to achieve a greener home and lifestyle.

Rose Jeanne
Rose Jeanne
Rose Jeanne is an aspiring author and freelance lifestyle blogger. She is also an environmental activist, and advocates for causes through her writing. She hopes to make more people aware of their role and impact on the environment.

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