I attended The Body Shop’s Activist Workshop event in Mumbai, where attendees were asked to bring in used plastic bottles for a ‘fun activity’. The store, located in Mumbai’s Palladium Mall, has a plastic recycling machine that generates a gift voucher for every plastic bottle you put in it. the use of single-use packaging waste in India. That being said, the scale of the problem seems insurmountable when you consider the numbers. According to Euromonitor, nearly 151 billion packaging units are produced each year by the beauty industry, most of which are plastic.
Unfortunately, plastic is only part of the problem. We’re talking about the shredded paper, bubble wrap, cardboard boxes and secondary packaging needed for environmentally sabotaging online deliveries, one purchase at a time. And while India’s beauty industry has taken note of the problem and is constantly looking for ways to counter it, sustainable packaging comes with its own set of challenges.
A CONSIDERABLE APPROACH – GETTING STARTED
Globally, beauty giants like Unilever, Coty and Beiersdorf have pledged that all of their plastic packaging will be recycled, reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. India is slowly catching up with international brands that are extending their sustainable philosophy to the Indian market, and with local products the brands are also jumping on the bandwagon. Unilever’s Love Beauty Planet has introduced clean flake labeling technology. “This makes it easier for facilities to recycle because our labels peel off easily without leaving toxic residue on the bottles,” says Pearl Shah, the brand’s senior marketing manager.
Newly launched Indian skincare brand Aminu proudly refrains from including single-use samplers, makeup remover wipes and sheet masks in its portfolio. “Our eco-friendly packaging strategy includes the use of glass and paper ribbons,” explains Prachi Bhandari, co-founder of the brand. Likewise, The Switch Fix has completely eliminated the secondary layer of packaging like outer boxes and fancy wrap sheets. Additionally, brands are implementing refill programs that minimize single-use product containers for shampoos, moisturizers, and conditioners. Model and entrepreneur Miranda Kerr’s beauty brand KORA Organics is also making a slow transition to glass bottles and refill pods. Indian brand Enn’s Closet is giving customers a free face mask jar by returning five empty jars.
As the movement gains traction, beauty brands are enticing loyal customers to be part of their efforts. “Through our in-store recycling program, Return Recycle Repeat, customers can easily recycle their beauty product packaging. Bringing our voids back seems like a small step, but one that could lead to big change,” says Antara Kundu, Deputy Managing Director, Marketing, The Body Shop Asia-South. While these small steps can lead to bigger changes in the future, they also allow consumers to feel part of an agenda that has direct environmental implications.
AN UPWARD BATTLE
To provide sustainable options to the consumer, several factors must be considered – from finding ethical sources to source eco-friendly materials to managing price changes – brands have no easy task. Additionally, plastic is an inevitable part of the beauty industry and its elimination will involve an evolutionary process of educating and persuading buyers and manufacturers. “Changing the way consumers use our products has been a challenge. Returning and recycling beauty packaging does not come naturally to most customers and we are on a mission to change that,” says Antara.
When it comes to finding eco-friendly packaging solutions, the challenge for beauty brands is also finding associates who align with the thought process. “That means looking for sustainable partners who share our principles, such as suppliers and vendors who provide packaging materials that help us reduce our carbon footprint, and partners who help us recycle the empty jars and bottles that come to us. returned by our customers”, explains Mira Kulkarni. , the founder of Forest Essentials.
On the one hand, brand marketers are convinced of the need to create “gram-worthy” packaging to generate buyer interest, and on the other hand, they struggle to downplay our dependence on packaging. While some brands have managed to break even, there is still a long way to go. “We remove all secondary packaging like cartons and strive to create minimal but safe packaging for our products,” adds Antara.
SLOW AND STEADY
Times are slowly changing for the better; today’s consumer is informed and aware. A Mintel report states that “29% of Indian consumers” agree that for a brand or product to be considered sustainable, it must have environmentally friendly packaging. As consumers show their support for reducing packaging waste, brands are deciding to have a zero waste policy at the heart of their philosophy. However, the biggest part of the discussion is still about driving the conversation and changing mindsets around everyday sustainability. “We need to design packaging and products using materials, processes and ingredients that are sustainable and represent a modern definition of luxury. Our suppliers will need to innovate at a much faster rate to deliver solutions that help us achieve these goals,” Prachi summarizes. In the meantime, it is imperative that consumers maintain their demand for more sustainable packaging and fulfill their part of the recycling process.
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