Rub of the green

7 December 2018



A shift towards ‘green’ consumerism is evident, with 75% of consumers believing that living an ethical and sustainable lifestyle is important in creating a feeling of well-being, according to primary research by GlobalData. How can ethical and sustainable packaging play an important role in achieving that lifestyle and peace of mind?


Mainstream media is driving consumer change. Blue Planet II has drawn attention to the issue of marine litter, leading to a focus on wet wipes, disposable cups, singleuse plastics, chemicals and microbeads in plastics that is driving real, sweeping change, resulting in efforts to reduce and replace those objects with environmentally friendlier alternatives.

Sustainability communicates quality credentials: 32% of consumers interpret high quality in personal-care products to mean ‘environmentally friendly/ sustainable’, and 21% feel the same in luxury packaging.

GlobalData has identified three key opportunities to target the ‘green’ consumer:

1. Beyond plastic

2. Reduced packaging

3. Reusable beauty.

Beyond plastic

A plastic tax would bring about significant consumer change; 79% responded that they would buy fewer products less often or stop altogether, compared with the 21% who said their shopping behaviour would be unaffected.

Some of the companies using this in their packaging include Tata Harper in the US, which uses glass for the majority of its packaging, with only a very minimal amount of plastic included. Virginia Stone, also in the US, uses a container for its eye cream that is formed of sand, stone, hemp and water, and is 100% recyclable and reusable.

Reduced packaging

Brands can prevent waste, starting with the new product development process. A total of 72% of consumers find reducing unnecessary packaging important in environmentally friendly packaging, while 25% of consumers would buy more unpackaged products or buy them more often in the future.

Lush Cosmetics is pioneering the zero packaging movement with its naked packaging of Slap Sticks – a solid foundation stick packaged in a peelable wax handle, and sold in reusable and recycled cardboard boxes to keep them fresh.

Ethique in New Zealand distributes solid, biodegradable ‘beauty bars’. The bars are claimed to last longer than liquid-filled bottled products, and are derived from natural sources, and packaged in 100% biodegradable wrappers or compostable, plastic-free boxes.

Reusable beauty

Investing in packaging that tackles throwaway culture, consumers were asked how important is it that environmentally friendly packaging is refillable and reusable?

A total of 69% considered the issue to be “extremely important”, 23% answered “neutral” and only 8% considered the issue “not important”.

Here are three examples of refillable make-up that can coincide with luxury:

  • Kjaer Weis, US, uses an intelligent refill system. Its packaging designs feature metal that can be used again, and its refill cartons can be recycled.
  • L’Occitane has launched Eco Recharge soap and shower gel refills that are economical and environmentally friendly, using less material and energy to produce than the ‘original’ pack.
  • Lancome has enclosed its refill within a glass jar, while the weight has been reduced by 39%.

One core belief among consumers is that brands should facilitate easy recycling. A persistent frustration with packaging, voiced by customers, is that the recycling or waste management stream is very hard to understand. What they want to know is that if they put something that is labelled ‘recyclable’ into their recycling stream at home, it will be correctly designated, streamed and actually recycled. 75% of consumers believe it is important that environmentally friendly packaging is recyclable.

A great example of this comes from Burt’s Bees, which runs a free mailing system with TerraCycle, enabling consumers to recycle any and all of Burt’s Bees’ packaging nationwide. Another TerraCycle partner is Garnier, which worked with it to create a free recycling programme for all beauty packaging.

As to what the future holds, GlobalData’s research suggests the following key areas:

  • Smart and sustainable packaging will exist simultaneously.
  • Renewable energy will become 100% available and used in packaging supply chains.
  • Zero waste will go mainstream, with a shift towards zero packaging design and exploration of technology like water soluble pods.

In conjunction with this research, GlobalData also provided insight from the Pack Track database of key sustainable innovations and improvements found in packaging in 2018. As space is limited, we will just focus on major innovation.

A persistent frustration with packaging, voiced by customers, is that the recycling or waste management stream is very hard to understand.

Leading by example

In the US, Buhbli organics has launched its unscented Himalayan Bath Salts, which are USDA-certified organic and claimed to contain up to 84 naturally occurring minerals. The sustainable part of this product offering comes from the adaption of Braskem’s I’m green Polyethylene, and the pouch is supplied by Peel Plastics Products.

The primary packaging is a printed clear film (made with 30% plant-based PE) free-standing, quad-sealed type pouch, with a resealable ‘EZ to Close’ Velcro-type plastics closure strip with a series of small interlocking hook fasteners to either side of the top of the pouch.

Observations from GlobalData are that similar closure systems are found on Lundberg Rice, (using Velcro Press-Lok), Anchor Cheese and Kellogg’s Cereals (both use Aplix Fasteners’ Easy-Lok). The use of bio-based flexible packaging in personal care is a major innovation.

Use of plant-based material is communicated to the consumer via a statement printed on the front of the pack. Showing that the company is reducing its reliance on conventional petroleum plastics sends a positive sustainability message.

As it grows, sugarcane utilises carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, giving the material a negative carbon footprint. Using partial bio-based content allows the company to reduce the carbon footprint of its packaging and helps to raise the eco-credentials of a brand with a natural, organic positioning.

The pouch features the ‘EZ to Close’ Velcro-type reseal strip, which is easier and quicker to reclose than traditional grip-strips because it does not rely on the precise alignment of a single strip to be effective. The consumer just needs to press the two sides of the strip together so that the small plastics hooks engage and interlock to give a secure seal.

The closure system reseals the pouch very efficiently to keep the salts dry and prevent clumping caused by moisture ingress. This negates the need to transfer the salts to a separate storage container so product branding is retained throughout the lifetime of the pack.

Benefits of aluminium

In Italy, Conter has launched its skincare brand Tesori d’Oriente (Treasures of the Orient), which includes the Japanese Rituals and Crema Corpo body creams, enriched with Tsubaki Oil “used in Japan to treat the skin due to its emollient, moisturising and anti-oxidant properties”, and with Peony Oil, resulting in a “voluptuous scent”. These products are free from parabens, synthetic colourants and mineral oils. Packaging is a one piece aluminium jar with aluminium screw cap to close, which provides a far more attractive sustainable material that can be recycled infinitely, as opposed to a lot of the plastic tubs that are currently used, which are less recyclable, if at all.

Observations on this pack include that it’s unusual to see aluminium packaging in the skincare sector, which is normally dominated by plastic or glass packs (and to a lesser extent ceramics). Aluminium adds a noticeable point of difference for the brand. The aluminium pack is lighter than many other materials; therefore, using this format is likely to result in reduced transportation costs and associated CO2 emissions. All-aluminium jars are easier to recycle as there are no film labels for decoration. Other pack elements (such as the inner lid) can be easily separated for disposal.

Planting a seed

Another sustainable solution found in the skincare market comes from Seed Phytonutrients, which has produced a gentle body cleanser for all skin types, packaged in a moulded pulpboard outer shell made from 100% recycled material.

The ecologic logo is debossed at the bottom of each half of the shell. Inside, the lightweight extrusion blow-moulded HDPE inner bottle is made with 80% post-consumer recycled material. The same pack format is used for shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser and across the rest of the whole range.

A plastic tax would bring about significant consumer change; 79% responded that they would buy fewer products less often or stop altogether.

The shells are produced using paper and corrugated waste that is partly sourced from a L’Oreal distribution centre. (For every 7t of L’Oreal waste, Ecologic makes 70,000 bottles.) This pack was a Diamond Finalist in Dow Chemical Company’s Packaging Innovation Awards 2018.

The product claims to be the “first ever shower-friendly, post-consumer recycled paper bottle”. Previous Ecologic bottles have featured glued flanges at the sides that tended to come apart over time – sometimes even before the pack was purchased by the consumer – thus affecting pack appearance, rigidity and handling. The HDPE liner is 60% thinner than typical plastic shampoo and shower gel bottles, weighs just 9g and can be recycled as a blow-moulded bottle, representing an advantage over previous incarnations of the Ecologic pulpboard bottle.

Each pack contains a sachet of heirloom variety herb seeds that the consumer can plant in their own garden. Copy on the back label advises, “Once empty, split the bottle open and discover our heirloom seed packet inside”.

Previous versions of the pack could not be constructed on a fully automated line at high speeds (the gluing process was tricky, as was inserting the flexible pouch liner) and depended largely on manual labour. L’Oreal funded research into a commercially viable pack format and construction process that met the sustainability requirements of its own Seed Phytonutrients brand.

The packaging components can be separated easily for recycling purposes by pulling apart the two halves of the shell. The outer shell can be composted if no recycling facilities exist and the pack meets ASTM D 6868 composting standards.

Aiming for natural sustainability

Cosmetika France has focused on sustainability with its Zao essence of nature Matte Eyeshadow, which is made with 100% natural ingredients, certified organic and claims to be vegan. The compact case is made from bamboo cane; short strips are glued together with wood glue, and are used for foundations, powders, blush and eye shadows.

Compact case is made from renewable bamboo, a material that the brand-owner is said to have chosen for its modern, stylish look and for its natural, sustainable credentials. Compact is refillable, making this a sustainable alternative to more traditional plastics compacts. It can also be used as a durable item, with the colour pans being switched in and out as desired depending on the usage occasion or the season, for example. A pin can be inserted through a small aperture in the base of the compact to push out the colour pan for refilling or swapping.

The compact is supplied in a small cotton bag that is designed to be used for carrying the case to protect it (in a handbag, for example).

Group Lea Nature has created SO’BIO, a “fresh moisturising” organic shower cream of which the “biodegradable formula” is claimed to be natural, enriched with aloe vera, and free from sulphates, parabens, synthetic fragrances, colourants, EDTA and PEGs. Sustainable credentials are provided by the extrusion blow-moulded, opaque white ‘100% plant’ HDPE bottle. The supplier of the bottle is Rebhan FPS Kunststoff-Verpackungen

The rectangular and flat bottle is instantly noticeable on the shelf. It also brings a contemporary feel for a rather traditional shower product. The square bottle is rather awkward to handle, but its flip-top lid allows easy, one-thumb opening. The plant bottle uses technology that converts natural sugars found in plants into the ingredients for making fully recyclable plastic bottles. It looks, functions and recycles like a traditional plastics bottle but has a lighter footprint on the planet.

This plastic bottle, made entirely from plant materials, is mainly advertised through embossed details on either side, which, together with an embossed brand logo on the flip-top lid, adds a tactile element to the pack. It goes well with an organic, natural product, strengthening its environmental credentials.

Seed Phytonutrients’ body cleanser comes in a 100% recyclable moulded pulpboard outer shell.
The compact case for Zao’s essence of nature Matte Eyeshadow is made from bamboo cane.
Tesori d’Oriente body cream is packaged in an aluminium jar that can be rcycled indefinitely.


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