Making Beauty Sustainable with PACT

Image of cosmetics covering a tabletop

by | Apr 1, 2024

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In the face of mounting environmental concerns, the beauty industry confronts a significant challenge: over 120 billion cosmetic packages are produced annually, with a staggering 79% ending up in landfills or as pollutants in our natural ecosystems. The complex nature of beauty packaging is at the heart of the issue, not just the sheer volume of waste but the small, mixed-material designs that are notoriously difficult to recycle. PACT, a non-profit organization working to promote effective recycling within the beauty sector, is stepping up to share hard truths and offer tangible solutions for packaging production, material claims, recycling rates, and the end-of-life realities in the industry.

Exposing the Complexity of Cosmetic Waste

Cosmetic packaging presents unique challenges to sustainability efforts. Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) lack the equipment to handle much of the small packaging used in the industry, leading to a high incineration or landfill disposal rate. Few beauty and wellness packages have clear recycling marks. Most recycling facilities do not accept Many commonly used materials (specifically plastics #3, 4, 6, and 7). Having standardized certification for packaging sustainability could help make navigating these issues less challenging.

PACT aims to shake up this narrative by fostering a collective of beauty and wellness stakeholders committed to more sustainable packaging solutions. By leveraging toolkits, resource guides, and comprehensive collection programs, PACT is making strides in guiding the industry toward designs that are more environmentally friendly and practical in terms of recyclability and reuse.

Membership with PACT clearly indicates a brand’s commitment to sustainability. Brands that align with PACT’s principles may adopt practices such as creating refillable products or incorporating high Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) content into their packaging. These steps are crucial, as they reduce the need for virgin materials and set a precedent for the industry at large.

Redefining Beauty Packaging

PACT emphasizes that while recycling is critical in addressing the packaging dilemma, it is not a standalone solution. The initiative’s collection programs serve as a valuable tool. The ultimate goal, however, is to encourage the development of packaging that can either be easily recycled curbside or reused, thereby reducing reliance on specialized programs. By sharing data and insights gathered from these programs, PACT informs its members about what is effective and what needs rethinking, fostering innovation right from the design phase.

The Future of Sustainable Beauty

With the support of industry giants such as Sephora, L’Oreal, Ulta, Benefit, and Eastman, PACT is building momentum towards a more sustainable future for beauty packaging. Their efforts underscore the importance of unity and collaboration in driving significant, industry-wide change. For those looking to contribute but facing logistical challenges, PACT’s Mail-Back Program offers a convenient alternative, ensuring that even those without immediate access to recycling bins can participate.

Its message is clear as PACT continues to unite the beauty industry under the banner of sustainability. By rethinking packaging design and embracing circular solutions, we can significantly mitigate environmental impact and pave the way for a more sustainable, beauty-conscious planet.

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