I was recently watching one of my favorite series on HBO, and there was a scene we’ve all watched many times in a variety of movies and sitcoms. It’s that moment when the woman and man finally make the decision to move in together. The next morning the camera pans in on the bathroom counter as the man tries to find his toothbrush amidst piles of makeup and beauty products.
Normally this cliched scene wouldn’t make me take notice, but this time it did, because I started to think about all the plastic-encased beauty products I use on a daily basis. After the show was over, I got up to go count all of my beauty stuff. I’ve got about 30 different items that I estimate get used and trashed once every 3-6 months. A few of them are recyclable, but most are not. So, I decided to do a little research to see how bad this problem is, and let me tell you, it is not pretty!
According to Bloomberg News, over 120 billion units of cosmetics are packaged and produced each year. These small tubes of mascara, lipsticks, and moisturizers are usually too small for recycling and often have squeezable, twisty parts and pumps that make them nearly impossible to recycle. There are also other things I hadn’t thought of when I “recycled” my face powder and eyeshadows. What about the mirror in the face powder compact I’ve been sending to be recycled with the plastic? Oh, no! Epic fail!
Ok, so I’m having a bit of a personal wakeup call, and I hope you do as well. Most of the stuff we use to make ourselves look even more gorgeous winds up littering the earth with ugly plastics that pollute the oceans and clog up landfills. The main reason this is such a huge problem is that changing products and packaging involves costs that most companies shy away from, and that is the bigger issue.
The good news is that there are some easy immediate changes that can be made to solve this problem. For example, we can switch from bottled body wash to bar soap and from plastic bottled shampoo to refillable shampoos and conditioners or even bar shampoos. We can also opt for zero waste (or package-free) products. The even better news is that consumers have the power to change things.
According to Charlotte Nisbet of the Lush package free beauty brand: “consumers have as much power as brands when it comes to positive change.” We need to use that power to encourage our favorite brands to get after it! We also need to understand that it won’t be perfect or immediate, but over time it can be done. It’s also important to realize that our perception of beauty products needs to change. Most 100% recycled compostable packaging doesn’t have that bright glam look we’re all accustomed to seeing on the shelf. But that’s ok because they won’t contribute to dimming the beauty of our planet. I’m definitely cool with zero or boring packaging in exchange for pristine oceans and far less waste. So next time you’re shopping for that perfect eyeliner or shadow I hope you check out companies that are stepping up to make the world a better place!