The three engagements of sustainable packaging in cosmetics


Like the skin for the human body, packaging is the thin layer playing the role of interface between the brand and the consumer. Therefore, it represents the most important communication tool to express the brand’s positioning. However, we mustn’t forget that it should also enable the best and sustainable user experience as possible. Thus, three main characteristics may be identified.


Sustainable use

With the rising of climate change awareness, especially from Millenials (Youth for Climate movement, Greta Thunberg, etc), packaging goals have changed. Not only being a physical envelope, it represents how brands express their positioning. This is a strategic topic for brands to connect with their consumers because they are more and more requesting sustainable development engagement!

The 3-R strategy is in the core of all sustainable beauty brands : Re-use, Re-cycle, and Re-cyclable materials. A new topic appeared these last 3 years: new natural or natural-derived materials. These are very interesting, because they take advantage of natural materials that are available, renewable and most often, linked to supply chain management. Future materials - how we could name them - are a key R&D project to develop.


Materials are in the heart of eco-design


More and more companies are reducing their ecological impact, thanks to material innovation. Biodegradable polymers represent a great opportunity because they are degraded naturally and produce at the end of biochemical reactions only water, CO2 and methane. A compostable plastic is biologically decomposed into water, CO2, inorganic compounds and biomass, without any toxic waste. At least, bioplastics are produced with plant compounds and are biodegradable.

R’PET, is a recycled plastic stemming from plastic bottles. It offers good aesthetic characteristics and is Ecocert certified with a measurable environmentally profile:  3 kg CO2 saved per kg of transformed RPET.


EcoFriendlyBrands, a Hong-Kong group, uses Ecopure, EcoPure® is an organic additive that causes plastic to biodegrade* through a series of chemical and biological processes in a landfill disposal environment. One of the group’s brand, EcoFriendlyBrands uses a corn starch-derived resin called PSM (Plastarch material), and bio-PET (Bio-based polyethylene terephthalate) produced from  bioethanol. EcoFriendlyBrands is a good example (and more and more companies follow the same trend), that uses recycled paper, soy-derived ink and sustainably managed forests (FSC label) for its product packagings.


Another example is Paptic®, a biodegradable polymer produced through green processes from FSC wood fibers, EN 13432 certified, that is recycled and recyclable. A last innovation we would like to introduce is stone paper. Also known as limestone paper or rock paper, generically referred to as bio-plastic paper, is a type of strong and durable paper-like material manufactured from calcium carbonate bonded with small amount of resin high-density polyethylene (HDPE). It is used for stationery, leaflets, posters, books, magazines, bags, packaging, wallpaper, adhesives, tags, in-mould labels, plates, trays, containers, and maps among other uses. Stone paper collects no static charge, is acid-free with a neutral pH, has no grain, is water, grease, and insect resistant, and tears with difficulty due to a latex-like texture. It possesses a smoother surface than most traditional paper products, eliminating the need for a coating or lamination. Its production uses no water, acid, bleach or optical brighteners. It can be recycled endlessly, if recycled separately at civic amenity sites. This could represent a good environment-friendly choice in the beauty industry.


Benchmarking helps us to transfer technologies from another sector to the beauty industry. Thus, the French startup WOODOO, founded by Thimothee Boitouzet, rebuilds wood at the molecular level to make it the most performative material of the 21st century: weatherproof, fire-resistant, 300% stronger than native wood, and translucent! Actual target markets are only automotive and building industries. It has won over 33 innovation awards since 2017, emerging as a leading MaterialTech startup at the forefront of the European research ecosystem.


Packaging is key in brand sustainability approach


Packaging has a strong environmental footprint. Therefore, brands try to reduce through different and combined approaches: packaging weight reduction, re-valorization, or bio sourced materials. This motivation is due to the consumer’s awareness and requirements. Brands such as L’Oréal creates internally solutions like its « Sustainable Product Optimisation Tool", measuring social and environmental impact. In order to reduce 85% of plastic wastes, Bulldog’s launched a refill product recently. Head & Shoulders launched a shampoo which packaging is made from beach-collected-plastic.

Beauty startups with green positioning are flourishing too. Like CoZie, an eco-responsible cosmetic brand aiming zero waste. It offers deposit and bulk products. Oolution, developed a 100% coresponsable range of cosmetic products. La Maison du Naturel offers organic and 100% natural make-up, formulated in the French Alps. Its packagings are re-usable, recyclable and returnable.  A challenging way to reduce packaging footprint is also to avoid it. There is even a « zero packaging, zero waste » lipstick! While Lush developed recently a new solid foundation without packaging.


If you want to discover more about sustainable packaging innovations, come and visit the Cosmetic 360 show, 16-17 October 2019 in Paris.