It’s a sad fact that 70% of plastic waste is dumped into our oceans every year, equating to 8 million tonnes that takes over 400 years to decompose. This plastic poses serious problems not only to the resident marine wildlife but also our global food chain. No wonder then that in 2017 the UN declared the global pollution of our waters a “planetary crisis”.
Now, with Covid-19 forcing a spike in single-use plastics – from essential PPE for front-line workers, to disposable masks, disinfecting wipes and bottles of hand sanitizer – that figure is only set to grow. Clearly, it’s a vitally important issue we need to address urgently, but on an individual level, where do we start?
Many believe that we need to change our behaviours as consumers first to make an impact. The beauty industry, for example, creates 120 million units of packaging each year, making it one of the worst offenders in the fight against plastic pollution. Yet there are things you can do on a consumer level to help reduce this, such as focusing on recycling, and reducing and reusing by investing in refillable beauty brands.
This is what Zero Waste Week promotes; a global campaign to raise awareness on how we can both save money and preserve resources to help protect our planet. In the UK alone, the average person throws away five times their own body weight in waste each year, so if we want to make a different, we need to act now.
While recycling isn’t the answer to our problems, it’s a good place to start. Initiatives like TerraCycle offer free recycling solutions where you can collect waste and send it to them to be processed. For example, brands like Maybelline have teamed up with TerraCycle to install recycling bins in various supermarkets across the country – simply toss your unwanted beauty products in there and they’ll do the rest.
But you can also make a difference by picking refillable beauty products in the first place. With these, the packaging can be reused on repeat, therefore reducing its overall environmental impact. While the movement is still only starting to take off for the mainstream, there are several brilliant beauty brands paving the way using clever innovations to create conscious product ranges. These are the ones you need to know right now.
This award-winning British brand is known for creating completely vegan, cruelty-free luxury fragrances using synthetic and sustainably sourced raw materials traceable to source. But Floral Street is also committed to helping reduce plastic pollution, too. Its perfumes are sold in pulp cartons that are both reusable and compostable – a first for the fragrance industry. Meanwhile, the beautiful patterned Floral Street perfume bottles are refillable – simply take yours into the flagship Covent Garden store and top it up with your favourite fragrance at a 20% discount. Or try the new Arizona Bloom – a sunny scent with notes of Balinese coconut, Madagascan black pepper, oak moss and musk.
£98 for 100ml
30 King St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8JD
Eschewing the need for traditional toothpaste (which primarily relies on unsustainable palm oil and produces 1.5 billion tubes of plastic waste each year), Parla’s tablets offer a more sustainable solution. Plastic-, palm oil-, cruelty- and gluten-free, these zero waste tablets were devised by dentists to protect both the planet and your smile. Simply place a tab on your tongue, chew for five seconds, then brush your teeth with a wet toothbrush and spit for a pearly smile. The standard 62 pack also comes in a recyclable glass jar, too.
£5 per month on subscription
Designed to be low on waste but big on eco-credentials, East London brand KanKan sells soap in infinitely recyclable aluminium cans. In fact, 75% of all aluminium ever made is still in use today, so opting to buy your soap this way will help eradicate single-use plastics in personal care. Each starter set contains a ‘forever’ glass bottle plus a refill can, and there are three types to choose from – lemongrass and juniper body wash, mandarin and clary sage hand wash or chamomile and lavender baby wash. The plastic-free brand also plants a tree for every can sold, too.
Starter sets from £24
Having launched his new Wash Cycle luxury hair care range earlier this year to great acclaim, London hairdresser Larry King is continuing his sustainable journey with a new collection of refills. The four fully recyclable aluminium tubes of City Life, Good Life, Social Life shampoos, and the Liquid Hairbrush conditioner, refill the original Wash Cycle glass bottles, helping maintain their status as a long term, aesthetically-pleasing addition to your bathroom. What’s more, for every product sold in the Wash Cycle range, Larry King pledges to donate a percentage to OneTreePlanted to plant trees around the world.
Shampoos, £21 each, conditioner, £23
Ren has now teamed up with Loop – the innovative zero waste shopping platform which lets you buy everyday essentials from household brands in reusable, refillable containers. Used empties are simply left on the doorstep for a scheduled collection by Loop – much like the milkman. As part of the collaboration, Ren has now made six of its best-selling products available through Loop, to be delivered in glass, label-free bottles that are easier to clean and refill. Included is the cult Rosa Centifolia cleansing gel, the Moroccan Rose Otto body wash and lotion, and the Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Anti-Fatigure body cream, body wash and handwash.
With a longstanding commitment to sustainability, Faith in Nature has been using 100% recycled and recyclable bottles since 1999, saving an estimated 340 tonnes of plastic from landfill. However, purchasing one of their refillable 5 litre bottles of body wash will also help. Available in eight scents, the latest fragrance on offer is ‘Wild Rose’, which captures the rejuvenating beauty benefits of organic rosehip oil. Simply take it to one of their refill stations around the country and stock up whenever you run out.
£44 for 5 litres
A brand created with tackling plastic pollution in mind, The Conscious Beauty Company provide a solution for those looking to make their bathrooms more eco-conscious. The approach revolves around ‘R&R’ – refill and reuse for guilt-free rest and relaxation. Simply buy a ‘starter kit’, filled with their aluminium bottles and corresponding refill pouches for when then run out. From there, you can order refills as and when you need. All its formulas are cruelty free, sustainably sourced and vegan, too, for ethical peace of mind.
The Full Line-up Starter Pack, including shampoo, conditioner, body wash and handwash is £35
Sister & Co.’s latest candle range features designs from a collective of female illustrators designed to empower women and continue supporting the brand’s longstanding charity partner, Solace Women’s Aid, by donating £1 from every sale. But it’s not just the social ethics which Sister & Co. have covered – their clean candles are paraffin and phthalate free, come in the brand’s three signature scents and are also refillable. In fact, each refill ordered comes in a recycled and recyclable paper bag that simply slots into your empty vessel, making them incredibly easy to use.
£25 per candle, then £23 per refill
Having been quietly offering beauty refills for years, L’Occitane’s pouches use 69-90% less packaging than the original products. By the end of 2020, the brand is aiming to offer refill pouches for 26 of its core products – a move which will result in 90% less plastic being created. It’s also hoping to have 100% of its bottles made entirely from recycled plastic by 2025 to help reduce the quantity of waste polluting the world. In the meantime, there’s a nationwide recycling programme you can use in partnership with TerraCycle – simply take your empties to a L’Occitane boutique and ensure they don’t end up in landfill.
Refills start from £19.50