Recycling Cosmetics

Photo by Jhong Pascua from Pexels

Every household has a cabinet in the bathroom that is overflowing with cosmetics. Earlier cosmetics were the preserve of women. However, increasingly men are taking to cosmetics leading to competition for the space in that cabinet. 

The global cosmetics market was valued at $380.2 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $463.5 billion by 2027. A staggering 51 billion pieces of cosmetic packaging is produced each year. 

There has been a lot of debate about the harmful chemicals used in cosmetics. While those issues are getting addressed, there are still multiple issues with cosmetics:

  1. Packaging: This is the most widely known problem. Cosmetic packaging consists of plastic, steel, glass, etc. Discarded packing often contains remnants of the products – dried and unused materials. These are difficult to separate and are not easily recyclable.
  2. Discontinued products: These are returned by stores and sent to landfills.
  3. Product waste: Testers, unsold products and returned products. All these again go to the landfill.
  4. Chemicals: The chemicals used in cosmetics can be harmful when incinerated or added the soil in landfills.  

The industry is now moving towards sustainable actions. L’Oréal has pledged to make 100 per cent of its packaging recyclable or bio-based by 2030. Unilever, Coty and Beiersdorf have pledged to make sure plastic packaging is recycled, reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

Much of the work on recycling has centred around cosmetic companies that have tied up with Terracycle to recycle packaging. However, an interesting innovation is by an American beauty company, Izzy. Izzy sells beauty products that are zero waste. It provides beauty products that are reusable and recyclable. Izzy beauty products come with no outer packaging and are shipped in reusable mailers manufactured from upcycled materials. Its stainless steel tubes are designed to be cleaned and refilled. The company sends a reminder every 90 days for a refill, and the refill is shipped in a reusable shipper. Thus, this eliminates waste and promotes reuse.

The cosmetic industry can do a lot to reduce environmental degradation. Therefore, an increased focus on recycling and becoming circular becomes critical.

Published by Utkarsh Majmudar

Utkarsh Majmudar is a Fellow, IIM Ahmedabad and a professional with experience encompassing academics and administration at top business schools in India (IIM Lucknow, IIM Udaipur, and IIM Bangalore) and working with large corporations. His interest areas include corporate finance and CSR.

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