A little while ago now I wrote this post about my decision to only use cruelty-free beauty brands from that moment on. In a world where we’ve got China giving brands a massive demand for their products, but only on the condition that they are each tested on animals before retailing in the country, there was this ethical melt-down that happened a few years back; brands that had started in Europe and North America on pillars of excellence including no animal testing were re-evaluating their ethics all in the name of earning serious dollar in the East. That’s not cool; but I guess no surprise as business is often ruthless, regardless of how ‘beautiful’ the product being sold.
So I made this switch. It meant having to bid farewell to some old favourites, but I didn’t care – luckily there are plenty of incredible brands out there who put ethics before economy and for me that puts their products in a brighter light. One thing I must say though is that I’m still struggling with my moral stance on the sustainability of packaging, which is what this post is about today.
When I’m looking for a new product, I tend to mostly go for brands that I’ve done thorough research on first. It’s either that or looking for the leaping bunny symbol that indicates to the consumer that no animals were harmed in the making of that product. More than the issue of animal-testing though, I’m also highly interested in where the brands source their ingredients and therefore the quality, where the products are made, and how environmentally-friendly their policies are on waste. I would say there is a marginal correlation between brands refusing to retail in China and their ethical standpoint on the aforementioned points, but generally you’re looking at just the same amount of choice in good versus bad quality and care about the sustainability of packaging. This is an area that we need to move forward in – by bunny leaps and bounds, one could say.
So we’ve got the cruelty-free thing moving in a good direction. Like I said, there are loads of brands available to consumers who don’t want animals to suffer at the expense of putting mascara in their makeup bag. There could be more, but we’re moving in the right direction at least. The area we are lacking in – however – is the packaging. Black hard plastic (HDPE), the classic material used for that compact you’re holding is much harder to recycle than a standard PET. The result is that almost nowhere will take it to recycle and thus it ends up in landfill.
Why are we doing this? I understand that the marketing team of all these brands wants the product to be as aesthetically-pleasing as possible to the consumer. It’s unfortunate, but packaging is important to most consumers and that shiny metallic compact that looks chic in your handbag is going to consistently win more brownie points than a more environmentally-friendly alternative. This particularly applies to products in the more ‘luxury’ market. If you’re paying a good chunk of money for the product, you expect the packaging to be of a high calibre too.
But what if the demand changed? What if the consumer wanted a high quality product with protective, yet minimal and recyclable packaging? This would decrease the need for wasteful one-use plastics. The creative minds who enjoy packaging design could still do their thing, but this time bearing in mind the importance of the end of life for that packaging, whether it means making a material that can be transformed into something else when the make-up runs dry or something that is easily recyclable. If the consumer is paying a high price anyway, you have the luxury of getting creative with making the most environmentally-friendly, chic packaging you can! This is uncharted territory here!
That being said, when you’re buying paints for a canvas, it doesn’t matter what the tube looks like. The purpose of that paint is to make its way onto a blank canvas and transform it into a piece of art. Why shouldn’t makeup be considered the same? The packaging is what you see first, but the point of the makeup is to make its way onto your skin and transform you. I really think that we can learn to shift our perspective and priorities. All it takes is for one strong contender to take a leap and get some influential beauty bloggers on board. Big things can happen and I’m going to start pushing for it.