Get The Spill On Beauty Refill


As glamorous as the beauty industry may be, it’s making a real statement on the global plastic crisis, with the industry found to produce a staggering 142 billion pieces of packaging each year (Zero Waste Week, 2018). Research also suggests approximately 95% of beauty packaging is thrown away after just one use and only 14% of it makes it to a recycling centre (Plastic Soup Foundation, 2020).

The market is fast paced, with brands constantly releasing new products and promoting the ‘fast fashion’ of beauty, the result – a beauty sphere awash with plastic pollution. In a market that capitalises on appearance, the beauty industry has had to take a long hard look at its own in recent years, reflecting upon its stark contribution to the climate crisis. Thankfully, these deeply imprinted carbon footprints are becoming increasingly visible, both to brands and consumer alike. Influencer marketing platform, Traackr, recorded that social media posts mentioning the word ‘recyclable, were up 202% engagement-wise in 2019, with 82% of consumers actively trying to reduce the amount of waste they throw away (Traackr, 2019). As brands now rush to cut back on excessive packaging, and switch to more easily recycled materials such as glass and aluminium, there’s one solution that seems to stand out as the most eco-friendly of all. Refillable.

Refilling Can Help The Planet

planet earth

Buying a refill instead of a new product, we save approximately 70% of CO2, 65% in energy and 45% in water (The LCA Centre, 2019). It’s got to be a no brainer, right?

Grocery is currently a few miles ahead of beauty in refillable, not only in terms of store presence, but also in terms of winning over the consumer. 71% of UK consumers are willing to use food refill services in order to cut down in waste

and improve food sustainability for the environment (GlobalData, 2019). The rollout of bagless fruit and veg isles, as well as refill stations for foods such as pasta, rice, grains and cereals are thus increasingly emerging within grocery retailers.  This is promising for the beauty industry, with hope that consumers will take a similar approach when given the option for refill of their beauty products.

Loop Is One Platform Facilitating The Merge Of Refill Grocery With Beauty

shopper with bags of beauty products

In partnership with Tesco, Loop is currently a pilot e-commerce scheme created by Terracycle – one of the world’s most innovative recycling companies. Launched in July 2020, Loop is the UK’s first zero waste shopping platform. Via Loop, UK consumers can select from over 150 products including the likes of sauce, yoghurt, soap, cereal, and moisturiser. Consumers order their chosen products via the Loop website, where a deposit fee is collected for each piece of packaging, this is then fully refunded to them upon final return of the packaging. Consumers receive their durable products in reusable Loop shipping bags. After use, consumers place the empty containers back into their Loop bag and select from a variety of return options – go online to schedule a pickup from their home or drop off their empty packaging at one of the many courier collection points across the UK.

Loop then sorts and professionally cleans the packaging so that each product can be safely refilled by the manufacturer. Loop is widely regarded as a glimpse into the future by many in the beauty industry; so far Loop is working with names like Ren Skincare, The Body Shop, Dove and Pantene, with many more brand partnerships lurking in the waters.

Brands such as L’Occitane have been producing eco-refills from as far back as 2008, enabling consumers to buy sachets of their formulas to refill their original products.

Changing Attitudes Is Easier Said Than Done…

shopping trolley in supermarketLet’s face it – it could be a hassle remembering refillable bottles and carting them to a shop rather than buying new. It will no doubt take time for consumers to adjust to the norms of refill beauty, but that’s not to say change would not eventually occur. Cast your mind back to the 5p plastic bag charge; despite the many moans about having to carry reusable shopping bags, sales of single-use bags by big supermarkets fell by 59% in 2020 alone (Gov, 2020), making a considerable impact on our overall plastic waste. Consumers will gradually come to terms with the fact sustainability is not always the most convenient option, but the benefits of making the right choices far outweigh the costs.

Refillable does however pose some further considerations. With the beauty industry covering such a wide scope of products, refill is no doubt a better fit for some products than others. The likes of hand soap or body wash, which are packaged in simple bottles that can easily be recycled are a perfect fit for the refill model, makeup on the other hand presents more complex issues. Cosmetics are often very delicate and require carefully packaging to ensure they are kept hygienic and can travel well. It’s also not uncommon to see brands promoting their refillable make-up cases yet failing to mention that the refill packaging contains plastic.

shades of lipstick

Choosing refills for sustainability further requires consumers to commit to repurchasing the same products over time, and although this may not be an issue for those loyal to their favourite fragrance or shampoo brand, in a rapidly innovating industry, this presents clear challenges. Consumers often flock after the latest beauty trend’s and, thus consistency of product selection is something of an unrealistic ideal for many.

Yes, refillable makes clear sense for many product offerings, but it can only take the beauty industry so far. Sustainable innovations must thus continue within the industry, if the plastic crisis is to be rectified. Wish to discuss this topic with us? Contact us today.

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