The deterioration of the environment and its potential impact on life on this planet is a hot topic for discussion these days. Natural resources are being exploited at unsustainable rates, and this has contributed to the issues of oil depletion, extinction of species, soil erosion, ozone depletion, desertification and deforestation that we are currently facing. Continuing to be oblivious to the impact of these actions on the environment can have negative repercussions, and it wont be long before natures fury will force us to realize our folly.
The Impact of Cosmetic Packaging
It has been discovered that cosmetic packaging has a considerable impact on three crucial dimensions, namely economic, social and environmental. It can be a potent source of competitive advantage, social reputation and public good, and what seems superficial is in fact fundamental. Cosmetic packaging can also deliver added functionality, distinguish a product in an overcrowded market, and reduce that product’s environmental impact. As consumers are increasingly hostile toward wasteful, misleading and hard-to-use packaging, it is natural for cosmetic packaging manufacturers to become more aware about the complex ecological and social effects of the products they produce. If businesses are more intelligent and perceptive, well, so are their markets.
Eco-design can be defined as the incorporation of environmental considerations into any design. The main intention is to reduce overall lifecycle impacts while maintaining performance and value for money. For the cosmetic packaging sector, this means design for resource minimization (material, energy and water), reduced hazards (such as heavy metals), reuse, recycling and waste reduction.
Lets look at some packaging materials and the impact that they have on the environment.
* Plastic – This is the most widely used material in the packaging of cosmetic products. Most plastic bottles, tubes, lotion pumps, etc., come in attractive shapes and colors, making people overlook their impact on the environment. What makes plastic dangerous is its chemical composition that prevents it from going through the natural process of degradation. It is usually the most preferred cosmetic packaging because of its flexibility and light weight. But in reality, it is a dangerous material because its wide scale use results in pollution, accumulation of wasted plastic in the environment, consumption of fossil resources, high energy use in manufacturing and migration of polymers and additives into food and other places.
* Paper and Paperboard – Another widely used material for cosmetic packaging is paper and paper wood. A leading factor in deforestation is the large consumption. In manufacturing one pound of paper, three and a half pounds of wood is required. And the cosmetic industry alone consumes large amounts of paper, thereby contributing a good measure to deforestation.
Is Recycling the Answer?
Recycling has been touted as the most effective solution for minimizing environmental degradation. And to a certain extent, yes, recycling does help. Though recycling plastics and paper does help in reducing the damage, it is only to a small extent. Plastic recycling involves increased processing costs and has limited benefits in minimizing environmental degradation and diverting resources from waste. And as for paper recycling, the water and energy consumed during the recycling process causes water depletion and increased levels of greenhouse gases.
Recycling coalesced with consumption reduction is the best and most effective approach in such a situation. Cosmetic manufacturers need to come up with good replacements that can pave the way to reducing paper and plastic consumption.