Over here in the UK, it seems that the zero waste plastic movement is waking up. In fact, it feels like while in yesteryear only the truly eco-conscious warriors were privy to the big secret that – shock horror – single-use plastics are killing our environment now, for one reason or another – and I think it’s safe to say David Attenborough’s recent Blue Ocean documentary played a huge hand in this – awareness has all of a sudden been raised. It’s sort of like the big secret has suddenly been confessed, and consumers the country over are second guessing their every single-use plastic purchase. Take my cosmetics cupboard, for example. It’s enough to make all the fish in the ocean weep. There they stand, row after row of bottles and tubes that are destined for the bin, all set to decompose in a mere 450 years – yes, 450 years.
But, as mentioned, times are changing. Michael Gove, the UK Environment Secretary, was said to be ‘haunted’ by Attenborough’s Blue Planet series, which showed the damage single-use plastic has on the ocean. Likewise, the government has recently released a 25-year plan to improve the environment, with Prime Minister Theresa May having made a pledge to cut all avoidable plastics in the UK by 2042.
The movement, it seems, is going nowhere, and both the multinational supermarkets, and smaller, crowdfunded businesses are stating their commitment to the cause. China has banned imports of waste plastic from Britain, Tesco has eradicated single-use plastic bags altogether, while even Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, recently stated his pledge to oust the ‘single-use plastics that take five seconds to produce, are used for five minutes, then take 500 years to break down again’ for good.
And it seems for the demise of every plastic bag, there seems to be a Zero Waste store popping up. Ex footballer Richard Eckersley has hung up his boots in favour of running a new store Eat.Food.Love in Totnes, Devon, which encourages customers to bring their own bags, bottles and tins to buy food and, among other things, toiletries. Meanwhile Bulk Market, a crowdfunded Zero Waste store in London, is also realising the movement goes way past food, and lists DIY Beauty, Personal Care and Household as part of its product offering.
So should packaging developers be worried? It’s safe to say, yes. While in its infancy, this is a drive that is only just beginning, and with government officials already on board, it seems the future is most definitely green for the personal care and cosmetic packaging market.
Of course, there are companies already on the zero waste train. Lush, for example, tries to sell products in as little packaging as possible, and when it does have to use plastic, it’s with a conscience. For example, its black pots are made from 100 percent post-consumer polypropylene, some the company purchases and some it recycles at its Greenhub from the pots that are returned by customers.
In the words of Lush Packaging Engineer, Giles Verdon, “We make our bath bomb moulds from a PET sheet, and we’re currently working out how to wash and shred these and turn them back into sheets to make new moulds that we can use again and again. We’re not sitting still, we’re always challenging ourselves.”
A challenge it may be, but it’s a challenge that packaging companies need to accept if they’re to stay apace with the modern green consumer.