by Michael Lorence (https://linktr.ee/melorence1)
With more customers demanding sustainable cosmetics, brands and startups are turning their focus to eco-friendly practices to reduce environmental impact and reach a broader audience.
Zero-waste is helpful for everyone, reducing costs for manufacturers and customers, reducing waste production, and giving neglected ingredients a new purpose.
Understanding The Zero-Waste Philosophy
Zero-waste is a philosophy that demands cosmetic companies to change product design, manufacturing, and packaging to reduce waste production. Additionally, the philosophy promotes reusing, recycling, and conservation to focus on sustainability in the entire product's life cycle.
Companies employing the philosophy reuse products that could be considered waste, remove excessive water usage from manufacturing, and reduce shipping costs to reduce their carbon footprint.
Efficient Products and Less Waste
Companies like the Japanese Kao Corporation are taking on the challenge of minimizing material usage and waste while increasing their product efficiency.
The company uses thin-film packaging, reusable bottles, and concentrated cosmetics to reduce its carbon footprint to zero by 2040 and become carbon negative by 2050.
In addition, the Kao Corporation is also changing the manufacturing process for its products. They plan to use 100% renewable energy sources across its entire operation with sustainable materials, water-saving technology, and reducing plastic packing to nearly zero.
Circular Beauty and Sustainability
Zero-waste is an incredibly challenging concept to employ, requiring planning, recycling, and conscious manufacturing.
Kao Corporation created a manufacturing loop to reduce material, plastic, and water usage and then reuse any leftover material and waste on the next batch of products, closing the loop of circular beauty.
When the waste is not usable in product development or manufacturing, the company instead works with third parties to find uses for the waste and give back to society.
Ecologically Friendly Packaging
Kao Corporation wasn't able to completely remove plastic packaging from their products. So instead, they opened a dedicated lab to refine and improve the sustainability of their packages to reach an acceptable middle ground. After several rounds of experimentation, the company reduced plastic usage by 80% by using thin-film packaging for their products.
However, even after all the effort, the company is still not satisfied with the current results of its research. They are currently planning to make more concentrated products as they look for innovative ways to minimize plastic usage.
Carbon Sequestration and Carbon Negative Products
The UK-based BYBI took zero-waste even further by developing carbon-negative products made of ingredients that would be considered waste for the cosmetic industry.
They reached this feat by using ingredients like Salix alba bark, camelina Sativa oil, and Blackcurrant seed oil. The final result was -13g CO2e for every 15ml of their facial oil, an impressive number according to laboratory audits.
Another great idea by the company was using sugarcane-based packaging to sequester carbon. When used together with the company's delicate manufacturing process, BYBI was able to make carbon-negative products made of discarded products from the food industry.
The Cost of Sustainability
Making a sustainable brand is not without its challenges, and BYBI creators quickly learned that future-proofing their brand would be costly.
BYBI learned that local sourcing components and processing them in a clean and eco-friendly manner were expensive. But they kept going to ensure that their product had a place in the heart of consumers.
So while short-term they may not be as profitable, they made a market study and learned that investing in the research and technology now would leave them in a much better spot later.