THE DEEP BLUE
The world’s oceans are littered with waste. Here, we dive into the beauty brands helping to save our seas …
When seeking out a new product, many of us are now looking for one key descriptor: sustainability. The focus these days is firmly fixed on our seas and oceans. Thankfully, to turn the tide against an environment in crisis, there are beauty brands working hard to reduce the avalanche of plastic entering our waterways.
We take a look at the warriors making a stand for our oceans and reefs, and ask the experts how to play our part in helping to clean up the big blue.
WASTE NOT …
Here’s a thought: every mascara tube, pot of cream or bottle of shampoo we have ever used is still here with us on earth. “There is no such thing as ’throw away’ when ‘away’ is our environment,” says Tom Hiney, conservation ecologist and co-founder of reef-safe skincare line SunButter.
Packaging is by far the main contributor to the estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste in our oceans – and a significant amount of that comes from beauty packaging.
There’s also the issue of what’s going down our drains – and coming off our skin. “Many of the products we use daily are flushed down toilets, including wet wipes, cotton buds and sanitary products,” says Ethique founder Brianne West. “These aren’t caught by filtration systems, so they are released into waterways.”
It’s a sobering statistic but on average each Aussie uses 130kg of plastic per year. “The beauty industry creates 120 billion units of packaging a year”, says Emma Lewisham, whose self-named green skincare line is challenging traditional manufacturing processes head-on.
Virgin plastic (non-recycled newly manufactured plastic) that goes directly to waste after one use is a big environmental issue beauty brands are looking for to turn around.
“Ninety-five per cent of waste plastic goes to landfill, oceans or is burned,” says Lewisham, whose brand (loved by models Lara Worthington and Georgia Fowler) is working towards a closedloop manufacturing model that uses at least 50 per cent recycled plastics in its packaging and encourages the use of custom-made refills (rather than buying a new pot).
“The more recycled material you use in your packaging, the more you lower your carbon emissions because you are not manufacturing new materials each time,” Lewisham explains. Not stopping there, the New Zealand brand’s pods can be sent back to Emma Lewisham HQ, where they are sterilised and returned to circulation.
Kiera Flynn, L’Oréal Australia’s sustainability manager, agrees. “Look for the brands that eliminate the use of virgin plastics as well as help tackle the waste currently in our ocean,” she says.
Garnier is another global brand committed to using no virgin plastic. It plans to do so by 2025, when it will also have its industrial sites fully carbon-neutral.
Brands such as Aveda and Caudalie are putting the power in our hands with clean-up initiatives. Caudalie is working with locals in Southern Thailand to collect plastics, washed-up glass, cardboard and steel. Likewise, Aveda has announced a partnership with Take 3 for the Sea, which encourages everyone to pick up three pieces of rubbish each time they visit the seaside. Net-a-Porter favourite One Ocean contributes through its partnership with conservation body Oceana, while luxe skincare brand La Mer, which has handharvested sea kelp at its heart, has set up the La Mer Blue Heart Oceans Fund to further its already impressive conservation efforts.
Being kind to the environment is now as high on our want list as wrinkle reduction and bouncy hair. Thankfully, there are brands working on it. L’Oréal aims for all its plastic packaging to be from bio-based or recycled sources by 2030. “We need to eliminate any new plastic waste entering the oceans and stop contributing to the problem,” says Keira Flynn, L’Oréal sustainability manager. “We need to re-use and recycle that [which] already exists. Phasing out virgin plastic waste is only part of the issue. We also have a lot to clean up. That means restoring our oceans to their natural state.”
GO PLASTIC FREE
More brands are making it easy to ditch plastic completely, such as Shampoo With A Purpose and their zero-waste shampoo and conditioner bars. Bar None offers a similar product, along with biodegradable hair ties and recyclable aluminium bottles (if bars aren’t for you).
Cruelty-free and carbon-neutral Ethique has everything from shampoos to face moisturiser and deodorant in bar format. An added bonus: a fifth of profits goes to initiatives such as mangrove planting in Madagascar.
Eco-friendly makeup buys are available too, with Flavedo & Albedo’s new range of tints, highlighters, eyeliners and eyeshadows. They forgo all plastic but not the premium feel, with weighty and convertible packaging made from aluminium and glass.
“In the past 50 years, our planet has lost about half of its coral reefs through dynamic fishing, pollution and warming waters caused by climate change,” says Louise Naima Laing, marine biologist and reef restoration expert. “These ecosystems are retreating after thriving for millions of years.”
Adding to the issue is sunscreen. It’s estimated that 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen enter reef areas each year. “Chemicals in most sunscreens wash off when swimming in the ocean or when you’re in the shower,” explains Laing, whose reef-safe brand People4Ocean avoids two ingredients in particular that have shown strong toxicity on coral: oxybenzone and octinoxate. “These chemicals can stress coral and other marine species in the long term.”
Enter reef-safe sunscreens. Usually zinc-oxide or titanium-oxide-based, they steer clear of chemicals known to have adverse effects on tested species. When selecting a reef-safe product, SunButter’s Tom Hiney suggests this: “If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, or they are not explained after the scientific name ‘from coconut oil’, for example, then steer clear.”
Lids and pumps are often difficult to recycle or, worse, render your efforts void. Clarins corporate social responsibility director Guillaume Lascourrèges, reveals what to consider. Look for recyclability:
“We will eliminate materials that are difficult to recycle,” he says, adding Clarins plans to make its packaging fully recyclable by 2025.
Check the green ethos: “Go for brands that have an environmental conscience,” says Lascourrèges. For example, we will be rewarded for dropping off empties at Clarins.
Seek plastic recovery: “Awareness is key,” he says. “That’s why Clarins was one of the first partners of the Plastic Odyssey expedition. Their motto: clean up the past, build the future.”