Packaging researchers have worked hard to develop environmentally friendly alternatives in recent years so manufacturers now have several green options to choose from. TPC has opted for the biodegradable route with compacts and lipstick containers made using polylactic acid (PLA), which is derived from starch-rich plants such as corns and grains. Properties of PLA PLA has been used in the food industry for a couple of years but the cosmetics industry has only recently shown an interest in the substance. The selling point of PLA is that it has virtually the same physical properties as regular plastic but unlike petroleum based alternatives it biodegrades in landfill within five years. "The marketplace is really seeking out this new kind of environmentally friendly packaging," said TPC chief operating officer Michael Salemi. "The consumer wants to feel good about buying these cosmetics and the biodegradable packaging is a very important part of it." Whether PLA proves to be the most popular green option remains to be seen because it carries the disadvantage of being more expensive than conventional options. Green alternatives A popular alternative is the use of recyclable materials such as 'post consumer regrind' (PCR), which is cheaper but arguably less environmentally friendly than biodegradable packaging. Reducing the quantity and weight of packaging is another way of reducing the ecological impact of packaging waste that is cheap and effective but not a total solution. Manufacturers that are determined to become green will have to combine strategies and even involve the consumer by encouraging recycling and the reuse of packaging. Action throughout the life-cycle of a product is required to minimize its impact on the environment and that means commitment from manufacturers and consumers alike. While consumer demand for environmentally friendly products has grown fast recently how much consumers are willing to pay and endure in inconvenience is still unclear.
The Packaging Company (TPC) has joined a growing number of cosmetic packaging firms branching out into green territory with biodegradable materials.