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RPC pioneers biodegradeable colour cosmetic packaging

By Simon Pitman , 01-Jun-2006

RPC Cresstale, part of the RPC Group, claims to be the first company to produce a lipstick that is 100 per cent biodegradeable thanks to a breakthrough of a polymer for its packaging made from natural ingredients.

The company says the lipstick followed the development of a biodegradeable compact, made using the same technique. The move indicates that the range can be adapted to suit a host of different colour cosmetic products.

What's more, the development is likely to appeal to the increasing number of products on the market that are following the naturals and eco-friendly trend.

The naturals market has exploded in recent years, recording growth rates well above European industry averages for the past four years, and providing one of the few rays of light in a largely mature and stagnant market.

In the UK alone the naturals market grew by 20 per cent between 2002 and 2005.

In line with this move towards natural-based cosmetic and toiletry products, packaging has had to adapt too. As well as ethically safe and sound formulations, consumers buying these sort of products want packaging that can match these demands.

In answer to this RPC has successfully completed the first trial production of its biodegradeable packaging and is now readying the line for its retail debut.

The packaging has been produced using PHA, a polymer made from organic sugars and oils that breaks down in soil, composting, waste treatment processes, river water and marine environments.

RPC says that the only products generated during decomposition are carbon dioxide and water. This means that since these are the materials used to make the material, the life cycle is effectively a closed loop.

While behaving essentially like fossil fuel based polymers when moulded PHA has a smaller manufacturing 'window', which means that it is easier and cheaper to produce.

The resulting mouldings have, to date, proved to be far more heat stable than the more familiar biodegradable PLA polymer, which RPC says proves PHA's suitability to the cosmetics packaging market.

The lipstick uses the RPC patented 'Revolve' mechanism, which has a collapsible tower. This allows the lipstick, including the decorative cover and base, to be made in only four moulded parts and from one single material, instead of the conventional five components requiring a number of different materials.

"A high degree of moulding expertise was needed to overcome the previously unknown problems presented when moulding this innovative new material," said John Birkett, Project Manager at RPC Cresstale.

"The successful application of PHA indicates that fully biodegradable cosmetics packaging can be a reality."

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