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Sustainability trend pushes packaging companies to rethink

By Simon Pitman , 02-Feb-2010
Last updated on 18-Oct-2010 at 14:36 GMT

Concerns over the environment are weighing heavily on the packaging industry, and it is causing the industry to reinvent itself.

Central to these changes is the fact that the beauty industry has traditionally been a target for environmentalist campaigners, who have aimed their criticisms at the high carbon footprint of some products, says Fanny Fagot Coste, research analyst for Organic Monitor.

The green movement has forced packaging companies to go back to the drawing board and find new ways of packaging personal care products that either reduce the amount of packaging or use more environmentally friendly materials.

Indeed, the development of new packaging materials has never been more prolific, with new greener alternatives seeming to appear on the market on an almost daily basis.

Consumer awareness is the trigger

Many experts such as Fagot Coste, believe that these initiatives are being driven by consumer awareness of environmental issues, which is triggering demand for consumer products with a lower carbon footprint.

This demand from the consumers gets passed on to the finished goods providers, who in turn pass on the demands to their packaging suppliers, before the demand ultimately trickles down to their suppliers.

Fagot Coste points to a number of packaging initiatives that finished goods manufacturers have employed to help improve their image.

Initiatives that save on packaging

For example Caudalie claims to have saved 7.6 tons of paper by printing instructions on the inside of product packaging instead of separate leaflets, while Lush now offers 55 per cent of its products without packaging and Aveda uses PET bottles made from 100 per cent post consumer recycle content.

Equally, some of the more progressive personal care companies are adopting what Fagot Coste says is a ‘holistic’ approach to manufacturing products by trying to reduce the environmental impact in every aspect of the production process.

For the production of the packaging, this not only means using more recyclable materials, but also reducing the greenhouse gas emissions, waste, water consumption and energy used in the production process.

As Fagot Coste, points out, although the idea of producing packaging with a reduced environmental footprint is not new, the concept has now evolved to the point where almost all suppliers offer green solutions using recyclable materials.

Greening does not happen overnight

However, the greening process does not happen overnight, especially when it comes to the development of new materials, and equally there are potential pitfalls, which both consumers and environmentalists will be all too quick to point out.

Bioplastics, for example, have been heralded as one of the most sustainable recycling materials available, but environmentalists will be quick to point out that virtually no schemes to recycle the material currently exist.

On top of this, every aspect of the production process has to be carefully considered. If, for example, a packaging of the highest envirnonmental credentials can only be sourced in China, shipping it back to Europe or the US is invariably going to significantly impact upon the carbon footprint.

Fanny Fagot Coste is scheduled to give a presentation about sustainability and CSR at the forthcoming in-cosmetics conference programme, to be held in Paris, 13-15 April.

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