Personal care’s potential in tackling plastic pollution

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Personal care’s potential in tackling plastic pollution
Having taken a lead in reducing microplastic waste, and now potentially moving towards plastic-free wet wipes too, personal care has been an industry at the forefront of the ongoing move to reduce plastic pollution globally.

Indeed, Unilever has committed to make all of its plastic packaging fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The multinational, which boasts a major personal care business unit, last year unveiled a new technology​ to reduce plastic sachet waste, as an example of its efforts in this area.

Now, Sagentia, a Science Group company, suggests the industry could continue taking a lead in easing plastic pollution.

The science and technology specialist has produced a white paper ‘Breaking up with plastic’​ which offers suggestions of key areas where the industry could be reducing its plastic.

It outlines a three-phase technical framework to facilitate the reduction of plastic waste linked to items such as haircare products, contact lenses and disposable razors.

Radical rethink

Without a deeply-rooted and integrated approach, Sagentia suggests that gaps in the ability to replace, reduce or reengineer plastic packaging will remain.

As a result of this, the firm suggests that current plastic reduction schemes will fail to properly address the issue.

Simon Norman, one of the paper’s authors and applied science consultant at Sagentia, says that in some cases it will be necessary to change the way products are presented, prepared or used.

Much of the time, development in areas such as haircare or skincare is considered separately to the end-product packaging,” ​he explains.

“But with such a siloed approach there is less opportunity to get to the crux of the issue. Different departments and specialists need to work together to reduce single-use plastic.

“We need to start with the end goal – whether that’s clean, shiny hair or luminescent skin – and put preconceived notions about how we achieve that to one side.”

Consumer insight to drive change

Norman suggests that rising consumer knowledge and supply chain transparency can drive change in this area.

“Addressing this issue requires consumer insight and understanding of the manufacturing and distribution stream, combined with scientific knowledge of the products themselves and properties of various packaging materials,”​ he says.

“And crucially, the industry needs to find ways to cut plastic waste without compromising important factors such as product quality and consumer satisfaction.​” The full white paper can be accessed here​.

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