Cosmetics amnesty! Weleda and TerraCycle run empties return program for London Beauty Week

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Sustainable beauty - 'manufacturers, such as Weleda, need to be taking more responsibility', its UK comms head says
Sustainable beauty - 'manufacturers, such as Weleda, need to be taking more responsibility', its UK comms head says

Related tags Weleda TerraCycle Sustainable packaging Recycling refillable packaging Cosmetics sustainable cosmetics London Beauty Week mixed plastics Plastic packaging

Weleda is handing out free product samples in exchange for empty cosmetic packs during London Beauty Week – part of a bigger drive to spark conversation around sustainable packaging, it says.

The European organic and natural cosmetic specialist has teamed up with its recycling partner TerraCycle to provide a returns program for any cosmetic product. Kickstarting tomorrow, for London’s inaugural Beauty Week​ just ahead of London Fashion Week, the cosmetics packaging ‘amnesty’ will take place at Covent Garden Piazza.

‘Manufacturers, such as Weleda, need to be taking more responsibility’

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe about the initiative, communications director at Weleda UK Susie Fairgrieve said it was part of a wider effort to drive awareness around sustainable packaging and get consumers, and industry, thinking.

“Manufacturers, such as Weleda, need to be taking more responsibility and also think ‘we’re far from perfect, let’s get on this and make our packaging as sustainable as possible’,” ​Fairgrieve said.

“…Weleda, hand on heart, and we would be the first to admit, has for the last 80 years been focusing on our formulations: what’s in the bottle or tube. We’ve never used microplastics or liquid plastics in our formulations, so we know when they go down the plughole, they’re entirely biodegradable (…) But, what we’re now having to catch up on, in the last decade or two, is packaging.”

While the company had made “fabulous strides”​ in its packaging efforts – the most recent designs used between 70-100% recycled plastics – she said more could be done and sustainable packaging innovation remained a core focus for the company.

Recycling mishaps and misunderstandings

Recycling of cosmetic products, in general, also had some way to go, Fairgrieve said.

“It’s not so much that things can’t be recycled, it’s the fact people aren’t recycling them, or people are mistakenly thinking that if they put it out with kerbside collection, it will all be recycled.”

However, in the UK, certain councils did not recycle mixed plastics – a material widely used in the beauty sector, including in Weleda’s ‘soft touch’ products, she said. So, whilst consumer intentions may be good, products weren’t always being recycled.

“It’s more difficult for [recycling] companies to process mixed plastics – it takes more resources and more technology – and they don’t pay as much for it compared to the equivalent weight of more easily recycled single plastics,”​ Fairgrieve said.

Partnership programs and harmonisation

This was why Weleda’s ongoing program with TerraCycle was important, she said. Consumers could return Weleda plastic empties to the recycling major for free and when those products reached TerraCycle, every 10kg of empties raised £10 for the Global Penguin Society – Weleda’s chosen charity.

Weleda was not the only beauty brand partnering with the US-headquartered recycling major – L'Oréal hair care brand Garnier had also joined forces and implemented a similar program​, as had South Korean beauty conglomerate Amorepacific​.

Clearly, the UK and other parts of the world needed a “more harmonised recycling system”, ​Fairgrieve said, but in the meantime, industry could team up with private recycling firms and work to drive consumer awareness on the topic.

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