The international beauty major partnered with energy giant Total and carbon recycling major LanzaTech to achieve what it has claimed to be a world first in sustainable packaging. L'Oréal said it wanted to use this "breakthrough technology" in shampoo and conditioner bottles by 2024.
In a three-step process, LanzaTech firstly captured industrial carbon emissions and converted them into ethanol using a “unique biological process”. Total then used a dehydration process, jointly developed with conversion specialist IFP Axens, to convert the ethanol into ethylene before polymerising it into polyethylene. L’Oréal then used this polyethylene to manufacture the final cosmetics bottle that it said had “the same quality and properties as conventional polyethylene”.
Sustainable ambitions in beauty packaging
Jacques Playe, director of packaging and development at L’Oréal, said the project with Total and LanzaTech offered promise of a “new sustainable packaging solution” that would help the beauty major push forward with its wider goals of improving overall environmental footprint in packaging.
Earlier this year, L’Oréal outlined a raft of sustainability goals in its For the Future 2030 report, including that all plastic packaging be either recycled or bio-based and all sites and centres be carbon neutral within the next ten years. In the same month, L’Oréal commercialised its first cosmetic paper tubes – developed in partnerhsip with Albéa Packaging – under the La Roche-Posay brand.
Playe said this latest project to capture and recycle carbon to create packaging materials was still in pilot stages but would certainly lead to new market launches from L’Oréal, as the proof of concept had been "successfully demonstrated".
L'Oréal would now start working on the industrial upscale of this new packaging.
“We have the ambition to use this sustainable material in our bottles of shampoo and conditioner by 2024, and we hope other companies will join us in using this breakthrough innovation,” Playe said.
Plastics of the future? For beauty and beyond…
Valérie Goff, senior vice-president of polymers at Total, said the project with L’Oréal created a “new pathway of valuing industrial carbon emissions” and held great promise for packaging.
“This partnership is an excellent example of collaboration between industrial firms in developing the plastics of the future produced from recycled carbon and meets a strong demand from our customers,” Goff said.
Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, said the three-pronged partnership was based on a shared goal of “creating a cleaner planet for everyone”.
“We are grateful to both L’Oréal and Total for their commitment to reducing the carbon intensity of their activities. Together, we can reduce the carbon footprint of packaging by converting carbon emissions into useful products, making single-use carbon a thing of the past,” Holmgren said.
A future of carbon neutrality and carbon capture
Goff said that, for Total, the collaboration also contributed towards the firm’s commitment to being carbon net zero in Europe by 2050.
In December, last year, the European Commission (EC) announced its European Green Deal that aimed to drive Europe towards becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and enshrine climate-neutrality into law. Many companies worldwide had since pledged carbon-neutrality by this date as the EC said it would do 'whatever it takes' to achieve climate neutrality.
And trend forecasters had already predicted carbon capture to be hugely promising for the future of sustainable cosmetic packaging.
Earlier this year, Monique Large, founder of trend consultation firm Pollen Consulting, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe that carbon capture in beauty packaging could very well be the future, though suggested industry was some way off making it a reality.
“It’s really emerging for packaging in cosmetics and fiction because it’s, of course, probably very, very expensive to do. But it’s important to question our consumption and our quest to decarbonise and to lower the pressure of consumerism,” Large said.
She said that for carbon capture to truly take off in cosmetics packaging, the larger beauty brands would have to move first.