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Toss the Box: Unboxing the Skincare Packaging Problem

Toss the Box: Unboxing the Skincare Packaging ProblemToss the Box: Unboxing the Skincare Packaging Problem. We know, we know… that beautiful skincare packaging is difficult to resist. The golden foil, stunningly artful and chic decadence call out your name and draw you in. Its mesmerizing beauty brings you joy. You excitedly tear open the box in excitement at the thought of getting your hands on that newly purchased moisturizer. Then you… well, toss the box it came in. Where? The blue bin? Garbage?

We know you love the unboxing ritual but unfortunately, it’s causing exceptionally large ecological issues, clogging up our natural environment and landfill. We want to discourage the unboxing tradition by leaning towards less single-use items, in particular the skincare packaging, and challenging you to permanently toss the box.

Skincare Industry and Waste

“According to Zero Waste Week, more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced globally every year by the cosmetics industry, contributing to loss of 18 million acres of forest annually.” – Forbes. This includes plastic, glass, and paper/cardboard that end up in the landfills.

The skincare industry itself generates a lot of waste. There are actually many, many issues when it comes to the skincare industry and its waste: from leftover toxic ingredients seeping back into the earth, an excessive amount of plastic waste to non-compostable sample packets, makeup wipes and disposable sheet masks.

Tossing the box won’t single-handedly solve the skincare sustainability problem but it is working towards a solution. – EI SKIN

Skincare Unboxing Experience

Mainly used as a lucrative marketing tool, skincare packaging serves as the first way a brand can put themselves front and centre, hoping to secure customer loyalty. Unpacking a new skincare purchase becomes an immersive, memorial experience, creating a special bond with the brand, often captured in photos or videos, even becoming a useful tool by social media influencers. The creation of subscription boxes has evolved the “unboxing experience” even further into a fully-explorative experience and review, with primary focus often being on the brand’s aesthetic rather than product performance.

The unboxing experience can go beyond just the skincare boxes and can include thiToss the Box: Unboxing the Skincare Packaging Problemngs like ribbon, bubble wrap and even glitter, which are unsafe for the environment. 

Skincare boxes do serve the purpose of protecting the product during shipping but eco-friendly options can be used to cushion products instead, such as 100% biodegradable materials and eco-friendly wrapping. Of course, these items are more expensive than traditional materials and can eat into company profit.

Toss the Cardboard Box

Plastic is not the only offender; we are talking about cardboard. The majority of skincare products are packaged and shipped in cardboard boxes. Cardboard, indeed, is one of the most eco-friendly materials, as it is biodegradable and easily recyclable, often used to make other products, like cereal boxes and printed paper. However, this doesn’t mean using cardboard doesn’t come without any environmental repercussions. Here are just a few.

Recycle Much?

Although cardboard is recyclable, it might surprise you to learn that most of it isn’t actually recycled. Did you that that the recycling rate of nondurable goods made of paper was only 43.1% (excluding newspaper). (2)

Paper and paperboard (cardboard) materials comprised the largest component of municipal solid waste, with a total of 17.2 million tons. – 2018 statistics, United States Environmental Protection Agency (2)

Non-Durable Consumer Goods include products that are generally single use with a short life span.  A few examples are skincare, cosmetics, cleaning products, food cartons, paper plates/cups, cigarettes, clothing and footwear.

Our Forests

In a perfect world, trees are renewable and we just need to plant a tree each time we cut one down, right?  That sounds great in theory but is actually impractical and much more complicated than that. We statistically cut down more trees than we plant. In 2021 it was noted our earth has lost more than 1/3 of our forests. (3) Furthermore, our forests are a vital part of the carbon cycle. When forests are cut down, carbon is released into the atmosphere and carbon absorption stops. This all suggests that new strategies might be appropriate for properly monitoring forests, don’t you think?

Forest loss and damage is the cause of around 10% of global warming. – WWF

Forest Preservation is Complex

There are multiple facets to sustainability and forest preservation: balancing the needs of our environment, wildlife and society alongside juggling contradicting forces, expenses and challenges. It continues to become more complex with complicated policies, climate change, rapid human population growth, colonial heritage and various stakeholders. Then consider back-logged systems, self-identifying logging, private vs public interests and company loopholes. Phew! That was a lot and definitely a blog in itself! So what we are saying is: Let’s conserve a tree.

The carbon emissions bias: Paper requires more energy to produce than plastic – statistics vary but it is thought to be 3 times higher. It is also heavier to transport than plastic. (10)

Every Action Matters

Nondurable packaging is putting a heavy burden on our natural environment. We understand that eliminating the skincare box is not going to restore the planet but this valued, responsible choice leads us a step closer. Many skincare companies are adopting other sustainable packaging and environmentally-focused practices. All of these combined actions add up and inspire other individuals and companies to take part.

By skipping the first step of your skincare experience, the packaging boxes, we are not trying to take away your excitement but hoping to avoid more single-use items in our landfills and help reduce emissions.

If we are only using skincare boxes to display products why are we using them in the first place? Switching to recyclable beauty packaging is fantastic but why not take it a step further and toss the box?

 

Did you Know

In 2018, 67.7 million tons of paper and cardboard ended up in the United States solid waste stream.(7)

Only nine percent of all plastic waste ever produced has actually been turned into something that we were then able to use again (i.e., recycled) – Allure

The proliferation of sample and travel-size products is now a growing issue within the sustainable beauty conversation because they’re almost always thrown away due to their small size. Many are also discarded without even being used by the end-consumer. (9)

Toss the Box: Unboxing the Skincare Packaging Problem

 

Resources

(1) The Minimalist Beauty Company Tackling The Industry’s Waste Problem. Forbes. Lucy Sherriff. 

(4) Unboxing Waste: Level 2 transcript. CBC Communications.
(5) The Effects of Deforestation. Forest destruction is a crisis for the whole planet. Find out how we can all fight to save our forests. WWF.
(6) Cardboard. Department of Environmental Conservation.
(7) Environmental Impact Of Cardboard. Jennifer Okafor. Trvst.

(8) Sorry, But You’re Not Recycling Beauty Products as Much as You Think. Luckily, customers and a few key experts can help with that. C. Codinha Allure.

(9) Mini beauty. Big problems? – Beauty subscription boxes & the fight against waste. Packaging Gateway.

(10) How Sustainable Is Paper And Cardboard Packaging? Common Objective

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