October 21, 2021News
Plastic is a problem that we’re all aware of. Everyone is taking strives towards reducing their use of single use plastic. When was the last time you went into a coffee shop and got a plastic straw? Most of us carry around metal water bottles and have ditched plastic containers for glass alternatives.
When we think of products in our everyday life that rely on plastic, we often overlook the heavy reliance of the beauty industry on plastic. It’s the go-to material that they use for packaging, making the beauty industry a major contributor to the world’s plastic problems. It’s believed that 120 billion units of plastic packaging are made every year for the cosmetic industry internationally. Most of this is used to make multi-layered boxes and lids. The vast majority of this plastic is non-recyclable and ends up in landfills and our oceans.
Did you know that every year, around 11 million tonnes of plastics end up in our oceans? If we keep going on this trend, the world will end up with more plastic in our oceans than fish by the end of 2050. This stark warning from the United Nations should shock us all into action. Although people are becoming more conscious of their plastic usage and the impacts of using plastic, we’re not doing anywhere near enough to deal with the problem.
Unless we take sharp action and create a plan for sustained action, we can expect the number of plastic entering our ocean to nearly triple within the next 20 years. If this number is allowed to hit 29 million metric tons every year, there will be no going back.
We also can’t forget how much plastic is already in our oceans. It’s bad enough that you can see it from space. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have found that there are parts of our oceans where there are seven times more plastic in the water than fish. That 2050 statistic by the United Nations starts to look even more likely when you consider this.
While we were starting to make progress with single used plastic, the pandemic changed everything and threw us off course. Just imagine the impact of single-use PPE masks, the plastic used to make vaccines, and the reliance on online retailers that are notorious for their use of plastic packaging.
The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies have found that corals which are effect by plastic are 90% more likely to be killed by a disease. Shockingly, plastic is having a knock-on effect on the male fish population. In an odd twist, it’s been found that plastic in our rivers have even been changing the gender of fish, causing some male fish to show feminine traits, including a reduction in their sperm quality.
While you might think this is a fun little fact for your next pop quiz, it has a knock-on effect for the food chain. Anchovies have been seen to be consuming microplastics – unable to tell the difference been plastic and food – before they’re eaten by bigger fish, which we then eat. Not only is the plastic ending up in our oceans, it’s finding its way back into our systems when we eat fish.
It’s obvious that we need to do more to tackle the plastic in our oceans. So, what are the main issues and how do we address them?
While your mind will instantly think of plastic packaging, some of the worst offenders are wet wipes and cotton buds – two products that almost everyone uses. Water UK have found that wet wipes, such as baby and makeup wipes, contain a plastic known as polypropylene. The issue with this material is that it doesn’t decompose. As a result, it’s around 90% of the material that is causing sewer blockages across the UK. Part of the issue is that people don’t know how to dispose of these wet wipes, even flushing them down the toilet.
Top of the agenda is to find a more sustainable and eco-friendlier product that we can use to clean our faces and remove makeup or dirt.
It’s worth reflecting on where we are and the changes that we’re already making. The so-called ‘Attenborough Affect’ has led to an impressive 53% decrease in consumer use of single-use plastic. 82% of these consumers are now more likely to purchase products with sustainable packaging.
The first thing that we need to do is turn our thoughts into actions. Even though we’re becoming more aware of the consequences of using plastic, we’re not doing enough in our daily life to reduce plastic use. Saving our oceans will take small and proactive steps happening every day. You need to make smart choices that cumulate to make a difference to your routine. Something as simple as putting a recycling bin into your bathroom can be transformational step forward.
Political action is also important. Governments across the world are taking action to reduce the use of plastics, including banning microbeads and cotton buds. The issue with these specific items is that we only use them for a few minutes, before they end up in landfill and take hundreds of years to decompose. If you want to see change, lobby your local politicians to implement more guidance to regulate the use of plastic within the beauty industry.
It’s not just us who has to make changes – corporations have a role to play to. So far, there has been positive signs. The beauty industry was amongst the first to respond to the backlash over microbeads, with many choosing to cut it out of their formulas before the ban came into force.
The industry must use the same force that they used to tackle the microbead issue to reduce their plastic use with refillable and reusable alternatives. A number of products – such as soaps – can even go ‘naked’ without any unnecessary packaging. Recycling isn’t enough. We need to be cutting down our plastic use entirely.
When we’re in need of inspiration, we always turn to our favourite influencers. While you might think of influencers as being people trying to sell you a product, they can also be people who advocate for a type of lifestyle. Meet sustainability influencers.
With the threat of climate change growing every day, we’re all looking for small and proactive steps that we can take to make the world a better place. While we’re all aware of issues like fast fashion and controversial ingredients like palm oil, water is one ingredient that you’re probably overlook. Water is something that most of us takes for granted every day. The ability to go into our kitchen and run a tap, receiving instant water, is virtually unheard of in some parts of the world – even in the 21st century.
Whether you’ve recently Marie Kondo-ed your life or checked the expiry dates on your makeup products, you likely have some beauty products sitting around that you need to get rid of. We’re all more aware than ever about our carbon footprint and the need to recycle products instead of sending them to landfills. While you know to throw your diet coke bottle into the recycling, you might not know what beauty products we can recycle.
Our shopping habits are changing. Gone are the days when we would pick up the first lipstick off the shelf. Now, we’re focused on reading the ingredients in products and asking about their environmental impact. ‘Green Beauty' is products that focus on natural and organic ingredients.