Fighting the war on beauty waste

Written by Hannah Cole

Photography Supplied

Open the doors of your bathroom vanity and take a moment to scan the shelves. I bet it is overwhelmingly and inadmissibly plastic.

My bathroom shelves are lined with countless products (where did they even come from?) that are yet to be opened, alongside the growing number of skincare remedies that I turn to daily. It’s fair to say that at least 90 per cent of these products are encased in a hard layer of plastic packaging. In an average year, I’ve found this glaring truth easy to dismiss but, with the state of the globe up in the air, it has become more difficult to ignore. 

Previously, I would gladly toss my empty shampoo bottles and moisturiser tubes in the recycling bin but, contrary to popular opinion, these plastics are inherently challenging to recycle. They may bear the markings of a recyclable receptacle but whether they actually make it that far, is determined by the capabilities of the local recycling plant. Not all packaging is created equally. 

The only way to counter this and guarantee a more sustainable skin- and body-care approach is to overhaul our products. Scary? Yes, but irrefutably necessary.  

Our first option is to make the switch to package-free products which — as the name implies — amount to zero waste. The cheapest swap is to pick up a ye olde soap bar. Bars replete with natural oils and ingredients can be found in local chemists, beauty counters and gift stores. Choose a scent to suit your needs, whether you need a perk up in the morning, a de-stressor in the evening or something more in-between. Add an exfoliating soap sack to ease the process and, with countless local makers out there, you’ll find an option you love in no time. 

In a similar vein, the time is right to convert to shampoo and conditioner bars. Trialling a shampoo bar had me rattled with fear, but I’m now a convert — Ethique’s range tames even my thick, knot-prone mane. The New Zealand bran is determined to eliminate the use of plastic bottles and reverse our bathroom waste. Even the cosy cardboard boxes each bar comes in is a considered choice: they are 100 per cent compostable. 

Lush now offer a range of products that are entirely packaging free. From daily cleanser pads to soaps and shower oils, foundation and concealer, the mega-brand has made it simpler to eradicate unnecessary waste, all in Lush’s typical tongue-in-cheek manner. 

The next best thing is to consider opting for refillable items, thereby reducing the amount of plastic waste by prolonging the life of a bottle. Bulk wholefood stores have a stronghold in this area. Australia’s The Source stock bottles of refillable shampoo, conditioner and body wash (as well as laundry detergent and other cleaning necessities) which you can pump when required in-store. It’s a simple buy, use, and fill ’er up again equation that closes the loop on waste. 

Byron Bay skincare apothecary Dollar Hippy Club has a slightly different approach. All products are housed in glass bottles and jars, made for repurposing at your whim. Develop your own concoctions and oils, keep them as an earthy display — just don’t toss them out. If you’re at a loss for what to do with all your pretty bottles, the ‘Re-Love Me’ programme is your back-up. While glass is easy to recycle in your kerbside pick-up, Dollar Hippy Club would prefer you to send your empty bottles to HQ so they can reuse (they will even refund your shipping costs). 

Finally, seek out brands that are making it easy to recycle any associated packaging properly. These labels are taking responsibility for their inputs and offering us a greener way forward. Admittedly, the process relies on us washing containers appropriately and ensuring no residual product is left inside but it’s all for the greater good. A few minutes here and there for fewer plastics dumped in landfill. 

Take a few of these local brands as examples.

Black Chicken Remedies, famed for their natural deodorant paste, has partnered with TerraCycle to reduce the impact of packaging. Return and earn with an AU$10 e-gift card, while TerraCycle breaks down the plastics and repurposes the pellets for several community projects (like playgrounds, etc.). Likewise, Edible Beauty offer a return programme for brand packaging via TerraCycle, which even accepts masks and sachets. Meanwhile, Mukti have launched their own programme encouraging customers to collect empty glasses and bottles (a minimum of five) for return to the company.

It’s time we walked the walk and spruiked vanities that speak to our stance on sustainability. The options are out there — and are growing in number — so let’s pursue and support them. Mother Earth has to look her best too. 

war on beauty waste

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