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7 Sep

Compostable beauty: the long run of sustainability or a

As we face a plastic packaging crisis, we explore whether compostable beauty is a viable alternative, or whether it is simply too good to be true

Plastic is all over the place. It’s within the deep ocean, the Arctic, our tap water and our lungs. It’s a crisis. To tackle the issue, some brands have began using recycled plastic or ‘ocean-bound’ plastic packaging. However the thing is, it’s still plastic, and it could actually only be recycled two to 3 times before the standard degrades and it becomes waste yet again. Spotting the flaw on this plan, beauty brands are increasingly directing their resources toward finding an alternate option, specializing in compostable materials like seaweed, wood pulp and corn.

Brands and manufacturers including Plus, On Repeat, United and Free, Ethique and April all have compostable materials of their line-ups and Haeckels is the newest to affix the fray. The Margate-based skincare brand desires to inhabit a “post-plastic beauty world” and is reintroducing itself under 4 recent pillars – Haeckels Skin, Haeckels Home, Haeckels Fragrance, and Haeckels Lab – with the previous packaged entirely in Vivomer. The natural, vegan material, which is made with the assistance of microbes, feels and appears like plastic nevertheless it’s completely home compostable.  

Beauty consumers will likely have seen marketing for each ‘compostable’ and ‘biodegradable’ packaging, and it’s necessary to grasp the difference between the 2 as they’re often conflated. Biodegradable materials may be broken down within the natural environment but there aren’t any deadlines on how long it could actually or should take, while compostable materials require specific conditions and are subject to time scales for decomposition. Essentially, all compostable materials are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable materials are compostable.

As brands seek to stem the flow of plastic pollution, packaging products in a cloth that may return to nature reasonably than destroy and suffocate it looks as if the plain selection, but is compostable packaging too good to be true?

On Repeat’s refill pouches break down in compost in 34 weeks, April’s packaging is certified for home composting and breaks down in roughly six months, while Haeckels’ Vivomer packaging has been independently tested in all environments and can “contribute to the biosphere in as little as 48 weeks”. 

But brands’ claims of their materials being compostable should all the time be treated with caution. Some products may be composted in a compost heap at home (indicated by certifications like OK compost HOME), while others should be sent to an industrial composting facility because they require a combination of very high temperatures, high humidity and oxygen to interrupt down. The difficulty is, there just aren’t enough industrial composting facilities to process compostable packaging at scale. So, a brand can say its materials are technically compostable, nevertheless it simply cannot guarantee they’ll actually be composted, defeating the item entirely. 

Understandably, brands and designers have jumped at the prospect to make use of ‘compostable’ materials for his or her products,” says Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet. “But there’s a quite simple query to ask at first of the design process: does it help get food and organic garden waste into our composting system? If the reply isn’t any, then it probably is the flawed use.” In reality, in A Plastic Planet’s report, The Compostable Conundrum, personal care and cosmetic packaging are on the red list, with the usage of compostable materials not beneficial because they don’t help carry food waste into the food waste system and feed healthy soil.

“We’d like to look beyond straight swaps from plastic to compostable materials to systems that avoid single-use entirely,” continues Sutherland. Haeckels hasn’t transitioned to compostable packaging wholesale. Its Home and Fragrance lines, for example, will use an updated kind of glassware because the brand found its customers were more more likely to refill and reuse glass packaging in those situations. The choice to maintain the glass in some instances and use Vivomer for Skin was based on a business-wide impact report which weighed up aspects like waste and carbon emissions.

“We’re champions of latest materials, so I feel it was all the time expected that we might move into compostable packaging, but there’s a variety of compostability noises on the market, so now we have been very focused on testing, testing, testing. All our compostability claims have been checked by an organization called Provenance. It’s all legit,” says Charlie Vickery, managing director of Haeckels, adding that the corporate checked out the packaging like a twig within the sense that regardless of where it finally ends up, it will all the time turn into food sources and contribute to the soil. 

April sends its complement refills in NatureFlex, a compostable material produced from wood pulp, and the choice got here all the way down to making the best swap for its audience. “We consider that our compostable refill pouch is a convenient solution that makes it easy for the client to make a sustainable selection,” says Helena Aru, growth director at April. The brand considers it a greater option than a refill and return scheme because it involves less effort for the buyer, due to this fact making behaviour change easier. “We don’t know beforehand exactly where our customers live or in the event that they would drive a automobile to drop off the empty jars, so it will give us less control and make it harder to calculate our total impact,” Aru continues.

Calculating impact and knowing the facts is unquestionably so as on the subject of ensuring materials do what they’re promised to do. Dr Imogen Napper, a marine conservationist with a PhD in Marine Pollution, put compostable and biodegradable carrier bags to the test and located that while the compostable bag she tested disappeared completely after three months in a marine environment, it was still present within the soil 27 months after being buried. 

Plus, which uses home compostable pouches and mailers says its goal in designing compostable packaging is to “help advocate for making composting mainstream” and signposts its audience towards a pre-written letter to send to government representatives. Applying pressure to step-up composting is vital, in spite of everything, the higher the infrastructure, the higher the efficiency of composting. However it’s necessary that brands don’t flood the system with ‘compostable’ materials when there aren’t sufficient facilities to cope with them because it would find yourself being extracted from the waste stream like every other plastic then incinerated or landfilled.

Brands moving away from plastic and using materials that actively give back to the environment is positive in an industry predicated on waste, but a healthy dose of scepticism will come in useful if we’re going to be sure that ‘compostable’ doesn’t turn out to be the following greenwashing buzzword. Compostable is great, in the proper context and if it actually becomes compost, otherwise it’s only a smokescreen or, as Sutherland puts it, “a diversionary sticking plaster on the trail of real change.”

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