There's no denying it. The world is currently grappling with a severe plastic problem. As statistics now stand, 11 million tons of plastic make their way into our oceans each year (1). If current trends continue, it’s predicted that by 2050, plastic will outweigh fish in our oceans – and 12 billion metric tons of it will sit in landfills. And guess who plays a significant contributing role to this waste problem? That’s right.
The beauty industry. It produces over 120 billion units of packaging every year, which is often made up of complex lids, multi-layered boxes, and cellophane – much of which is non-recyclable (which means they end up in landfills and oceans) (2). To that end, many beauty companies are increasingly pushing out “recyclable” packaging. But here’s what they don’t tell you: not all “recyclable” packaging is indeed, well, recyclable. What does that mean? There are 2 parts to this.
Packaging color matters
First: the color of the packaging. More specifically, did you know that neither brown nor black packaging – two of the most popular colors used by "natural” skincare brands – end up getting recycled? Why? Ans: the optical sorting systems used at many recycling plants can’t pick out the dark pigments in the plastic (3). As a result, most of it remains unsorted and ends up in the oceans or landfills. Oh, and that's not even the worst of it. Studies also indicate dark-colored packaging is more likely to contain heavy metals, including cadmium, mercury, and lead (4). These are all carcinogens that could cause serious developmental and reproductive damage – even at low levels.
Traditional ink is difficult to remove
And the second reason why “recyclable” packaging doesn’t end up getting recycled? Ink. Now, think back to the last time you unboxed a new skincare product. Chances are, it would have come with a paper (or cardboard) insert with instructions on how you could use the product. While these materials – in and of themselves – are recyclable, the truth is that things become slightly more complicated once you consider their printing ink.
That's because the process of recycling paper (or cardboard) requires ink-removal. And, unfortunately, the removal of oil-based inks involves large quantities of chemicals, which are expensive and unfriendly to the environment (5).
This brings about 2 potential issues. The first is that, ironically, the recycling process may negate the benefit of recycling in the first place. And the second is that this lengthy and expensive process increases the risk of recycling plants refusing to process the materials. Meaning? They’d end up in the landfills anyway – where the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals found in ink could potentially lead to soil and even water pollution (6).
What is Terrakai Skin doing differently in terms of packaging?
All that paints a grim picture, right? So, what’s Terrakai Skin doing differently – to ensure that minimal waste ends up in our oceans and landfills? Here’s what:
- White-colored packaging: As sexy and aesthetically pleasing as dark-colored packaging is, here at Terrakai Skin, Earth’s health is a priority for us. Therefore, to increase the chances of our packaging being successfully recycled at processing plants, we opt for white – always.
- Post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics: For those unaware, PCR is a material made from the items that consumers recycle every day, including aluminum, cardboard boxes, paper, and plastic bottles. Terrakai Skin is actively reducing our usage of virgin plastic (i.e., plastic resin that's been newly created without any recycled materials). Better still, we currently have a product that's packaged with PCR.
- No plastic “fillers”: When it comes to product packaging, it’s not just the bottle itself that contributes to our footprint. It’s also the plastic spatulas and lid inserts – which is why we’ve chosen to exclude all those in our product packaging. More good news: our shipper boxes are also free from plastic!
- Soy-based ink: We avoid using “traditional” inks at all costs. Instead, we’ve partnered with one of the highest Eco-accredited printers in Australia to ensure that all our printing needs (from ingredient labeling to inserts to product boxes) are done with soy ink. In addition to being renewable, soy ink is also biodegradable and much easier to remove during the recycling process.