♻️ Top 7 eco-friendly cosmetics packaging solutions

The cosmetics industry has been under a great deal of scrutiny in the last few years.

Cosmetic companies now have an increasing pressure to become more eco-friendly from the ingredients used, the manufacturing process, and how the product arrives to the customer. 

Sustainable packaging, specifically, can benefit both customers and companies and offers a lot of potential for cosmetic companies looking to make a difference. 

However, before getting into details, it’s important to establish a working definition of sustainable packaging. 

Although there are some variations in how companies approach sustainability, the packaging must include some overarching features to make it sustainable. 

The packaging must be made from 100% recycled or natural materials, and its production must be an eco-friendly process. 

Example of eco-friendly packaging
Source: The Dieline

That means the packaging industry needs to adapt to an ethical and well-managed supply chain for all of the elements included in packaging. Packaging must also be produced in a zero-waste or closed-loop way. 

Additionally, the packaging must also be easy for customers to recycle, reuse, or upcycle in some form. 

However, it’s just as important to note that for many businesses, it’s difficult to incorporate all of these elements into packaging – especially while keeping price points at a reasonable level for customers. 

That’s why it’s crucial to establish priorities, what the business values are when it comes to eco-friendliness and keep that in focus during the packaging design process. 

While cosmetics businesses can’t always make the most sustainable packaging, the key element is to make packaging as eco-friendly as possible to protect the environment while still offering value to customers. 

In this article, we’ll look at some of the best choices available for cosmetics packaging and the pros and cons of each one. 

  1. Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Packaging

One of the most popular eco-friendly choices for packaging tends to be post-consumer recycled (PCR) packaging. 

As you might guess, this is a form of packaging made from recycled items such as cardboard boxes, paper, plastic bottles, aluminum, and other everyday materials. 

When the items arrive at a recycling facility, they are separated by material and sorted into bales. 

The bales are then purchased and can be molded into new items.

As a result, capabilities range in terms of the shape and size of the packaging.

How is PCR Packaging Different from Recyclable and Compostable Packaging?

PCR packaging is quickly gaining popularity with projections showing that the industry will grow from 14.2 billion dollars in 2020 to 18.8 billion dollars by 2025. 

PCR differs from other types of packaging because it is created after the raw materials have been sent to recycling facilities. 

With compostable and recyclable packaging, the customer essentially disposes of the packaging, ending its life. 

Example of biodegradable packaging
Source: The Dieline

For items that are recycled, PCR packaging gives it a new life by reusing the materials. 

With recyclable and compostable packaging, there is greater reliance on the customer’s disposal process, as certain conditions may change the material’s biodegradability. 

The Benefits of PCR Packaging 

PCR packaging is widely used because there are many benefits associated with it – for both businesses and customers. 

It’s one of the easiest eco-friendly packaging options to adopt and use and can be developed in many different shapes and sizes. 

Some of the key benefits of PCR packaging include:

  • Flexibility
  • Protection
  • Strong barrier performance
  • Good strength
  • Plastic film alternative
  • Reduces carbon footprint

PCR is also beneficial because it helps companies maintain sustainability initiatives and showcase it through their packaging.  

Especially as customers become more aware of the environmental impact of materials such as plastic, PCR packaging can be a great way to engage with audiences around sustainability and impact without compromising product packaging qauality. 

  1. Bamboo Packaging

Bamboo packaging is another emerging eco-friendly packaging in cosmetics, best for disposable packaging. 

Made from renewable sources, bamboo is one of the best options for plant-based packaging.

No insecticides or pesticides are used in its cultivation, and there are a variety of species available, so there are many options to choose from. 

Bamboo is a lightweight packaging option, and the sheath can be used to add a layer of durability to the packaging. 

It is best used as a biodegradable replacement for plastic and paper. 

Bamboo wood can also be used for external cosmetic jars, using acrylic or glass as an inner coating. 

Example of bamboo packaging
Source: KonMari

Additionally, bamboo containers and jars can also be branded using screen printing, hot stamping, engraving, and more.

  1. Paper Packaging

Paper has long been used as a form of packaging, and there are more ways to use this type of eco-friendly packaging as a replacement for plastic. 

For example, many items are packaged with plastic filling such as bubble wrap for protection. 

However, plastic fillers can be replaced with paper fillers that are made of cardboard or recycled paper as an eco-friendly alternative. 

Paper is both renewable and biodegradable and offers a more sustainable protective option compared to single-use plastics. 

In addition, for envelopes and smaller packaging, paper can be a suitable alternative as customers can recycle it.

  1. Refillable Packaging

One of the bigger challenges the cosmetics industry faces is how to reduce plastic within packaging. 

With so few durable and waterproof alternatives available, cosmetics companies have been trying to come up with compromises to reduce the impact of plastic use. 

One way to accomplish this is by encouraging customers to keep using containers by providing refill services. 

Refillable packaging can not only help companies reduce their impact, but it’s also a great way to engage with customers and build value for the product. It allows companies to drastically cut down the impact of plastics while encouraging customers to continue coming back to the product. 

In addition, companies can offer a special discount for customers who opt for the refill service, encouraging the containers to be used longer.

  1. Cornstarch Packaging

For cosmetic companies seeking more organic materials in their packaging, cornstarch might just be the answer.

A viable plastic alternative, cornstarch offers a lot of possibilities when it comes to eco-friendly packaging options. It is both biodegradable and recyclable, making it a sustainable option for packaging. It is also non-toxic and does not produce large amounts of emissions, which is why so many companies are now looking into cornstarch packaging as a suitable alternative. 

Cornstarch packaging is made from polylactic acid (PLA), derived from renewable sources such as corn starch or sugarcane. While there is concern about supply chains if it is used more widely, there are still options to incorporate this kind of packaging into overall operations. 

  1. Seaweed Packaging

Seaweed might not seem like it can work as packaging, but it offers a lot of potential!  Seaweed packaging is edible, biodegradable, and dissolvable and can be a suitable packaging option. Although it is mostly being considered for food packaging, it can have applications for the cosmetics industry. 

Example of seaweed packaging
Source: Wallpaper

Seaweed packaging is a great alternative for face masks, gels, and general liquid-based cosmetics. In addition, seaweed packaging can serve as a plastic alternative, and it is an abundant resource, so it won’t negatively impact the planet. 

Although still in the prototyping phase, the general idea is to freeze, thaw, and air dry the seaweed to turn it into packaging material. The end product is a transparent film, cushioning, or packaging with cushioning that can be reinforced with other natural materials such as algae fiber for additional protection. 

  1. Beeswax Packaging

Another great eco-friendly cosmetic packaging material is beeswax packaging. Easily molded and manipulated, beeswax packaging can be used as a protective layer around objects or as a cover.

Beeswax packaging is made from beeswax, jojoba, and coconut oil and paired with a fabric like cotton as a coating. Similar to other materials mentioned, beeswax packaging offers an alternative to plastic and allows for more branding opportunities. 

In addition, beeswax packaging can come in many different colors and patterns and is a more affordable option than some of the materials mentioned.

Beeswax is also beneficial for cosmetics because of its unique characteristics. It has anti-bacterial elements that can provide a great deal of protection, and it is durable enough to keep items safe from damage.

One thing that’s clear is that this is an exciting time for eco-friendly packaging. With so many alternatives to plastic emerging, the future of packaging is on its way to becoming more sustainable. 

With greater emphasis on renewable materials that are biodegradable and recyclable, there is more opportunity for impact. 
Cosmetics companies looking to stand out in a competitive market and create a more impactful and authentic connection with customers can accomplish this by incorporating eco-friendly cosmetic packaging into their brand initiatives.