Beauty industry- an ugly business for the planet?

Beauty industry- an ugly business for the planet?

As plastic waste becomes a global issue to tackle, an industry that is under increasing scrutiny, along with food packaging, is the beauty and personal care industry.

The Impact of the Beauty Industry

The beauty business, with its heavy reliance on plastics and murky transparency practices, is a major global polluter.

Makeup products
  • Image saying 120 billion units of packaging
  • Image saying 14% recycled
  • Image saying 95% used & thrown

Each year, the beauty industry produces more than 120 billion units of ugly packaging- 95% (of which) is thrown out after one use and only 14% of it makes it to recycling centres.

Approximately, one billion tubes of lipstick are thrown out every year. Additionally, beauty industry waste includes 400 million single-use silicone molds are used to print a logo on a stick that will wear off after application. These waste in the beauty industry are all things that can’t be recycled. This atrocious number is only referring to lipsticks. Most personal care and beauty products end up in landfills. Their microplastics clop up our oceans (14 million tons to be precise), our drinking water, and our food supply.

The global cosmetics market generated approximately US$ 341.1 billion in 2020—and the industry is expected to grow by 64.2% by 2030. Clearly this is a source of plastic pollution that needs to be addressed. If this trend continues, it would mean we’d have more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050, according to the United Nations.

1kg plastic is 3kg CO2

What makes this crisis even more urgent is that plastic waste is tied very closely to climate change as 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels. One kg of plastic creates three kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) during manufacturing. This means one crisis inadvertently contributes to the other. However, this also means that if we tackle the plastic waste problem, we also help tackle the climate crisis

Indian Consumers on Sustainability

Customers are moving away from personal care that harms the planet. As Indian consumers become more informed and aware, there is a rising wave of conscious consumers. In a research conducted to assess consumers’ attitudes towards sustainable beauty, 64% said that sustainability is very important when considering the purchase of a beauty product. As consumers show their increasing support towards reduced waste/ more eco-friendly packaging, brands are racing to have a zero-waste policy at the core of their values.

Three poeple chart

64% said that sustainability is very important when considering the purchase of a beauty product.

The Rise of Sustainable Beauty

Due to the rising demand, most companies are choosing to go down the ‘organic, vegan, cruelty free, sulphate free’ route. However, while a product may be green in its formula, the packaging and supply chain, very often, is not. This seriously hinders the sustainability agenda of the company. Businesses can rely on network effect for supply chains in order to promote greener practices. Opting for supply chain sustainabilty software can be another good example to maintain ESG data.

Many companies are urgently shifting gears to more sustainable practices, most of which include recycling. Multiple companies are asking customers to send back their packaging to be recycled while others are tying up with recycling partners like Terra Cycle to recycle beauty packaging that isn’t typically accepted curbside. There is also a rise in refill services like Loop who professionally clean the packaging before refilling it and shipping it back to the consumers.

Many personal care conglomerates such as Unilever and L’Oréal are considering overhauling their entire packaging design to help solve the problem. For example, both companies are working toward a 2025 goal of making all of its plastic packaging 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Unilever even launched an eco-friendly beauty brand called Love, Beauty and Planet with sustainability in all areas as a core ethos.

Unilever & L’Oréal are working toward a 2025 goal

Unilever & L’Oréal are working toward a 2025 goal of making all of its plastic packaging 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

There is also a surge of homegrown sustainable beauty and personal care brands with zero waste policies and organic ingredients at the centre of their design. Brands such as Juicy Chemistry, Earth Rhythm, Bare Necessities are quickly becoming consumer favoritesfor their stand on sustainability. This shows that making more eco-friendly choices is not just the more sustainable option but also the smarter option for brands- to survive and to grow.

How to Switch to Sustainable

While it is not an easy journey, here are a few ways for brands to reduce plastic waste and become more sustainable:

Packaging emission

1. Measure your plastic/carbon footprint

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”. The basic and yet a critical component is to start measuring your brand’s plastic consumption and carbon footprint. Once measured, you will have a better understanding of the hotspots and find ways to reduce your footprint.

Tools like Snowkap’s specialised reporting tool helps calculate your plastic and carbon footprint. Through detailed reports, you can get access to your plastic to dollar cost and carbon to dollar cost. You will also get an in-depth understanding of which parts of your business are plastic/carbon heavy, and plan/reduce offsets accordingly.

2. Recycle Your Plastic

Most of the environmental concern with plastic is due to the fact that it is not recycled and ends up in landfills harming the planet, the animals and ultimately, us. When you recycle your plastic, you prevent it from entering the landfills, and this process can have a monumental impact in your business.

Businesses can also choose to offset their plastic consumption which means you can remove the same/similar amount of plastic waste from the environment as your business has consumed. This helps to prevent plastic pollution and helps create a positive social change as well.

Snowkap also offers businesses an option to offset their plastic consumption through our certified partner network. Compensate for your plastic consumption and communicate about the positive impact you’ve made to your consumers and your investors.

Recycle plastic
Make incremental changes

3. Make Incremental Changes

We understand that it is daunting to completely change your business process overnight. So, start with small changes that are fairly easy, like choosing to use rPET bottles as compared to PET bottles, significantly reducing the CO2 emissions. Few other examples below:

  • Switching from non-recyclable packaging to recyclable ones,
  • Plastic bags to paper bags,
  • Plastic tape to paper tape (Plastic tape is hard to recycle considering its size)
  • Plastic Bubble Wrap to honeycomb paper stuffing.

Once these actions have been successfully implemented, companies can then consider addressing system-level changes that require in-depth value-chain collaboration.

The Snowkap Marketplace makes sustainable sourcing easy. From tree-free tissues paper, bagasse bowls, leak proof paper cups, moulded fibre cutlery – we’ve got it all. Not only are all the suppliers certified, each product comes with its carbon footprint, making it easy to measure the footprint of every transaction.

4. Communicate your Impact

Brands not only need to embrace sustainable practices like biodegradable packaging and organic ingredients, but also be transparent about their efforts. Brands need to clearly communicate the sustainability narratives for both their product and the packaging.

Multiple surveys have shown that when given a choice, consumers are willing to choose the more sustainable product if they knew what they were buying. Ensuring that the packaging communicates your impact in the relevant sustainability narratives is critical to your business growth.

On Snowkap, you can measure your plastic/carbon footprint real time, and share your victories with your consumers, investors and other stakeholders easily through a QR code.

Communicate your impact illustration


Sustainability is no longer the exception but is slowly becoming the norm. Brands need to adapt now to become a leader in their industry. Viewing sustainability issues as a key factor in strategic planning will enable QSR companies to determine how sustainability can be used as a differentiator to attract consumer interest and drive growth.