Monday, 14 April 2008

Lovely piece on the Independant

Because you're worth it...
... or so the beauty industry says, in defence of its costly and wasteful packaging. Time to think outside the box?

By Ian Johnston and Susie Mesure
Sunday, 13 April 2008

Their contents promise "miracle" ingredients, extracted from the deep ocean or the heart of a volcano, with the power to bestow "new life" on ageing mortals. Welcome to the hype of the beauty cream world, epitomised by the lavish wrapping swaddling what are essentially moisturising lotions often encased in more than six times their own weight of packaging.

Elaborate pumping systems with multiple washers, springs and moulded plastic parts; thick glass jars hiding like Russian dolls within multiple cardboard boxes; and golden test tubes peeking out of transparent presentation cases – all routinely encase just 50ml of cream, which is less than the contents of a single egg.

Beauty creams have become the latest flashpoint in the environmental campaigners' battle against excess packaging, with UK trading standards officers lining up to prosecute the worst perpetrators. Brands from Crème de la Mer and La Prairie at the top of the luxury spectrum down to the Olays and L'Oréals at the lower end are all feeding a multibillion-pound global industry that is soaring in value, despite concern at the amount of waste clogging up landfill sites.

The cosmetics packaging industry was worth £6.7bn to manufacturers worldwide in 2005 and is tipped to grow by more than 10 per cent to £7.5bn by 2009. Nearly two-thirds of all cosmetics packaging is made from plastic, with around one-fifth made from paper.

Figures from Lush, a soap maker and cosmetics company that shuns packaging, show that packaging often makes up more than 80 per cent of a product's total weight. Mark Constantine, Lush's founder, said: "Packaging is unnecessary, bad for the environment and uneconomic. If you get rid of it, then manufacturers will have more money to spend on the content and you get more product."

Trewin Restorick, director of the environmental campaign group Global Action Plan, said cosmetics were often "excessively packaged to make a very small amount of content look alluring". He called on shoppers to put pressure on the worst offenders, which tend to be the most luxurious brands, by boycotting their products. "Consumers can really start to shift the industry if they move towards companies like Lush and Aveda and away from these overly packaged items," he said.

Trading standards officers said companies were guiltier than ever of over-packaging their products, despite an industry-wide crackdown three years ago. Christine Heemskerk, trading standards officer at Surrey county council, said a new investigation into the industry was "possible", warning that the worst offenders could be prosecuted under existing laws against excess packaging.

The cosmetics industry relies on the "less is more" principle to boost its bottom line, according to marketing experts. "That's an absolutely golden rule. The grander the brand, the less you get. The 'what a lot you get' principle is downmarket. People want to imply this is very, very valuable stuff," said Peter York.

A spokeswoman for the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) defended the industry. "A cosmetic product has a very long life and it has to be in a robust and durable package to maintain it in good order. The packaging for our industry is an absolutely vital component.


Anonymous said...

Great article!
Before i discovered lush i felt really guilty when i threw away my empty bottle of face wash or shampoo.
I hope that the companies do get prosecuted - its time for them to realise that they can't rely on people's money and stay hidden from major issues forever as we're all becoming even more aware of climate change, its effects and most importantly what we can do about it.

Estelle said...

Hey Ruth,

Thanks for putting this blog together. Very interesting and am quite surprised that there aren't more comments.
I'm not ashamed to say that I've never been a soap addict, but thanks to your blog I've changed my view on soaps vs shower gels. I'll think about buying soaps instead now. The whole recycling thingy was part of my daily habits already but I hadn't given the soaps/gels any thought.
It is quite incredible what you guys can come up to in terms of creams/masks, etc.I love Lush products and I keep going for more.
In fact, I am so addicted to Lush at this stage that I wrote an article about you guys - or rather, the Lush stores in Dublin which is where I live. So if you understand French, have a go:
See what it's like to be a Lush fanatic ;)

Please keep writing and thanks for all you do!

Mrs Green said...

Hey Ruth!

I'm loving your blog - thank you so much for sharing all of this information.

I live in the UK with my hubby, 7 year old child and our cat. Recently we've set ourselves a zero waste challenge! We've set up a website which has had overwhelming support and responses:

We've had media interest already after just one week of running the site.

I spent ages on the phone to one of LUSH's reps and he put me in touch with your site. I was picking his brains on the products we could use as a family that would create zero waste.

I'm compiling an article, but I wondered if you might like to help me with it or write something for us?

I couldn't find an email address for you, so will hope this finds it way into your life!

You can get hold of me through the 'contact us' page of our site, rather than me write out my personal email address here :)

bright blessings,
Mrs Green x

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