Toothbrush and toothpaste, facial soap, body soap, moisturizing cream, sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner… A simple routine for hygiene and personal care involves at least six products. You may notice that most of them are packaged in plastic seals, followed by similar bags. Those who think their ultimate destination is in the trash are mistaken. If they are thrown away, they end up directly on landfills or in rivers and oceans, disrupting the balance of the entire ecosystem. For decades and on an increasingly larger scale.
To illustrate this, let’s go with numbers. According to the Nationwide Union of City Cleaning Companies (Selurb) and the Brazilian Association of Cleaning and Waste Management Companies, Brazil produces more than 80 million tons of waste per year, of which less than 3% is properly recycled. (Abrelpe), respectively. That is why research and ideas about reducing waste production and new ways to minimize the impact of the beauty industry on the environment are relevant.
After all, part of that contingent certainly includes our skincare containers, as our country is also the fourth largest cosmetics market in the world and the fourth largest producer of plastic waste in the world, according to Atlas do Plástico. It is also worth practicing at home when choosing. Can you change the world with one exchange? Of course not. But demands drive markets.
Airline pilot Camila Villegas is one of the consumers who supports the choir. A major turnaround in labels came when she began to suffer from acne in 2019 after stopping hormonal contraceptives. This was the start of a transition to a fully vegan, pure beauty and sustainable lifestyle.
“The impact of cosmetics on our skin and the environment is enormous, because we use different types of products every day and society does not attach sufficient importance to this,” says Camila. The experience is shared on the @skincarecomplantas profile on Instagram, where he has almost 100,000 followers.
According to Anvisa, there were 3,130 companies in personal care, cosmetics, and fragrances registered in the country in 2020, 205 of which were emerging industries. These figures represent a 7% increase from 2019. According to Mintel, approximately 7,368 products were launched in the personal care category in 2021. Look at the amount!
Here, the National Solid Waste Policy specifies that at least 22% of the packages sold go through reverse logistics, while Anvisa still requires a secondary packaging (cartridge or box) for products sold at physical retail points.
“The movement towards zero waste in Brazil is going very slowly,” complains CARE Pure Beauty co-founder Patricia Camargo. When we talk about beauty salons, the impact on nature is even greater. “In São Paulo, more than 15 tons of aluminum foil are thrown into the trash every day in about 65,000 salons,” explains Chris Dios, founder of Laces and Hair Salon in São Paulo.
With this scenario in mind, the number of Brazilian brands and groups that are looking for alternatives that guarantee the preservation of natural resources and a more sustainable supply chain is increasing. Packaging, raw materials, and ingredients from renewable, recycled, or recyclable sources save energy and resources. But if the agenda is so important, why do we still not find shelves with reusable products, green plastic, glass packaging, or wholesale?
Patricia Camargo believes that resistance is the result of a combination of factors. “The relevance of the timing of product launches and competition in the market is the first question. At my company, it takes twice as long to develop a product as it does to develop a conventional brand. Sometimes we find the perfect formula, but the packaging does not meet our commitment schedule and the large industries cannot meet that deadline. The second problem is undoubtedly the cost, as the technology is resource-dependent and suppliers do not yet have such a wide range of sustainable options; the few that exist are more expensive,” he explains.
Despite the difficulties, a collective commitment has been renewed that ranges from independent labels to industrial giants. In addition, technology is being developed to protect nature by creating ingredients that are similar to those in the environment, but without exploitation. For example, if everyone used lavender essential oil, there would not be enough to meet demand and the plant would be exhausted,” adds Camargo.