By Susan Bannatyne
I have few other significant vices, so I don’t consider this to be a particular problem – some people like shoes, some people like gin, and I like anything that smells lovely and makes my skin feel happy.
However, a few years ago I re-evaluated my bedside table. Although I liked all the products I had there and was confident of their cruelty-free status, almost all of them had the same big issue: they were encased in plastic. Even though almost all could quote the percentage of recycled plastic in their make up and all encouraged me to recycle them when empty, I started to feel uncomfortable about potentially adding to the 5 million tonnes of plastic packaging used in the UK each year (https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8515/). Especially for something relatively unimportant such as skincare.
One of the big advantages of plastic is that it can keep products fresh and it is often light to transport. However, I wondered if these benefits could outweigh the problems I was aware of:
The manufacturing process uses resources and can itself contribute to pollution
- Plastic often does not decompose and can last centuries landfill or break down into microplastics polluting waterways and impacting wildlife
- Even when items are ‘recyclable’, this is very dependent on local facilities, and beauty
- packaging can contain lots of small components potentially made from different types of plastic
So I made a plan: I would prioritise packaging when I looked for products. I looked for things packaged in glass, paper or metal – all much more easily recyclable. I found more options in refills and reusables, such as products where I could buy a plastic pump just once and reuse it in metal bottles which were them recyclable. A year or two down the line, there are still some products in plastic on my bedside table, but they are now the exception rather than the rule. I’m still a skincare addict, but my conscience now matches my skin better, with both being a little clearer.