Expert's Opinion

Recycling Adds Value To Beauty Packaging

By Tom Szaky, TerraCycle | January 1, 2017

Companies get rewarded for their efforts, says Tom Szaky of Terra Cycle

The personal and beauty care industry is one of the most resilient market segments in terms of growth and overall stability. Faring well and even showing growth in periods of economic decline, cosmetics and consumer staples (shampoo, body wash, hair care, etc.) are what some investors call recession resistant industries; from 2009 to 2010, the overall hair care market grew 2.3%,with shipments of hair care products reaching $1.9 billion.
Fast forward five years. Beauty care generated $56.2 billion in the US last year; hair care is currently the largest segment, skin care a close second. If periods of recession and tighter spending have a uniquely positive effect on personal care and beauty sales, in today’s climate of incomes rising per capita, business is now booming. And in this highly competitive marketplace, adding value and differentiating offerings is a real challenge.
As with most industries today, one of the category’s fastest growing influences on consumer purchasing behavior are claims for sustainability. Sustainable sourcing of raw materials in cosmetics is gaining popularity, and many cosmetics manufacturers have launched “take-back” recycling initiatives, engaging customers with a solution for its difficult-to-recycle products and packaging. The trend we are seeing is clear: recyclability and perceived sustainability are en vogue.
Recycling is one of the most easily understood and accessible aspects of sustainability to the average consumer, and a majority of personal care and beauty packaging, though all technically recyclable, is considered “difficult-to-recycle” because it is not profitable in the current infrastructure. Cosmetics are often packaged in containers that are hard to clean, and the packaging is often comprised of mixed materials (e.g. a pump-action bottle made with different plastic resins and a metal spring).
With high collection, separation, and processing costs, cheap, linear disposal methods like landfilling and incineration are typically considered the most economically viable options. Even so, consumer demand for greater responsibility and more circular waste solutions is resonating across industries, cosmetics included.
One example of a company that is offering a regenerative solution for “difficult-to-recycle” personal care and beauty packaging is Garnier. In partnership with my company TerraCycle, Garnier’s Personal Care and Beauty Recycling Programis a free consumer program that accepts everything from shampoo and conditioner bottles, eye cream tubs and hair spray pumps for recycling. To enhance impact, the program itself is brand agnostic: all personal care and beauty waste is accepted for recycling, regardless of brand.
The demand for recycling options for cosmetic and beauty care products is recognized around the globe. Back in May, L’Oreal launched the VICHY Recycling Program with TerraCycle in Austria to recycle all VICHY products. In collaboration with participating pharmacies all over the country, customers can bring in their empty VICHY items to get loyalty points stamped in a “recycling passport” and receive a free gift after six are collected.
TerraCycle also recently launched the Beauty Products Recycling Program with L’Oreal in Australia, where 21.1 million tons of waste end up in landfills each year; consumers are empowered by the ability to easily (and at no cost to them) send their discarded beauty products for recycling, and can even earn points redeemable for a charitable donation or upcycled products.
We know that consumers are more likely to patronize companies committed to making positive social and environmental impacts, so it’s no wonder that we are seeing an influx of marketing and advertising campaigns using sustainability as a platform to enhance their CSR strategies, reduce their environmental impact, and build trust with consumers.
But because sustainability and recycling are more salient topics in the highly discerning consumer products market today, adding the sort of value that distinguishes a product from competitors requires transparency and authentic environmental benefit. Consumers vote for products with their wallets, and when companies provide the resources necessary to make solutions possible, consumers have the influence to reward them.

About the Author
Tom Szaky is the founder and CEO of TerraCycle, a global leader in the collection and repurposing of otherwise non-recyclable post-consumer and post-industrial waste. In 20 countries, TerraCycle creates national platforms to recycle products and packaging that currently go to landfill or incineration, in collaboration with the world’s largest brands (e.g. Mars, PepsiCo, P&G), retailers (e.g. Staples, Target), and cities (e.g. Tokyo, New Orleans).
Through TerraCycle, Tom is pioneering a new waste management process, involving manufacturers, retailers, governments and consumers, to create circular solutions for materials such as cigarette butts, laboratory waste, coffee capsules and even food packaging that otherwise have no other path to be recycled.
Tom is the author of three books, “Revolution in a Bottle” (2009, Portfolio) and “Outsmart Waste” (2014, Berrett-Koehler) and “Make Garbage Great” (2015, HarperCollins). Tom created, produces and stars in a TerraCycle focused TV show, “Human Resources” airing on Pivot TV. Season 3 of the show aired Fall 2016. Tom and TerraCycle have received over 200 social, environmental and business awards from a range of organizations including the United Nations, World Economic Forum, Forbes Magazine, Ernst & Young, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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