The Power of a Collective: Moving the Beauty Industry Towards Circularity

It’s no surprise that we are in a waste crisis. We’re bombarded with discouraging stats: There will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2025, every seabird species on the planet will be eating plastic by 2050.1 It’s easy to feel anxious, alone, and hopeless in the face of this daunting reality. But, is this problem solvable? What can one person, company, organization, or industry really do to make a difference?

  The answer is A LOT, but we can’t do it alone. That’s why Pact Collective was created - a nonprofit collective of beauty industry stakeholders taking responsibility for our industry's packaging problem. Through collective action across the industry, we CAN create meaningful, robust changes in the beauty industry leading to less waste in the landfill and more sustainable packaging moving forward. We need everyone in the industry - from consumers to brands, to packaging suppliers, and distributors to make a significant change. From product fruition, to use, to the end-of-life, you, the customer, play a unique role in the system and we have a responsibility to make better decisions available for you to create a beautiful sustainable future. 

Who is Pact Collective? 

Pact is a collective of beauty industry stakeholders taking responsibility for the impacts of our packaging. A nonprofit membership organization, their members are beauty industry leaders working to improve packaging end-of-life trajectories and work toward circularity within our industry. We understand that across the supply chain - from packaging manufacturers, brands, retailers, customers, and material recovery facilities - we are currently siloed and not talking with each other. The result? Millions of tons of waste. 

Pact Collective has two important goals. The foundation is education and industry transformation through collective knowledge sharing. They believe that the changes our industry desperately needs will only be realized when we come together collectively to share knowledge to make beauty packaging more sustainable. They’re on a mission to deliver resources to move the industry towards circularity, tackle misinformation and greenwashing, and improve communication and transparency. Second, they are addressing the current beauty waste crisis by building an infrastructure to collect hard-to-recycle beauty products and divert them from the landfill. 

Sustainability and circularity are not topics that can be addressed individually or causally. To create a dramatic shift in behavior change and drive systemic changes, we need all of our shared knowledge and the power of collective action. Pact believes that “sustainable” and “circular” are not marketing terms, but a journey and a vision that we all need to play an active role in.

Why Beauty? 

 Beauty has a unique set of waste problems. An estimated 120 billion cosmetic packages are created annually, 79% end up in landfills, oceans, or dumped onto communities that play a disproportionately small role in the creation of this waste.2

The health of the planet is under threat, and while the beauty industry has been increasingly cleaning up its ingredients, it is largely ignoring its role in petrochemical extraction, energy/resource consumption, and waste production. We need to increase and extend producer responsibility: parties that make/sell products should not be able to pass the buck on packaging sustainability.

The bulk of what ends up in the landfill is “hard-to-recycle” packaging which includes plastic packages smaller than a yogurt cup, squeezable plastic tubes, pumps, caps, colored glass, and other common beauty formats that are unlikely to be recycled in curbside programs (yes, even “single stream” bins). 

Unfortunately, in our current system, municipal recovery facilities can’t process them, end-markets don’t want them, and the resin and packaging makers usually take ZERO responsibility for their products’ end-of-life. We are in a moment that demands urgent action and systemic change. 

To meet this moment with action, Pact collects these hard-to-recycle beauty packaging through their In-Store Pact Bins or Mail-Back Collection programs to divert it from the landfill. Pact aims to find the highest and best use for the empty beauty packages they collect. Ideally, packaging will become packaging again— but this is, unfortunately, a rare outcome today. Some of it can be mechanically recycled or chemically recycled or downcycled into asphalt, for example. The bottom of the use hierarchy is waste-to-energy, where we must burn packaging that cannot be used in any other way.  

Pact takes all the information from end-of-life analysis and provides complete transparency to all members. The result is better design, less material, and transparency in moving the beauty industry toward zero waste-to-landfill, and ultimately toward circularity. 

Recycling is only one tool in the toolbox, and it is the one we need for our urgent and existing ecological crisis. However, it is not the end game. Collective action, community-building, and collective knowledge sharing is our ticket to circularity and lasting impact. 

What role do YOU play? 

No matter if you’re a customer, recycler, multi-national brand, or packaging supplier, YOU are responsible for the beauty industry’s impact and have a stake in how we respond to this climate crisis. Your participation, involvement, and voice matter and will shape the future of the collective as well as the future of the industry. We look forward to getting you involved in the community!

How YOU can get involved in our Pact Mail Back Recycling Program

The most sustainable way for Pact to process your hard-to-recycle beauty empties is through their In-Store Collection Program. Take a minute to check if there's a Pact Collection Bin near you- see locations across the US and Canada here.  

 No Pact Bin near you? Our US and Canadian customers are now able to mail 5-10 items of our clean, empty beauty packaging to Pact’s recycling facility.

To participate in the Mail Back Collection Program, check their guidelines and our IG post to find out what packaging Pact is able to accept and what goes to curb side recycling. Then follow the simple 3 steps to start recycling.

Thank you for helping us take responsibility for our industry’s impact on the planet. Together, we can close the loop on hard-to-recycle beauty packaging


This blog was guest written by Carly Snider, Program Director at Pact Collective 

References

1 https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/10-shocking-facts-about-plastic

https://www.zerowaste.com/zero-waste-home-guide

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