Zero Waste - The Battle with Plastic
My Hunni-Bunni journey started with an epiphany. I was responsible for producing a lot of waste. I decided to focus on my skincare and wellness products, something I noticed generated a considerable amount of waste.. If I was able to see how much my own amount of waste was, then 'gasp' how much were we all producing? I doubt it is something most people think about, when throwing out a small plastic bottle. What harm can it do? A ton!
Thus began my 'hate-on' with plastic. It was like an onion, peeling back each layer revealed a more sinister and damaging revelation. Plastic waste from the beauty industry alone is accountable for about 77 billion units of plastic packaging per year, and over 70 percent of that ends up in landfills. Or that packaging accounts for 40 percent of the world's plastic waste. In major cities, it's estimated that 38 percent of the VOC emissions in air pollution comes from the spritzing and slathering of hairspray and serum and perfume. 7.6 billion pounds of makeup wipes are sent to landfills every year—and that's just makeup wipes. This is the environmental impact of our collective skincare, haircare, body care, and makeup routines!
So let's do something about it.
Here are some helpful tips on trying to limit your plastic consumption and to strive to a zero waste beauty routine.
Step #1: Use Less
You're probably familiar with the motto "reduce, reuse, recycle"—but there's another "R" word that belongs at the top of that list, and it's "refuse." In other words: Don't buy things you don't need.
Marketing does a really good job at making us feel like we need a million products to look and feel our best.
The fewer products you use means less stress for your skin barrier and healthier skin. Find multitasking skincare products that fit into this less-is-more model, too.
Step #2: Swap Out Single-Use Products to Make a Major Impact
The easiest way to lower your environmental impact is to replace your single-use beauty products—things you use once and throw away, like makeup wipes, exfoliating pads, sheets masks, and cotton swabs—with sustainable alternatives. Like, you know, a washcloth (the OG makeup wipe).
Step #3: Opt for Plastic-Free Packaging
Remember those 77 billion units of plastic packaging per year, which help make up 40 percent of the world's total waste? Yeah, the goal of zero waste beauty is to avoid them completely.
The best thing is no packaging, which sounds obvious and also impossible. There are ways to side-step all that pesky plastic, though. Some companies have started to offer bulk "fill stations" for oils, deodorants, dry shampoo, and toothpaste, among other things. Customers simply bring their own containers to fill and voila! Package-free beauty.
The other best option would be paper packaging—but making sure the paper is 100 percent recyclable. Even a post-consumer recycled paper would be talking that once step further.
Then there's glass, aluminum, or steel, which would be the next best option. These materials are infinitely recyclable, so they usually contain a huge percentage of recycled material already. It is important to note that recycled plastic degrades in quality over time, and eventually can't be recycled anymore, which is partly why it's so damaging to the earth.
If there's anything to be reiterated over and over and over again, it's this: Don't send anything that can break down or is biodegradable to a landfill. Studies have shown that biodegradable materials very rarely biodegrade in landfills; they don't offer enough oxygen, light, or soil to break down plant-based fibers. Instead, these materials should be composted.
Step #4: Are Your Ingredients Eco-Friendly?
A lot of focus is (rightfully) placed on packaging, but flip that package over and you'll spy the sneakiest waste products of all: petrochemicals.
Petrochemicals are substances derived from petroleum and natural gas, just like plastics and diesel fuel—and cosmetics are full of 'em.
To name a few: paraffin wax, mineral oil, toluene, benzene, and any ingredient preceded by butyl-, PEG-, or propyl- (like propylene glycol).
These are typically low-cost byproducts of the petroleum industry, so while they don't actively generate waste, zero-waste proponents like Singer avoid them on principle. Most are associated with health risks as well and reports suggest they may be contaminated with carcinogens like 1,4 dioxane in the production process, so there's that.
A true zero-waste beauty routine would also eliminate "bioaccumulative" ingredients—substances that build up in the environment and never break down. Examples are triclosan, triclocarban, and silicone. Silicone is the most widely used; it could be hiding out in ingredient lists under the names dimethicone, cyclomethicone, cyclohexasiloxane, cetearyl methicone, and cyclopentasiloxane.
We prefer 100% natural and organic ingredients, which can be hard to find in conventional beauty products. I personally make most of my zero-waste skincare products—this includes cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and masks—which use paper, aluminum or glass jars and bottles.
Step #5: Recycle
Don't forget the first rule of zero waste: Nothing gets thrown away. If your products come in recyclable paper, compost it. For plastic, aluminum, steel, or glass options, it's all about recycling.