Packaging Research.

It’s official, we’re drowning in plastic.

1 MILLION plastic bottles are being made every minute worldwide, and skincare is a major offender.

With less than 7% of plastic ever been recycled, 488,808,000,000 bottles end up in our oceans or landfill every year.

So, we’re not only going to reinvent the way skincare is formulated, we’re going to redesign the way it’s packaged too – because skincare should be good for us, and good for the planet, right?


Check out the tool at the bottom of the page to help you understand the environmental impact of skincare packaging.

 
 
 

 

Skin care packaging types
— and their impact.

 

An easy to understand environmental guide for all of your bottles, jars and tubes.

 

Use our Packaging Type Tool to help you understand the common types of materials used in skin care packaging and their environmental impact. Just like skin care’s notoriously difficult to understand ingredient labels, the world of packaging is equally complicated and difficult to navigate.

Bottles, caps, seals, labels, pumps, boxes and bags. The average product uses 4 different materials to package a single product, making understanding them extremely difficult and recycling even harder.

With our tool, you can find the appropriate material in one of three ways; by it’s plastic type symbol (if plastic), by selecting a visually similar container, or simply by its name.

 

Find packaging type by symbol:

(Look on the base of your product to find its plastic type symbol)


 

Find by picture:

 

 
 

PET — Polyethylene Terephthalate

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Your run of-the-mill, single-use plastic

Our rating: ★★★☆☆

PET plastics are created from a thermoplastic polymer moulded to form strong, light and somewhat durable packaging. These high-density plastics are used for carbonated beverages, food packaging and any products that need packaging with good chemical resistance and tensile strength.

Appearance?
Think about the traditional plastic bottle. PET can be easily moulded but has a smooth texture. It’s often thin, but durable.

How is it made and what is it made from?
PET is petroleum based and created from a reaction between ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. PET goes through a polymerization process (small molecules are combined to produce larger, stronger and a chainlike network of molecules) to create a pliable plastic material.

Current Global Rate of Production?
In 2016, yearly global rates of production hovered around the 485 billion mark. It’s estimated that by 2021, production will rise to 583.3 billion units. We can assume the current rate is somewhere in between.

Can it be recycled?
Yes. PET packaging can be recycled and the plastic can be remoulded to create new recycled plastic packaging. When PET is recycled, the plastic is shredded and reprocessed to create new packaging or goods from the fibre. The current recycling rate is around 20%.

What’s PET’s Carbon Footprint?
1 kg of PET plastic = 9 kg of carbon dioxide. In addition to PET manufacturing, the transport and processing of plastic resins result in a significant carbon footprint.

Water Footprint?
3 litres per a 1 litre PET bottle. Reports say that PET has a carbon footprint of around 4523 (kg CO2/tonne).

Average Weight?
The average weight of PET-based packaging has reduced significantly (almost by 2.8 million kgs of resin) since the early 2000’s. As of 2015, the average weight of a half-litre bottle fluctuates around the 9.5 gram area.

Potential Health Effects?
PET is generally regarded as safe, but has been known to leach harmful toxic metals, particularly antimony. Bromine has also been found from plastic bottles - this is a serious endocrine disruptor known for enhancing psychological symptoms.

Pros:

  • Rugged and safe.

  • Unlikely to break easily.

  • Can be easily moulded.

  • Economical.

  • Lightweight packaging saves energy and costs for manufacturing and transportation.

  • Can be recycled into secondary products.

Cons:

  • Time to decompose. It takes approximately 500 years for a plastic bottle to decompose. And when it does, it breaks down into micro plastics. Yeah those nasty things that cause disease in us and our wildlife.

  • It’s tricky to recycle. Not all recycled plastic is used well. Those bottles that are processed create non-recyclable products such as t-shirts. The end of life of a plastic bottle is short and there is always a need for more raw materials to produce new plastic bottles.

  • Oil-based plastic is non-renewable.

  • Contributes to a toxic plastic culture.

Commonly used for:
clothing fibres, food + liquid containers, packaging, thermoforming

 

HDPE — High-density Polyethylene

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A packaging superstar 

Our rating: ★★★☆☆

High-density Polyethylene (HDPE) has a reputation for being one of the most versatile plastics – and for good reason. You’ll find HDPE used for shampoo bottles, plastic furniture, construction hats, recycling bins, bags…the works.

Appearance?
HDPE takes on a somewhat translucent appearance coupled with a more durable construction. It doesn’t absorb liquid easily and can be thinned to create bags.

How is it made and what is it made from?
HDPE is made by applying intense heat to virgin petroleum – to the point where ethylene gas is released. These ethylene molecules are then strung together to form different variations of HDPE.

Current Global Rate of Production?
It’s estimated that by the end of 2018, demand and production for HDPE will reach 99.6 million metric tons or approximately $164 billion.

Can it be recycled?
HDPE can be identified by the #2 symbol. When recycled, HDPE is often recycled to create new plastic parts, including storage containers, furniture, and plastic auto parts.

What’s HDPE’s Carbon Footprint?  
Reports say that HDPE production results in a total carbon footprint of 3380 (kg CO2/tonne). HDPE is known for not creating harmful emissions during production and consumption, nor does it leach toxic waste once used.

Water Footprint?
Inconclusive

Average Weight?
Inconclusive

Potential Health Effects?
HDPE is a plastic that does not contain BPA’s. It’s relatively safe but has been known to leach endocrine disruptors.

Pros:

  • Lightweight & Strong

  • Long Lasting & Weather Resistant

  • Resists external influences and maintains integrity (mold, mildew, rotting)

  • It’s malleable, which makes it incredibly versatile across a broad range of industries and uses

  • HDPE doesn’t contain BPA, heavy metals or phthalates

  • As far as plastics go, HDPE is the most environmentally friendly. The plastic doesn’t give off any fumes and requires relatively low energy to produce.

Cons:

  • Takes hundreds of years, and potentially forever, to biodegrade

  • Can leech xenoestrogens that affect our endocrine system

  • The environmental impact of disused bottles.

 

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PVC — Polyvinyl chloride

For projects and products that need durable material

Our rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is one of the most used thermoplastics polymers in the world. PCV tends to be white and brittle and is commonly used in construction.  Its versatility and ability to be easily melted, cooled and reheated while maintaining strength has led to the material being used for clear packaging, shrink wrap, plumbing pipes, and tablecloths. PVC is made from raw petroleum and has a growing reputation for its environmental and human health costs.

Appearance?
PVC can be rigid or flexible. Rigid PVC (often white in appearance) is used for piping and construction as it is durable and can withstand multiple temperatures. Soft PVC resembles the traditional clear food packaging.

How is it made and what is it made from?
Through a combination of raw petroleum, ethylene and chloride, which transforms into vinyl chloride. Dependant on what the PVC is being used for, a range of additives such as heat stabilizers, plasticizers, flame retardants, and pigments are incorporated to create a final PVC product. PVC requires virgin material to create the product, so you won’t find recycled PVC products easily.

Current Global rate of Production?
About 40 million tonnes are produced per year, with primary production occurring in Japan.

Can it be recycled?
Kind of. PVC can technically be recycled, but many recycling centres don’t like to process the material because it is difficult and expensive. PCV can be melted and remoulded, but once it reaches its ‘end of life,’ the plastic will end up in a landfill or incinerated. Both options aren’t great – PCV is known for leaching toxic chemicals, dioxin, hydrogen chloroxide gas and heavy metals.

What’s its carbon footprint?
1 kg of PVC = 4.1 kilograms of CO2. Reports say that PVC has a total carbon footprint of 3453 (kg CO2/tonne).

Water Footprint?
Inconclusive.

Potential Health Concerns?
PVC contains phthalates, which are a serious xenoestrogen.

Pros:

  • Great for products that need strong packaging.

  • Cheap and efficient to produce

  • Versatile

  • Can be recycled and reused

Cons:

  • PVC is not environmentally friendly. PVC leaches dangerous chemicals and is 57% chlorine, a substance that releases dioxins, a harmful carcinogen. Most PVC is also produced with toxic lead, phthalates and flame retardants.

  • It’s used commonly and it’s pretty easy to become exposed to PVC. PVC with high lead content can be a concern for those handling PVC packaging.

  • Takes hundreds of years, and potentially forever, to biodegrade

Commonly used for?
Pipes & fitting, coated fabrics, flooring, cables, rigid packaging, bottles, and miscellaneous construction materials.

 

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LDPE — Low-Density Polyethylene

An every-day type of plastic

Our rating: ★★☆☆☆

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is what all those bottles, plastic bags from the grocery and lids strewn in your house are made from. It’s similar to PET and because it is a polyethylene, is petroleum-based and is found just about everywhere. LDPE has a lower density than most plastics, which makes it lightweight, less chemically resistant and translucent.

How is it made and what is it made from?
LDPE derives from raw petroleum. It’s created through high-pressure, free-radical polymerization.

Current Global Rate of Production?
In 2016, 103 million tons of LDPE was produced.

Can it be recycled?
In theory. Recycled LDPE can make garbage can liners, furniture and trash bins, among other products. LDPE is less often recycled than HDPE because of its resin types. Once LDPE arrives to a recycling facility, it’s difficult to ensure that it is clean enough and it takes time and energy to recycle enough of the flimsy material to create a new product.

What’s its carbon footprint?
It takes 6kg of CO2 to produce 1 kg of polyethylene. On a larger scale, that about 180,000 kg of CO2 to produce 300 million tons of plastic. Yikes.

How about its water footprint?
Inconclusive

Pros:

  • Chemically resistant

  • Flexible and tough

  • Good moisture barrier

Cons:

  • Time to decompose. It takes approximately 500 years for a plastic bag to decompose.

  • Oil-based plastic in non-renewable.

  • Contributes to a toxic plastic culture.

You’ll find LDPE in?
Plastic bags, shrink-wrap, coating, container lids, squeezable bottles, paper cartons, and takeaway beverage cups.

 

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PP — Polypropylene

A one liner about PP.

Our rating: ★★★☆☆

Polypropylene (PP) is a thermoplastic composed from multiple propylene monomers. Basically, it’s a robust plastic that can withstand high temperatures and resist chemical leaching. It’s a hot material in the international plastic market – reports estimate that by 2020, we’ll be demanding up to 62 million metric tons of PP. The appeal of PP is in its strength when moulded into hinges, packaging, or products. That’s why you’ll find PP used not only in commercial production but in the construction industry.

Appearance?
Smooth and waxy

What is it made from?
Polypropylene is a polymer plastic produced from alkenes.

Current Global Rate of Production?
In 2016, around 56 million tons of PP was produced. It’s estimated that by 2022, more than 74 million tons will be produced globally (!).

Can it be recycled?
Yes. However, PP must be properly sorted by weight and colour to be processed. PP can be recycled and remade up to 4 times until its structural integrity decreases. Then PP is mixed with new plastics to produce new products, resulting in a somewhat recycled plastic. Recycled PP can create: clothing fibres, food containers, dishware, bins and gardening tools.

What’s its footprint?
It varies.
Reports estimate that it takes 3456 kg CO2 per tonne of material.

Pros:

  • It’s durable and can be used several times.

  • It can be mixed with virgin plastic to create new products, which in turn decreases the amount of new oil being used.

  • PP is biodegradable and doesn’t generate toxic gas when burned correctly. The materials high heat tolerance allows it to not leach as many chemicals as other plastics.

Cons:

  • Even though it’s considered a favourable plastic, it’s still, well, plastic.

  • Due to being used in both packaging and construction applications, there is a vast amount of wastage

  • Takes hundreds of years, and potentially forever, to biodegrade

You’ll find PP in:
Yogurt containers, take away boxes, clothing insulation, Tupperware.

 

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PS — Polystyrene

A one liner about PS.

Our rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Polystyrene (PS), more commonly known as Styrofoam, is a thermoplastic that can take the form of a foam-like material or a solid plastic. PS is inexpensive to produce and useful for a range of applications, making it a popular material regardless of its environmental and health impacts.

Appearance?
Typically, white in colour

Can it be recycled?
Technically, but it’s not common. Expanded Polystyrene, a type of PS, can be recycled which includes: house insulation, moulded packaging, disposable razors, packaging balls and car seats. However, because of PS’s bulk and low value, recyclers don’t believe it is a profitable material to process.

How is it made and what is it made from?
PS is made from the polymerization of styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon that is a petroleum by-product. Depending on PS’ final use, it is blended with other polymers to form a variety of plastics.

What’s its footprint?
Inconclusive - but terrible.

Pros:

  • Less expensive to produce

  • Good insulation, which keeps products fresh

  • Uses less energy and resources than paper packaging

  • Weighs less than paper and alternative plastic, which reduces transport costs and emissions

Cons:

  • Slow to biodegrade

  • Can leach styrene, a carcinogen, especially if the packaging is exposed to heat.

  • PS creates a large amount of hazardous waste

  • If littered, PS breaks apart and is difficult to clean up. PS is often found in riparian and marine environments and can have a damaging effect on wildlife.

You’ll find PS in?
Takeaway containers, plates, cups, packaging materials, and medical devices

Health Concerns?
According to the Foundation for Achievements in Science and Education fact sheet, long-term exposure to small quantities of styrene can cause neurotoxic (fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping), haematological (low platelet and haemoglobin values), cytogenetic (chromosomal and lymphatic abnormalities), and carcinogenic effects. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

 

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Others — BPA, Polycarbonate, LEXAN, etc.

Everything else (we think they deserve individual categories but that would get complicated…)

The plastic category #7 refers to all other plastics created from combinations of resins. Plastics include plant-based, biodegradable and more environmentally-friendly alternatives. Common ‘other’ plastics include Polycarbonate, BPA and LEXAN)

Appearance?
Variable.

How is it made and what is it made from?
Process varies. Other plastics can be either petroleum or plant-based. Others’ includes polycarbonates, polylactides, acrylics, acrylonitrile butadiene, styrene, fiberglass, and nylon.  

Current Global Rate of Production?
Inconclusive.

Can it be recycled?
Since the #7 categorization is composed of multiple plastics, there is not a standard recycling protocol. Everything in this category will end up in landfill or our natural environment.

What’s its footprint?
Inconclusive

Water Footprint?
Inconclusive

Can be found in:
Baby bottles, packaging, electronics, etc.

 

Glass — Bottles & Jars

Our (not-so-secret) packaging alternative.

Our rating: ★★★★☆

We’re a big fan of using glass as a packaging alternative for several reasons. In addition to providing an environmentally-friendly alternative, glass can be reused, recycled and repurposed. Count us in. Unlike plastic, glass doesn’t need excess chemical layers, is made from all-natural raw materials and is sustainable.

It doesn’t hurt that it looks good.

Appearance?
Translucent and hard.

Can it be recycled?
Yes! Glass is 100% recyclable and can be remade into new bottles or alternative uses.

What’s it’s carbon footprint?
Producing a glass bottle results in similar carbon emissions as PET.

What materials is it made from?
Liquid sand. Manufacturers source silicon dioxide rich sand and melt it at an incredibly high temperature until it forms a liquid. The liquid is then moulded and cooled to create glass. Depending on the use of the glass, there is variations in the glass making process – chemicals may be added to change the appearance.

Water Footprint?
Inconclusive.

Potential Health Effects?
None, unless you break the glass.

Pros:

  • Glass is BPA-free, non-permeable and doesn’t absorb chemicals, colours or odours

  • Long-lasting and maintains its structural integrity

  • A healthy and safe packaging alternative

  • Multifunctional – can be used for hot or cold products.

Cons:

  • Higher cost to produce

  • Manufacturing a glass bottle has high carbon emissions

  • Can be dangerous if broken.

Commonly used for?
Bottles & packaging.

 

Aluminium — Bottles & tubes

Our-go to for reusable packaging — with a catch.

Our rating: ★★★★☆

Aluminium isn’t a scarce resource – its recognised as the world’s most plentiful element and makes up about 8% of the earth’s surface. That’s why it is widely used for product packaging throughout the globe. It is a lightweight, strong and non-toxic material that is easily shaped but maintains its structural integrity.

Appearance?
Silver and shiny. Soft and malleable.

How is it made?
Aluminium, a soft metal, is found in chemical compounds with elements such as Sulphur and oxygen. Aluminium is extracted from chemical compounds, processed from bauxite ore, melted and then shaped into various products.

Current Global Rate of Production?
Approximately 5,301 thousand metric tonnes of aluminium have been produced in 2018.

Can it be recycled?
Absolutely. It’s easily recycled and easily reused, resulting in a sustainable product. Approximately 75% of all aluminium produced is still in use today.

What’s its footprint?
Inconclusive.

Potential Health Effects?
Aluminium doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to your health. Studies deduce that aluminium exposure can be toxic. Toxicity may lead to issues in the nervous system, brain disorders, respiratory problems and Alzheimer’s.

Pros:

  • Sustainable and reusable.

  • Lightweight and economical.

  • A very abundant resource.

Cons:

  • Aluminium doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to your health. Studies deduce that aluminium exposure can be toxic. Toxicity may lead to issues in the nervous system, brain disorders, respiratory problems and Alzheimer’s.

  • If damaged, or qualities mixed when recycling, aluminium loses its value.

Commonly used for?
Cans, foils, kitchen products, aeroplane parts.