Environmental Awareness in Beauty Packaging
A look at sustainable and recyclable packaging in the personal care arena.
Ava Caridad, Editor
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only 5.7% of total plastic solid waste in the U.S. was recycled and diverted from landfills in 2005. And of the 4.4 million tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps generated, only 5.2% was recovered.
Packaging that is considered sustainable, recyclable, “green”—it can be confusing. The buzz around environmental concerns and global warming is omnipresent, and when one looks at the challenge of reducing waste and preserving resources in the personal care packaging arena, it’s hard to know where to begin. However, Beauty Packaging has endeavored to present a sampling of the many eco-friendly options currently out there.
For instance, companies such as Wal-Mart are driving manufacturers to consider more environmentally friendly options in their packaging materials, according to Packaging Diva JoAnn Hines, Kennesaw, GA in her report Packaging Greenwash: Saving the Environment.
“In fact, they’ve unveiled their packaging scorecard to continue their commitment of reducing packaging across its global supply chain by 5% by 2013.”
According the Use Less Stuff (ULS) report A Study of Packaging Efficiency as it Relates to Waste Prevention (February 2007), retailers such as Wal-Mart have turned to the concept of environmental sustainability as a way to tap into public concerns relating to the environment and national security, and as a potential strategy to control rising energy costs and the costs of the goods they sell. Wal-Mart has stated that it will use information garnered from its suppliers’ packaging “sustainability scorecards” to make buying decisions.
Sherry McGuire, manager; new business development, All Stick Label Toronto, Winston-Salem, Canada, agrees there is a growing interest in the “Wal-Mart Substitution Effect.”
“Many brand owners are looking to comply with Wal-Mart’s packaging reduction initiative, scheduled to begin in 2008. All Stick’s PLA pressure sensitive labels are listed on the packaging source website.”
Polylactic acid (PLA) is a corn-based resin. NatureWorks LLC manufactures NatureWorks polymer, a polylactide resin that can be formed into a wide range of plastic, film, packaging and fiber articles. Derived from a 100% annually renewable resource (corn) instead of oil, NatureWorks polymer can be a more earth-friendly solution for many applications.
All Stick Label is a preferred partner of NatureWorks LLC. According to McGuire, preferred suppliers have gone through the Natureworks authorization/ audit process and understand and have agreed to use Natureworks corporate guidelines for using the brand name Natureworks PLA in the marketplace.
“With pressure sensitive labels made from Natureworks PLA polymer, brand owners can now attach the packaging to the product they offer,” she says. “The storyline becomes: ‘The product is good for you, and the packaging is good for the environment.’”
“One trend we are seeing is brand owners using a combination strategy, such as putting a PLA label on a consumer post recyclable package. If the label is made from Natureworks PLA polymer, most consumers immediately identify that package as being environmentally friendly. A PLA label on a consumer post recyclable PE or PP is still a much greener package than a PP label on an HDPE container.”
To help things along, DuPont Packaging, Wilmington, DE, launched Biomax Strong, a petrochemical additive that improves the toughness and reduces the brittleness of PLA packaging materials, as well as enhances the impact strength, flexibility and melt stability of PLA. According to Shanna Moore, DuPont Packaging’s global market manager, Biomax Strong, at the recommended amounts, still allows the material to meet compost ability requirements.
Biodegradable PLA shrink labels and tamper-evident bands from Gilbreth Packaging offer sustainable packaging with a cost-efficiency advantage.
Gilbreth Packaging, Croydon, PA offers bio-based shrink labels and tamper-evident bands made from PLA to reinforce the “purity,” “natural” and “close to nature” commitment and positioning of natural product brands.
“Brand marketers are responding to retailer and consumer requests for products that use sustainable packaging,” explains Theresa Sykes, product development manager, Gilbreth Packaging. “PLA shrink labels are preferred by industry leaders that are in the forefront of the sustainable packaging movement.”
In addition to its compostability, Gilbreth PLA labels and bands present an attractive lower-cost benefit. According to the company, the PLA resin-producing process requires 66% less fossil fuel to produce than its petroleum-based counterpart. PLA shrink film requires less heat, less dwell time (and therefore less energy) to shrink the label onto the package.
Polypack Inc., Tampa Bay, FL, introduced a shrink wrapper built just for PLA film. The Eco-Bundler was created to multipack different size and shape products with PLA film. Polypack worked in collaboration with Plastic Suppliers, Inc., Earthfirst PLA film and NatureWorks LLC, NatureWorks PLA, to develop a biodegradable shrink film capable for use on the automatic Eco-Bundler shrink machine.
However wonderful the benefits of PLA may sound, it does have some critics. A new, independent life cycle study, commissioned by the Athena Institute and reviewed by The ULS Report, indicates that many of the sustainability claims to which the public is being exposed are not supported by the facts. The study examined the energy used, waste created and greenhouse gas emissions generated by a number of common packages made from plastic. Packages that were made from traditional plastics such as PET, polypropylene and polystyrene, were compared to the same packages made from PLA. The study covered all process steps beginning with production of raw materials (growing corn for PLA or extracting crude oil and natural gas as feedstocks for traditional plastics) and continued through all processing, transportation, and fabrication steps to arrive at a finished packaging product. While the public’s expectation is that packages made from PLA are more environmentally sustainable, according to The ULS Report, the research did not support this. The data show that packages which weigh less often use less energy and produce less waste, regardless of whether they are made from petroleum or corn-based plastic.
According to Bob Lilienfeld, editor of The ULS Report, “This study illustrates that one of the keys to increased sustainability revolves around minimizing packaging weight and not worrying about whether the plastic involved is made from renewable or non-renewable resources. In the end, the package that weighs less is usually the best choice for the wallet and the environment.”
Wood and Paper
In addition to using PLA in some of their compacts for Brazil’s Natura cosmetic line, Rexam provides packaging for the Aquarela makeup line with a resin using wood chips.
Rexam provides eco-friendly packaging for Brazil’s Natura brand cosmetics.
According to Rexam, Natura wanted to create a line that looked like wood but produced a lesser impact on the environment. The line designed by Rexam in Brazil includes lipstick, lipgloss, mascara and compact and uses less plastic in its composition in conjuction with a natural material that degrades more quickly than plastic, thereby reducing the empty product’s life cycle in the environment after discarding.
Rexam uses a resin called WPC (wood plastic composite), a mixture of wood fibers (40-60%) and PP (polypropylene). The wood used is certified, i.e. grown exclusively for this one specific end-use.
Clarifoil, Derby, UK, produces a carton window and lamination that has gained ASTM D6400 accreditation awarded by the U.S. Biodegradable Products Institute in addition to European DIN EN 13432 biodegradability accreditation.
Clarifoil’s lamination gained ASTM D6400 accreditation from the U.S. Biodegradable Products Institute.
Clarifoil’s window is made from wood pulp produced from sustainable forestry, and under UK legislation is classed with paper and board for recycling, composting and use in energy-from-waste electricity generators. Additionally, the wood pulp used to make Clarifoil has no genetically modified content.
Retailers and brand owners who conduct their businesses in ways that help conserve resources and preserve the environment can now easily choose environmentally sustainable tag and label stocks. Avery Dennison Retail Information Services, Westlake Village, CA offers a handsome, fanned-deck portfolio, called the Avery Dennison RIS Environmental Stock Offering, consisting of 45 coated and uncoated eco-friendly stock samples in different textures and finishes from paper manufacturers worldwide. The samples indicate whether the stocks are
Avery Dennison’s sampler.
recycled, green seal certified, chlorine-free certified and/or green-E certified. Each sample book page presents essential information for product selection, including lead time, price and availability in other colors and weights.
Everybody Out of the Landfill!
Did you know that over 224 billion units of packaging components are manufactured in the U.S. each year? According to Gina Crespo, advertising manager, McKernan Packaging Clearinghouse, Reno, NV, if only 2% winds up as surplus, that’s 4,430,000,000 units or 1,058,000 truckload—most of which is wasted. The cost alone would be $446 million. That doesn’t count the cost of storage, handling, transportation or scrapping.
“Can you imagine an automobile dealer taking last year’s cars to the scrap yard when the new models come out?” reflects Crespo. “It sounds crazy but is exactly what thousands of companies do with their surplus packaging every day. Our mission at McKernan is to give companies a profitable alternative to this unnecessary waste of the planet’s resources.”
McKernan sells quality surplus packaging, and has thousands of packaging components on hand, offering rapid turnaround on shipping and low prices. They also buy surplus packaging.
“The benefits of buying surplus is that we give companies a profitable alternative to recycling,” says Crespo. “By letting McKernan purchase their surplus packaging, they will enjoy the fastest, most rewarding way of eliminating surplus packaging from their inventory. Scrapping and dumping are wasteful alternatives which rob them and their company from the chance to recover a significant portion of their original investment.”
McKernan utilizes “precycling,” or pre-consumer recycling, involving re-purposing unused pre-consumer surplus goods, and insists it’s more cost-effective than recycling which, at best, only returns the price of raw materials minus processing cost. McKernan pays for freight, packaging and warehouse space.
“Recycling uses valuable energy resources, and tossing unused packaging away is an abuse on our already overflowing landfills,” explains Crespo. “Precycling has become the politically appropriate means by which major marketers are profitably divesting their warehouses of unwanted, obsolete or discontinued surplus packaging without committing environmental neglect.”
McKernan reports that personal care packagers can find some innovative bargains at their warehouse. Personal care product companies have purchased caps and sprayers from the automotive industry and used them for body sprays and facial lotions. They also purchased F-style types of industrial/home and garden bottles, which were then purchased by a company that filled the bottle with bubble bath. Aerosol cans and valves that were originally used for spray paint now are being purchased for hairspray.
Recycling can provide an efficient alternative to traditional disposal of materials to landfills and also can conserve energy and non-renewable resources, replacing the need for primary extraction and the manufacture of new plastics.
M&H Plastics, Suffolk, UK, offers post consumer regrind in the production of plastic bottles and jars. Post consumer regrind refers to plastic products that have been recycled and ground down to be re-used in new manufacturing. This can be offered between 25 and 100%. Currently this is restricted to PET production; however, M&H is trialing other polymers, including HDPE and PP, with a view to offering these at a later date.
Impressions Packaging offers its stock line of heavy wall PET bottles produced from 100% PCR (post consumer recycled) resin.
Impressions Packaging, Peachtree City, GA, now offers its stock line of heavy wall PET bottles produced from 100% PCR (post consumer recycled) resin. The heavy wall bottles are virtually non-squeezable and can be used to replace current glass or metal packaging. According to Rob Hyams, vice president and principal, PCR PET material is collected from curbside recycling programs and states that have bottle deposit laws. The material is re-processed (cleaned, melted, extruded and pelletized) and Impressions purchases the pellets for use in its injection stretch blow molding process to make heavy wall PET bottles.
While PCR PET is very similar to virgin PET and isn’t considered biodegradable, it carries the PET recycling logo on the bottom of the bottles and can be put back into the recycling stream, says Hyams.
The Diversa refillable make-up line developed by Rexam for Natura includes a refillable lipstick and compact, in addition to foundation, lip gloss and concealer. The refills (one refill for the lipstick and three blush and eye shadow refills for the compact) are based on a principle of common sense and environmental protection in that they reduce the amount of plastic used, says Rexam.
Who’s Utilizing this Technology?
Environmentally sound packaging is a big step forward, but unless it’s adopted by, among others, personal care manufacturers, the technology can’t move forward and can’t make an impact.
PlantLove by Cargo
One notable product just launched is
PlantLove from Cargo, billed as “the first lipstick that helps fight global warming.” The lipstick tube is made from PLA and even the outer box is eco-friendly. The carton is made with biodegradable paper infused with flower seeds that can be moistened and planted. The lipstick formula is environmentally friendly, containing no mineral oils or petroleum. The botanical formulation contains orchid extract, jojoba, shea butter and vitamin E.
Feel-good packaging is only the beginning; Cargo donating $2 from every sale to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. PlantLove Lipsticks retail for $20 and are available at www.sephora.com.
UFP Technologies Inc., manufacturer of custom engineered packaging
Soap from Pangea Organics uses a bio-
degradable and recyclable clamshell.
materials, provides Pangea Organics Ecocentric Bodycare with a biodegradable and recyclable clamshell for its line of bar soaps. Molded Fiber, a division of UFP Technologies, manufactures the customized shells, which are made from 100% recycled paper fibers and offer a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly alternative to petroleum-based packaging materials. Last year, Pangea Organics was honored with a Best New Packaging Award at Organic Products Europe in London.
Taking the Initiative
So far, so good. But what more can the personal care packaging industry do to reduce, recycle and reuse?
Mark Ormiston, director of research and development, Anomatic, Newark, OH, comments, “There are some initiatives being discussed in the industry right now to make the packages easier to disassemble and separate them into their metal and plastic components, which will enhance recycling. Right now a cosmetic package, even if it is made from recycled materials, cannot be taken apart into its various metal and plastic subgroups very easily. Typically you can only recycle the metal part and the plastic part is actually burnt during the process. Ideally you’d like to separate those two distinct materials. Right now this is still in concept stage, as it would require wholesale reengineering of packages largely.”
“As far as Anomatic is concerned, most of our focus on new initiatives has to do with continuing our recycle and reuse efforts here as well as in our new plant overseas. Also we are working on some initiatives to take our waste products and turn them into usable byproducts, particularly phosphoric acid, converting it into various available phosphate products.”
Ormiston is also involved in a PCR Aluminum Project, where a group of industry leaders have taken on an initiative to apply high-recycled content aluminum into the industry that hasn’t been used before. There were many technical details to overcome such as worrying about where the metal came from and making sure it was not contaminated by heavy metals. After about 18 months of testing by Anomatic and an aluminum supplier, the council released word to the rest of the industry that they were specifying that particular alloy for cosmetic packagers.
The first meeting of the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP) Sustainable Packaging Task Group took place in January in Holland, MI, with more than 100 packaging professionals attending with a focus on building on work done by organizations such as the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). During the meeting, Laura Donnelly, CPP, was named chair of the Task Group. The Sustainable Packaging Task Group created three sub-groups:
Definitions, Metrics and Education which report implemented actions at the next Sustainable Packaging Task Group meeting, held concurrently with the Packaging Summit Expo and Conference, scheduled for May 15-17, 2007, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL.
“We see the Sustainable Task Group emerging as a forum to involve the widest range of professionals possible in a hands-on program,” says Jim Peters, IoPP Director of Education, Sustainable Packaging Task Group.
“Sustainable packaging requires a multi-discipline approach, and our objective it to get as many of the functions involved sitting around the same table. It takes management support...IoPP hopes to raise sustainable packaging awareness so corporate management can support it as a long-term objective.”
Packaging Diva JoAnn Hines has a few points to consider for packaging companies wanting to fly under the “green” flag:
• Did you support or promote participation in any Earth Day activities?
• Do you belong to one of the many organizations that support “green” and the environment?
• Did you orchestrate your new packaging introduction to coincide with Earth Day or other environmental events?
• Have you submitted your green product to the numerous packaging associations that offer opportunities for environmental awards?
• Have you submitted your package to any of the non-packaging related organizations that have “environmental” awards?
• Do you have a plan in place for your staff to understand and utilize in order to build your “green” brand?
• Do your employees believe in being “green”?
• Have you looked at any websites such as treehugger.com to see what they are doing?
Flash in the Pan?
Is the move toward sustainable and recyclable personal care packaging a short-term fad or a committed movement within the industry? Judging from the companies Beauty Packaging spoke to, it would seem to be the latter.
“I believe that packaging made from PLA will continue to grow at astounding rates,” says All Stick Label’s Sherry McGuire. “I have always found it extremely exciting to see the interest in Natureworks PLA polymer, with the most recent interest from the beauty industry.”
In addition to PLA, Gilbreth Packaging anticipates working with development films made from other starch-based biopolymers and biopolymer resin blends, and specialty additives that render petroleum-based resins biodegradable.
Concluded Anomatic’s Ormiston, “It is part of good manufacturing practices to be eco-friendly, but it takes a lot of planning and thinking out.”
They Walk the Walk
Metro Label Group
In 2006, Metro Label Group, Scarborough, ON, Canada moved into new eco-friendly headquarters. The structure was built to aggressively pursue environmental cooperation. The Canadian government bestowed upon Metro Label the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified manufacturing facility in the country.
The south side of the building has windows and skylights, providing natural lighting. There are heat recovery units on the roof, so all UV lamps and lights, as well as IR dryers are exhausted. All of the exhaust ducts are insulated; hot air is trapped, cleaned, the VOCs removed and recirculated.
All of the paints chosen for the inside of the building were low or zero VOC. Fabrics for wallpaper and furniture are all natural cottons, wools and silks. All carpeting (made of all natural material) and wood veneer were glued with water-based adhesive rather than solvent-based. Panels in the cubicles and elsewhere appear to be wood but are made of wheat straw. The drywall and ceiling tiles all had to have recycled components. Glass panels in the reception area are made from recycled glass. there are bicycle stands for staff.
All the landscaping utilizes native species, meant to survive without being irrigated, so there is no sprinkler system. They collect rainwater and snow from the roof in underground tanks for use in toilets; the urinals utilize a chemical process that uses no water.
Tom’s of Maine
According to Tom Chappell, cofounder and president of personal care manufacturer Tom’s of Maine,100% of its electricity consumption is powered by wind energy, eliminating production of 1.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually—the equivalent of planting 214 acres of trees. The factory uses sensor-controlled fluorescent energy-saving fixtures, which saves 250,000 kilowatt-hours per year. They recycle aluminum tubes, cardboard, folding cartons, mixed paper and even challenging items such as shrink wrap. The program now recycles 200,000 pounds per year, and with the recent purchase of compacting equipment, will recycle an additional 12,000 paper raw material sacks per year. This has resulted in the elimination of half of its weekly trash pick-ups.
Curtis Packaging, Sandy Hook, CT, is one of the first printing and packaging companies in North America to be both Forestry Stewardship Council certified and use 100% renewable energy exclusively, 85% of which is wind power. A member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Curtis has been commended by the EPA for its commitment to using replenishable resources.
In February, Curtis Packaging vice president of marketing, Don Droppo, Jr., addressed the Conference Board 2007 Leadership Conference on Global Corporate Citizenship with a presentation entitled “The Eco-Advantage,” focusing on the role sustainable packaging plays in protecting the environment and the ways Curtis Packaging has converted its operations to 100% clean, renewable energy.
Overnight Labels, Inc., Deer Park, NY, was named the winner of the Flexographic Technical Association’s 7th Annual Environmental Excellence Award, based on Overnight Labels’ implementation of quality management systems and reduction of production waste.