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P&G Launches Breakthrough Recyclable Shampoo Bottle

By Jamie Matusow, Editor-in-Chief | May 8, 2017

Head & Shoulders bottle utilizes beach plastic

What could appeal more to consumers interested in cleaning up the environment and looking for sustainable packaging when entering the beauty or personal care aisle than a bottle made with beach debris? 

That’s the story Procter & Gamble Company now tells with its new bottle created for Head & Shoulders (H&S). The world’s No. 1 shampoo brand will produce the first recyclable shampoo bottle made from up to 25% recycled beach plastic. And P&G says it hopes to inspire others in the industry to pursue an environmentally responsible packaging path.

In partnership with recycling experts TerraCycle and SUEZ, this innovation will arrive in France this summer as a limited-edition H&S bottle available to consumers in Carrefour, one of the world’s leading retailers. This will be the world’s largest production run of recyclable bottles made with post-consumer recycled (PCR) beach plastic, and a first major step in establishing a unique supply chain that involves the support of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of NGOs collecting plastic waste found on beaches.

Tom Szaky, CEO, TerraCycle, says P&G is currently the only company using this material. While the first run of bottles will be available in France, but he tells Beauty Packaging: “The plan is to expand to [rest of] Europe and beyond in the near future.”

Raising Awareness

What’s more important overall, Szaky says, is that “The announcement shows a clear commitment by the world’s number one shampoo brand to be a leader in sustainability and innovation. A brand and company that’s so visible has the opportunity to raise awareness of the dire situation of plastics in our waterways. We hope this project inspires consumers to get involved and we hope additional global brands will want to use their influence to drive change.”

Lisa Jennings, vice president, Head & Shoulders and global hair care sustainability leader, Procter & Gamble, tells Beauty Packaging: “The Head & Shoulders beach bottle represents the world’s largest production run of recyclable bottles made with beach plastic, and is a first major step in establishing a new supply chain, strengthening the circular economy both in the CPG industry and beyond for the significant amount of plastic waste in our ecosystem.” She says, “What’s important is that we are taking concrete actions, this year with the launch of the Head & Shoulders beach bottle and our aim by end of 2018 is to introduce half a billion hair care bottles per year with up to 25% post-consumer recycled plastic.” (This represents more than 90% of all the hair care bottles sold in Europe across P&G’s hair care portfolio of flagship brands like Pantene and Head & Shoulders.)

Jennings adds, "We felt that the leading shampoo brand in sales should lead in sustainability innovation and know that when we do this, it encourages the entire industry to do the same.” She says that they’ve “been fortunate to work with such great partners in TerraCycle and SUEZ to make this vision a reality."

The project will require a supply of 2,600 tons of recycled plastic every year – the same weight as eight fully loaded Boeing 747 jumbo jets.  Jennings says P&G has been using PCR plastic in packaging for over 25 years, and this announcement is an important step in the company’s journey to meet their Corporate 2020 goal of doubling the tonnage of PCR plastic used in packaging. 

Why the decision to use beach plastic?

According to Szaky, it was hearing the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report last year that “95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80-120 billion annually, is lost to the economy and on the current track, there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050.” He says it made an impact. “Several of us decided to do something about it and be part of a solution. As the report states, there is tremendous valuable material going to waste each year. So, why not reclaim some of that value and raise awareness of the issue of marine plastics at the same time?”

Jennings concurs, saying: “A year ago at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation challenged us all to drive greater recovery and reuse of plastics. I grew up by the beach in Brighton in the South Coast of England and after reading in the newspapers that there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean, this struck a chord with me. I thought about the world I would leave to my children and realized that, both as a consumer and as a business leader, I could also be a part of the solution. Procter & Gamble has long-been inspired by the foundation’s message for plastic to never become waste and collaboration is the only way to truly drive progress.  To help address this problem we reached out to recycling experts from TerraCycle and SUEZ to pioneer an approach to make the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made with beach plastic, from the world’s Number 1 shampoo brand Head & Shoulders.”

Challenges Faced

The project faced a number of challenges along the way according to Jennings. She says. “There were three key challenges in creating the Head & Shoulders recyclable shampoo bottle made with beach plastic that were addressed through innovation and collaboration. The first was to find the supply of beach plastic as it is limited in quantity; the second was to ensure the beach plastic met our quality standards; and the third was to determine the right percentage of beach plastic that went into the bottle, to ensure that the durability of the packaging was not compromised.” As far as its impact on the beauty industry, she states: “We believe these are the only true ways to drive success in this space.”

Communicating the Message on the Bottle

How did P&G and its partners in the project decide on shape, size and messaging?

Jennings tells Beauty Packaging: “Consumers recognize Head & Shoulders for its iconic bottle shape and white and blue colors. The Head & Shoulders beach plastic bottle is grey because of its recycled origins: The plastic collected from the beach is transformed into recyclable pellets that are grey in color and we wanted to keep it that way. The grey Head & Shoulders bottle signals both its recycled origins and differentiation from the rest of the category. On the front design, we communicate that the bottle is made with beach plastic and on the back design we thank the thousands of volunteers that helped collect plastic from the beach to make this happen and encourage consumers to recycle.”

How the Beach Plastics Collection Process Works

Szaky explains that TerraCycle works with NGOs, non-profits and other organizations who are already engaged in regular cleanups and accepts the waste they pick up so it doesn’t get thrown away. “We provide the supplies to send the collected waste back to us and pay the shipping costs. Once TerraCycle receives the waste, we do a manual sortation to remove things that aren’t plastic. The waste then goes to a SUEZ facility for mechanical sorting. Collected plastic that doesn’t go into the bottles will also be recycled into other products like benches or picnic tables that will be donated back to beach communities.”

Jean-Marc Boursier, group senior executive VP in charge of Recycling & Recovery Europe, SUEZ, says: “This partnership between SUEZ, TerraCycle and P&G represents an exciting step in the creation of a world first for consumers, a recyclable shampoo bottle made of beach plastics. We hope that other organizations will continue to partner with different providers in order to deliver major environmental changes in this industry and hopefully across other industries too. With nine dedicated plastic facilities across Europe, Suez is already producing 170,000 tons of high quality recycled polymers.”

Looking to the Future

When asked how this project may impact the future of beauty and personal care packaging, Jennings says: “While this is just the start of a journey, we believe this program is a way to give plastic waste a second life and can inspire consumers to recycle.”

Szaky points to a collaborative relationship between brand, consumer and retailer: “I hope this will be the start of additional companies finding ways to incorporate more recycled material into their packaging and thinking about how to make their packaging more environmentally friendly,” he says. “Retailers can get involved by pushing their suppliers to make changes and giving shelf space to those who do. Consumers have an opportunity to push for change by purchasing brands that are taking responsibility and creating changes. Support products that are made of recycled material and can be recycled and then, of course, recycle them. Manufacturers will respond to what people want if they are voicing their opinion with their pocketbooks.”

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