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Cosmetics
and Personal Care

Beauty at an environmental cost.

The personal care industry has grown to be worth $90 billion, in the United States. With the products, comes the plastic packaging and microplastics, which harms the environment. Plastic packaging, in general, is the predominant generator of plastic waste.

Globally, plastic packaging generates 141 million tonnes of plastic waste
"Plastic Pollution" by Our World in Data is licensed under CC BY 4.0


Plastic waste can take 400 to 1,000 years to fully decompose, due to the fact that plastic is meant to last. Plastic straws can take 200 years to decompose, while plastic bottles can take 450 years and plastic toothbrushes 500 years. The most common destinations for plastic waste are the landfill, which currently holds around 50%, the incineration facility, the ocean, and the recycling centre.

Bull and cow surrounded by garbage

Bull and cow surrounded by garbage

While the recycling centre is the ideal destination for our plastic waste, only 9% of the world's plastic has been recycled. Although recycling does help, the better solution would be to consume less plastic. In the cosmetics world, this can look like searching for options with little or no plastic packaging. Additionally, consumers should be aware of the plastic inside products. An easy way to know whether products contain microplastics is Plastic Soup Foundation's app Beat the Microbead.
There are many products in the personal care industry that use plastic. However, with awareness and careful selection, these plastics can be avoided.

Endnotes:

Bosch, F. (2022, November 23). 9 in 10 Cosmetics Contain Microplastics - Plastic Soup Foundation. Plastic Soup Foundation. https://www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/en/2022/04/almost-9-in-10-products-from-major-cosmetics-brands-contain-microplastics/.

Microplastics - ECHA. https://echa.europa.eu/hot-topics/microplastics.

Borunda, A. (2021, May 3). The beauty industry generates a lot of plastic waste. Can it change? https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/beauty-personal-care-industry-plastic.

Ritchie, H. (2018, September 1). Plastic pollution. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/plastic-pollution.

Engao, E. L. (2023, February 14). Where does your plastic waste go and what can you do about it. Plastic Bank. https://plasticbank.com/where-does-your-plastic-waste-go-and-what-can-you-do-about-it/.

The lifecycle of plastics. (2021, July 1). WWF Australia. https://wwf.org.au/blogs/the-lifecycle-of-plastics/.

A whopping 91 percent of plastic isn't recycled. (2018, December 20). National Geographic. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/whopping-91-percent-plastic-isnt-recycled/.

Rosenbaum, E. (2021, June 16). Is recycling a waste? Here's the answer from a plastics expert before you ditch the effort. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/22/is-recycling-a-waste-heres-the-answer-from-a-plastics-expert.html.

Plastic Polllution Coalition. (2022, January 25). The Ugly Side of Beauty: The Cosmetics Industry's Plastic Packaging Problem. Plastic Pollution Coalition. https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/blog/2022/1/25/the-ugly-side-of-beauty-the-cosmetics-industrys-plastic-packaging-problem.