(ETX Daily Up) – A zero waste bathroom. This is the challenge that the cosmetics sector is tackling in the face of the climate emergency, with the aim of reducing the proportion of packaging in our beauty routine as much as possible. The avenues envisaged are multiple, but bulk and refilling appear today as serious solutions to almost definitively exclude plastic, and other forms of packaging, from the bathroom.
Two weeks is the average time it takes a family of three to empty a tube of toothpaste. It makes waste that accumulates throughout the year. After switching to natural and organic toothpaste, “more respectful of health and the environment”, Sophie quickly realized that her packaging also weighed on the planet. This is why she turned to solid toothpastes, less plastic-intensive, and more durable, offered in the form of chewable tablets, which can be found in refills.
“I now only have one bottle for the whole family, which I refill thanks to a subscription, without leaving home,” she explains. An easy, practical, and eco-friendly solution, to which many consumers are already turning, and which could redraw the contours of beauty. Because many cosmetics, starting with solid or liquid soaps, shampoos, face care, perfumes, and even certain make-up products, could be permanently rid of their numerous packaging.
“A return to basics”
Successfully deployed in the food industry, although in decline since the health crisis, as revealed by the latest Observatoire du Rayon Vrac (Editions Dauvers), refills and bulk could gain as many followers, if not is more, when it comes to cosmetics. The report also tells us that on the side of France, consumers are clearly in demand, with no less than 52% of French households who would like to have access to more bulk products in their stores. A desire that particularly concerns groceries (69%), and maintenance (53%), but also… hygiene and beauty, up to 41%. The demand is therefore indeed present, justifying a deployment on a larger scale.
Some brands did not wait to be confronted with climate issues to develop bulk or refill in the beauty industry. “The Mugler perfume fountain has been around for 20 years, and refills are widely available for certain market segments such as hand wash gels”, says Stéphanie Lumbers, director of sustainable development at FEBEA, the trade union for the cosmetics sector. . And to add: “What is new is therefore rather the attention paid to these questions and their development outside certain niches”.
For Hugues Laurençon, general manager of The Body Shop in France and Benelux, who has worked to deploy charging in 100% of his stores, this is even a step back. A global trend in many sectors, including fashion and beauty, which brings us back to practices valued by our grandparents and great-grandparents. “You should know that in 1976, when Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, opened her first shop in Brighton, there was absolutely no product available in a plastic bottle. It was only refill It’s a pirouette of history, we’re going back to basics.”
Reuse to put an end to plastic
With the return and the craze for solid cosmetics, including the famous soap used by our ancestors, bulk and refills now seem obvious to industry players who are working to significantly reduce their waste. And they no longer have a choice, if only to meet the ambitious objectives of the AGEC Law (Anti-waste for a Circular Economy). “Reuse solutions are an effective way to reduce waste: isn’t the best waste the one that we don’t produce?” asks Stéphanie Lumbers.
And when it comes to reuse, the avenues studied by the sector are none other than refilling, filling containers at the point of sale via bulk, and returnable packaging, as the director of sustainable development points out. of FEBEA. However, she moderates: “The fact remains that the implementation of reuse is not easy”. Because this deployment requires significant investments, which themselves require that consumers are indeed there.
One thing that Hugues Laurençon of The Body Shop can say today, whose charging stations are very successful. “Our customers have followed us, and we have managed to make the transition from single-use plastic to refills. This is extremely encouraging. Our wish is to go even further, and to offer new refillable products, because there is a real appetite for the subject”, he rejoices. This new use has won over the brand’s customers, to the point that the twelve products available for refill, which are currently still available in bottles, are now sold more in refills than in bottles.
And the results in terms of sustainability were also quickly felt. “We managed to save more than 45,000 plastic bottles on the planet, in France alone,” explains the general manager of the brand. It should be noted, however, that refilling, unlike bulk, does not completely exclude waste. “The refill does not completely eliminate single-use packaging but greatly reduces the quantities, the environmental benefit remains very clear, namely up to 80% less plastic”, explains Stéphanie Lumbers of the FEBEA.
A benefit that has attracted many other cosmetics players who are working to democratize these new uses, such as Pachamamai and 900 Care with solid formulas to dissolve in reusable packaging, Mustela, L’Occitane and Yves Rocher with fountains, La Crème Libre which offers a refill system via reusable jars, or The Naked Shop, specialist in bulk liquids.
The need for faster deployment
It now remains to make these new uses more accessible, on a large scale, because bulk and refilling still only concern very few products, and only a handful of brands. An observation that can slow down many consumers, like Sandra, a resident of Ile-de-France, yet ready to change products to embrace this practice… provided they have access to shops and good cosmetics.
“I use refills as soon as the product I use is available in this format. I have even changed the product for another for this reason. And I am also tempted by the bulk, but the brands that offer it and interest me are in Paris, and that requires an organization that is not always obvious”. Same story for Sophie. If the chewable tablets that he now uses as toothpaste arrive directly at his home, the same is not true for liquid products. “I know I have to take this step now, but sometimes it’s hard to drive miles just to buy shampoo and shower gel.”
A problem that is only due to a faster and more massive deployment of bulk and recharging, which, as seen above, requires heavy investment. In view of the demand, and the success encountered by the actors who have rubbed shoulders with it, there is no doubt that it is now only a matter of time.
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