Combatting packaging waste in the beauty industry

Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at Salon Botanicals, which is why we give just as much thought to our packaging as we do to all of the specially-formulated products that go inside it.


The beauty industry is a big contributor to the world’s waste problems.  According to Zero Waste Week, even as far back as 2018, more than 120 billion units of cosmetics packaging were produced worldwide and most of them weren’t recyclable.


The problem with plastic

You don’t need us to tell you about the impact that plastic pollution is having on the planet, and plastic packaging is a major culprit.  A House of Commons Briefing Paper on plastic waste, published in March 2022, estimated that nearly 2.5 million tonnes of plastic packaging are used in the UK each year.


Yes, some plastics are recyclable, but although more households in the UK are recycling their plastic waste, a lot still becomes litter, landfill or finds its way into our seas and waterways.  According to the WWF, a plastic bottle could take 450 years to decompose.


The sad reality is that the UK cannot deal with all the plastic waste that we put into our recycling bins.  An April 2022 story in The Times reported that more than half of plastic waste collected for recycling in the UK is exported, with almost 700,000 tonnes sent overseas in 2020.


Transporting this vast amount of waste overseas has its own carbon footprint, but even more concerning is the fact that some of it is handled by unscrupulous dealers.  Some is contaminated and not recyclable, which means it ends up in landfill in another country, while some is just dumped anyway.  Although illegal, the latter has higher profit margins as, whatever country you’re in, it costs money to dispose of waste responsibly.


What about using recycled plastic packaging?

You may have seen products that have been made from recycled plastic – from fleeces to park benches – and, yes, recycled plastic packaging could be an option. 


However, plastic can only be recycled a maximum of two or three times before its quality degrades to the point it can no longer be used – and becomes waste.  A National Geographic article also points out that “each time plastic is recycled, additional virgin material is added to help ‘upgrade’ its quality, so that the recycled product has a fighting chance in the market against new, durable and fresh goods.”


Producing new packaging from old plastics can also use a lot of energy and often means importing from abroad which has its own carbon footprint implications.  So, we feel more comfortable avoiding plastic use as much as possible.


What about recyclable metal packaging?

Metals like aluminium are recyclable and a much more sustainable packaging choice than plastic.


However, it can take more energy to produce new aluminium than it does to produce new glass.  The process of creating aluminium can also be destructive to the natural environment.


Metal containers for food, hair and beauty products often need to be coated on the inside to protect the integrity and/or longevity of the product.  There are a range of coatings available, some potentially toxic and some are, ironically, plastic-based – so not the best option if you’re trying to reduce your use of plastics!


Some of these coatings can contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen at high concentrations.  In its A to Z of Chemicals of Concern, Breast Cancer UK states that, even at low concentrations, there is evidence that formaldehyde “increases risk of breast cancer and mammary tumours in rodents.”


More research is needed in this area, but there is growing concern that even low-levels of toxins like formaldehyde used to package our food and personal care products could be entering our bodies over time.


We only use aluminium in our product lids and they have no linings or coatings.


Why we love glass packaging

There are several reasons why we love glass packaging at Salon Botanicals.  According to British Glass, 70% of glass packaging is recycled in the UK and new glass packaging uses between 50% and 80% recycled material, so it has great sustainability credentials.


Glass is recyclable indefinitely and, if it does find its way into landfill or the sea, it’s not toxic to the environment and doesn’t break down into harmful chemicals.


What’s more, all of our glass packaging is from the UK, minimising our carbon footprint and supporting British suppliers.  As with all our products, we tested different types of glass bottles and jars before selecting our packaging, to ensure that we chose the best quality, robust glass to withstand the wear and tear of daily life.


As creators of hair and skincare products, we also love that:


  • You can see the product inside. This makes timing your reordering or refills easier.
  • Glass doesn’t need plastic or chemical coatings inside to protect the products
  • Glass bottles and jars can be reused many times, making them perfect for our refill scheme. Our customers, and those of our stockists, can refill their shampoos and conditioners – saving money while doing their bit to help save the planet
  • And we also think that glass bottles look pretty stylish in your bathroom or salon!


Find out more about our commitment to sustainability.

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