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Sustainability Is Key Component for Packaging Suppliers

At Luxe Pack Monaco, manufacturers focused on decreasing their environmental impact like never before.

MONTE CARLO, Monaco — What a difference one year makes — packaging suppliers are now really starting to walk their sustainability talk.

At the most recent session of Luxe Pack Monaco, for the first time ways to lessen the environmental impact of perfume and cosmetics bottles, jars and applicators took center stage at most manufacturers’ booths – from Eastman and Dow to Aptar and Cosmogen.

“Sustainability has become the core strategy of companies,” said Nathalie Grosdidier, deputy managing director of Idice, Luxe Pack’s organizer.

Indeed, everywhere attendees turned, they were met with green solutions at the fair.

“It’s the Wild West; everybody’s trying things everywhere,” added Patrick Bousquel, marketing director of skin care and color cosmetics EMEA at Aptar Beauty + Home.

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Beauty companies want to marry their prestige positioning and high-touch design with sustainable packaging, reduced environmental footprint and safety profiling, according to Renske Gores, segment market manager at Eastman.

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“If you’re having to operate in that space, it’s quite the challenge,” she said. “There’s no one answer.”

So Eastman has come up with a three-loop solution for cosmetics and personal care packaging.

“It revolves around different recycling technologies,” said Gores, explaining one is for advanced circular recycling, another for carbon recycling and a third for component recycling. Thanks to the “Activating our circular economy” project, the company was one of the two Luxe Pack in green award recipients for their sustainable development.

“The mechanical recycling technology is where we use PCR [or Post Consumer Recycled] content together with a proprietary blend of co-polyesters to make, for instance, the resins that produce jars,” said Gores, of an option that is available today.

Eastman has also launched Treva, an engineering bioplastic that involves putting various recovered mixed plastic waste into the manufacturing system. “So that in the production there will be no waste,” said Gores, adding that loop’s commercial application should emerge in the next two months.

The company’s chemical recycling, which uses recovered polyester, will be available in the next two years. “We will break [polyester] all the way down to the molecular level and build the product back up,” said Gores. That means an item should look the same as it does today, but contain 90 percent-plus of recycled content.

“We will have sources to collect the recycled content,” said Anne Morris, a marketing communications representative at Eastman.

“We want to use the waste to make something beautiful,” continued Gores.

Dow is another major chemicals company starting to use post-industrial materials in cosmetics packaging. Its Surlyn plastic, which is crystal clear like glass and is used widely today in cosmetics and fragrance packaging, now has a version including up to 40 percent of post-industrial material going back into perfume caps.

In the past, Surlyn has been ground up and used in other applications, such as footwear and wallpaper. The new recycled content gives scent caps a translucent — rather than transparent — aspect.

“We should slowly move to a circular model, where post-consumer materials are being reused, so we can close the loop,” said Roderik Wijkstra, business communications manager EMEA at Dow Packaging & Special Plastics. “But we are not there yet. There is no infrastructure yet.”

He was making reference to measures to collect, sort and recycle used products, and noted some brands and retailers are experimenting, starting to set up such infrastructure to gather post-consumer waste. They incentivize customers to return their bottles and caps, and possibly refill them.

“This is really small-scale at the moment,” said Wijkstra. “This has to be a collaborative effort, where we also need the help from consumers to be more disciplined when it comes to sorting their waste. But they need help from local governments, local organizations and from the big institutions. We also have a role to play — to make sure products are recyclable.”

The executive said the industry is learning which direction sustainability is moving. “We have to work together to make this happen,” he explained. “And that will take time.”

Over at Aptar’s stand, the manufacturer was showing around one main pillar its technology and ways of applying sustainability. “In every technology we have — the pump, airless, aerosol, closure — we have a solution for you,” said Aptar’s Bousquel, adding the company is perpetually upgrading its solutions.

One Bousquel highlighted was a custom-made lipstick casing made for Lush without any plastic, created rather in brass with 40 percent recycled glass and 30 percent recycled aluminum. The refillable bullet of product is sold separately.

“They are very radical, but it’s good because they are more or less polarizing the market,” he continued, adding often a first step toward sustainable packaging involves adding PCR. “What is today easiest for the brands is for us to bring a percentage of PCR inside a part that’s not in contact with the formula.”

Refillable packaging is becoming more commonplace, but brands are trying to make refills sync with their brand image. “It’s an interesting balance everybody is trying to find,” said Bousquel.

Groupe Pochet was showcasing its corporate social responsibility message. One screen at its booth listed its four pillars, including “preserve the planet,” “consider our people,” “progress together” and “preserve and pass on our savoir faire.” The company also listed its “five-r” methodology, involving “reduce,” “reuse,” “recycle,” “replace” and “rethink.”

“Replace is about all the movements happening in materials,” said Chloé Pignerol, CSR engineer at Groupe Pochet. “For example, we go from petro-sourced plastic to virtuous plastic,” or biosourced and recycled plastic.

Pochet in early October started operations of a furnace dedicated to creating Seva glass made with post-consumer premium perfume bottles.

Verescence this year has switched to producing its Verre Infini Neo lightweight recycled glass all year long, rather than just twice annually. “The consumer is asking for this glass a lot,” said Virginie Delaby, product manager at the company. “More and more launches are made with this post-consumer recycled glass.”

Cosmogen presented a new biobased, highly squeezable packaging sleeve made of sugar cane, which is completely biodegradable. The brand’s Squeezen Roll tube now has a removable zamac applicator. Cosmogen was also highlighting sustainable beauty tools, such as vegan bamboo brushes without animal hair as bristles and with an aluminum ferrule.

Cosmogen's bamboo set
Cosmogen’s bamboo set. Courtesy Photo

HCT displayed a host of sustainable solutions, too, including packaging made wholly of PCR, single-plastic solutions with no pins or mirrors and items of bioplastics. One new tin compact was quite weighty to the touch.

“For any items that we try to make refillable, we try to push the very luxe aspect,” said Denis Maurin, HCT’s executive vice president of sales and innovation.

The luxury quotient was a hot topic. Sustainability, said packaging designer Marc Rosen, “is about offering sustainable products that are well-designed and can also extol luxury. That’s the key.”

“What is very clear is that the market is really demanding us to revisit the sustainability profile of cosmetics packaging. Definitely, the industry is under a magnifying glass,” said Dow’s Roderik Wijkstra, voicing the sentiment of many. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing. We have to revisit the way we do things — and there’s also excitement about this.”