Since time immemorial, humans have been interested in using cosmetics to enhance and alter their appearance. As part of this quest for enhancement, the beauty industry has grown into the global behemoth that we know it as today.
From skincare to makeup, the demand for beauty products is constantly growing. In fact, the industry is now worth $579.20bn. However, as we pamper ourselves with these products, we often overlook the environmental consequences associated with their creation. But what exactly are the consequences? And how can we mitigate them?
The hidden costs of beauty product manufacturing:
As with the growth of other sectors, the beauty industry's rapid growth comes at a high environmental price, as the production of beauty products involves many processes that contribute to various ecological concerns:
• Resource depletion: Many beauty products rely on finite natural resources, from palm to mineral oil. Unsustainable sourcing can lead to ecosystem degradation and loss of biodiversity. The devastating effects of resource depletion are clearly demonstrated by the mass deforestation that takes place to grow oil palm trees.
• Energy consumption: The manufacturing of beauty products requires the substantial use of energy, energy that is often powered by fossil fuels. This contributes to greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate the already catastrophic effects of climate change.
• Chemical pollution: The unethical use of synthetic chemicals in the manufacturing of beauty products can lead to water and air pollution during their production and disposal. Some of these chemicals can harm aquatic life and disrupt ecosystems.
• Packaging waste: The industry's reliance on single-use plastics generates colossal amounts of plastic waste that lingers in our environment for centuries, contributing to the global plastic pollution crisis.
Mitigating the impact:
To address the environmental consequences of beauty product manufacturing, here are some steps that can be taken:
• Sourcing ingredients sustainably: Beauty brands can and should prioritize responsible sourcing of ingredients. When working with a contract manufacturer, they should ask the company about their supply chain and how they source their ingredients.
• Adopting clean energy: Embracing renewable energy sources like solar or wind power for manufacturing processes can significantly reduce the carbon footprint related to the manufacturing of beauty products.
• Green chemistry: R&D efforts can focus on developing cleaner, biodegradable alternatives to harmful chemicals commonly used in beauty products, lessen pollution and lower the risk posed to sea life.
• Initiatives promoting a circular economy: Brands should inspire their customers to recycle by implementing recycling programs. Alternatively, they could encourage customers to return empty containers for refills, thus extending the lifespan of packaging materials and reducing waste.