2020 Spa and Wellness Trend: The Problem With Plastic

Thirty-five percent of Lush’s product range is package-free. // Photo courtesy of Lush

According to National Geographic, half of all plastics ever manufactured have been produced within the last 15 years. Plastic production has increased exponentially from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons in 2015 and is expected to double in production by 2050. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), also reported that 91 percent of plastic isn’t recycled.

While the beauty and wellness industry has been quick to adapt to the green beauty trend by eliminating or reducing the use of single-use plastics, brands have still had to adjust their packaging to appeal to eco-conscious consumers. “Single-use plastic packaging accounts for 161 million tons of waste per year,” says Jennifer Graybeal, senior publicist at Lush. “In 2017, the beauty industry produced 76.8 billion plastic packaging units. Lush has proven that through innovation and adaptation, we can reduce the amount of single-use plastic consumed.” In the late ’80s, Lush cofounder and product inventor Mo Constantine released a package-free shampoo bar, and since then, he has helped develop the brand’s 35 percent package-free product range.

Lauren Singer, founder and CEO of Package Free, believes that more consumers have become aware of the impact of packaging but aren’t doing enough to solve the issue. “It’s important for the beauty industry to go package-free, because single-use plastic products make up around 30 percent of municipal landfill waste,” says Singer. “If beauty products were to go package-free, it would drastically decrease the amount of single-use plastic we have.”

Many brands have begun encouraging consumers to reuse packaging when possible. Li Organics, for example, stores products in reusable glass jars and bottles. The company is also launching a return program where customers who return five empty containers of its products for recycling will be offered a credit to use at the Li Organics online store. Founder Li Ming Geh says the decline of single-use packaging has also led to the development of new source materials. “As consumers are gaining more awareness with greater speed, it’s wonderful to see the beauty and wellness industry adapt to this change,” says Geh. “New and innovative materials for packaging are being invented. For instance, I recently learned about green cell foam made from non-GMO corn that can be broken down in your kitchen sink. So, it’s an exciting and creative time for this, as there are new options available already, and I believe more are just around the corner.”

It’s not just product lines that are making the switch, though. GSN Planet, formerly Green Spa Network, recently launched its Pledge for the Planet campaign, an eight-step program in which members of the wellness community provide and promote earth-friendly products, services, and business practices, as well as share sustainability efforts with clients, customers, and guests to raise awareness of personal and planetary wellbeing. The first step of the pledge is to limit plastics. The second step is to reduce water usage, which companies like Pevonia are helping to promote with the launch of no-rinse body wraps. Lemon Love (Charlotte, NC), a new eco-luxury waterless nail spa, has chosen to go waterless to save natural resources and reduce the risk of water-born bacteria.

The trick to getting more brands and spas to commit to sustainable packaging is simply to demand it. “I believe that as people start to realize that it can be as easy to use package-free products as it is to use beauty products with single-use plastic packaging, more people will start to use them,” says Singer. “Going zero waste doesn’t have to be challenging. It’s as simple as finding something that excites you. If people are passionate enough and excited to buy package-free beauty products, they will buy them.” 

Consumers have begun equipping themselves with knowledge and resources to make informed decisions regarding plastic consumption. The organization New Plastics Economy, for example, is working toward creating a future where plastic never becomes waste or pollution based on three simple steps: eliminate all problematic and unnecessary plastic items; innovate to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable; and circulate all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment. If beauty and wellness brands don’t begin to comply with simple adjustments like these, it’s safe to assume consumers will take their business elsewhere. When consumers vote with their dollars, the industry will listen.

For the full digital edition of American Spa's 2020 Trend Report, click here.


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