Combating plastic pollution with Ethique

Rosie Lintott 31 July 2019 (Last Updated November 21st, 2019 16:25)

With awareness growing around how consumers are affecting the environment with the amount plastic waste they create, Packaging Gateway speake to Ethique, the world’s first zero-waste beauty brand.

Combating plastic pollution with Ethique
Ethique has prevented 3.4 million plastic bottles being disposed of. Credit: Ethique

By 2050, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. 80 million plastic bottles are disposed of around the world every year just from shampoo and conditioner alone, with only 9% of plastic being recycled worldwide and eight million tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean every year. Due to wash-off from landfill and improper disposal, nine out of ten fish have ingested micro plastics, according to global studies. Ethique wants to reduce and ultimately stop plastic bottle production in the planet by using 100% compostable and recyclable products resulting in zero consumer waste.

The problem with plastic

Sir David Attenborough has described the devastating impact plastic pollution is having around the world as an “unfolding catastrophe. Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade; most still exists in some form and only 12% has been incinerated. A report carried out by charities Tearfund, Fauna & Flora International and WasteAid has warned of a public health emergency, claiming that between 400,000 and one million people die each year due to preventable diseases linked to mismanaged plastic waste in developing countries.

According to the United Nations, more than eight million tonnes of plastic is getting into the world’s oceans every year. That vast output means that animals are ingesting plastic and large amounts of waste are washing up on shorelines, ultimately deterring tourists from visiting and contributing to the economy in poorer countries.

“We strive to continue creating new, innovative and exciting beauty products that our customers around the world love whilst helping the environment”

The government is encouraging businesses to reduce and cut out the amount of plastic they are using, one of these companies is Ethique, the world’s first zero-waste and vegan beauty brand that has committed to preventing plastic bottle production. Founded by British entrepreneur and biochemist Brianne West, Ethique was born out of her two passions: the environment and cosmetic chemistry.

West said of the brand, “I did a lot of research into cosmetic ingredients and became aware of the huge impact of the waste the industry creates. It was then I decided that I wanted to make a positive change within the beauty industry and create a business that was completely sustainable and zero waste.”

Ethique’s mission to stop plastic waste

Plastic waste is a huge issue and has always been important to West; so far the company has prevented 3.4 million plastic bottles from being used and disposed of, with the company predicted to prevent 10 million plastic bottles from being produced by 2020.

West says: “For a little company that started out in New Zealand, we’ve achieved a lot so far and can’t wait to take it even further.”

Packaging waste is particularly an issue in the beauty industry, as a lot of companies package their products in unnecessary layers of unrecyclable, mixed material packaging. West wanted to create a brand that was as sustainable as possible, as well as being 100% plastic free, whilst educating consumers on the issue of plastic waste.
Ethique is the only company in the world devoted solely to producing handmade solid beauty bars in place of liquid beauty products to be more sustainable.

West continues: “We strive to continue creating new, innovative and exciting beauty products that our customers around the world love whilst helping the environment. We aim to expand even further so we can continue to raise awareness and educate the world on how easy it is to give up the bottle and swap to plastic-free alternatives.”

A lot of other brands are taking small steps towards sustainability but are still producing and selling products that are damaging to the environment. West’s vision is to have a solid shampoo in every shower, not necessarily an Ethique product but just to see a removal of plastic packaging amongst businesses and consumers.

“If we have the options to act more sustainably why would we opt-in to buying products that are damaging the planet we live on”

Ethique bars are two in one products that reduce the amount of waste that can be made from beauty brands; West’s aim is to help consumers realise they don’t need to buy multiple different products in multiple bottles.

Businesses and consumers need to tackle plastic waste

Explaining the goal for Ethique, West says: “I’d love to be the brand that changes the way business and consumers think.”

At the moment, 91% of plastic isn’t recycled and the Earth is becoming a plastic planet, therefore it is important for consumers to think about their buying habits and how they are getting rid of used beauty products.

She continued, “As a consumer, if we have the options to act more sustainably why would we opt-in to buying products that are damaging the planet we live on?”

By sourcing sustainably-produced and biodegradable products, businesses can make their products and are able to say they have made a positive contribution to the planet.

West explains: “I think that consumers should, and usually do, feel good that they are purchasing from a brand that ticks all the ethical boxes. Having said that, I think it’s vital that the products we are creating are as good, if not better, than their liquid counterpart, that way consumers know they are helping with the issue but not compromising on their beauty products.”

Brands can still do a lot more in terms of taking steps towards sustainability as the majority of packaging is plastic and only 12% of plastic worldwide is recycled, equating to eight million tonnes of plastic ending in the ocean each year.

Many brands are taking steps towards sustainability by trying to produce more recyclable packaging but recycling is only one of the ways businesses are making an impact and they can be doing more to step away from plastic packaging as a whole.

West summarises her hopes for the brand, saying: “If we’re completely zero-waste, I hope it inspires others to think about their plastic use that little bit more.”