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Key insights to help beauty brands meet new sustainable packaging regulation

This is the third article in the reuse + refill series, taken from the  Getting to the Root of Reuse and Refill ’23 report.

For a few years now, the beauty industry has come under increasing scrutiny from the public and campaigners because many of its products contain microplastics. This has led to a revolution in consumer demand for less plastic in both products and packaging.

In this article we outline five key considerations that beauty brands and their packaging producers need to place at the centre of their packaging strategy.

1. Drive Lower Regulatory Fees by Reducing Impact

Beauty packaging can often not be recycled due to its small size format, use of non-recyclable materials and multi-material construction. Formats like sachets and other sampling minis create a mountain of material that is now attracting the attention of regulators.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and plastic taxes, with modulated fee structures, mean that the cost to place a pack on the market will only increase. Conducting a packaging cost-benefit analysis, which factors in material impacts, EPR fees, and plastic taxes, is becoming an essential part of the tool kit that informs every design decision.

Root has delivered Impact Analysis reports to global leading beauty brands that arm packaging teams with the knowledge to proactively choose formats that minimise EPR fees and inform future NPD.

Formats like sachets and other sampling minis create a mountain of material that is now attracting the attention of regulators

2 – Don’t be afraid to be ambitious

Beauty packaging is wonderfully diverse, with many brands experimenting with sustainable designs, such as reuse and refill options, use of recycled content, or reformulating to reduce the amount of material used.

Supply chain transparency is crucial, and is a way of differentiating proactive brands from the rest. Brands like Viori lead the way, setting clear sustainability goals focused on internal resources and external stakeholders, attracting new eco-conscious consumers.

3 – Don’t be distracted by ‘innovative’ materials

In response to growing environmental concerns, legislators are introducing mandatory recyclability and an increasing number of recycled content targets for plastics.

These mandatory regulations require a combination of reusable packaging, real-world recyclability at scale, and mono-material designs to meet the requirements. Brands must consider end-of-life and prioritise easy-to-recycle materials to stay compliant. As a whole, refill is generally a safer regulatory playground to innovate within than single use.

However, an element of caution is required – it’s easy to make mistakes. Some brands ambitious in their mission, prioritise environmentally friendly packaging that focuses too much on ‘innovative materials’ and not enough on the practicality for consumers. For instance, Wild created deodorant cases designed to “last for life”. However, the flaw in the plan is that the cases can only be recycled through specialist, small-scale collection schemes. Not a practical or easy option for most consumers.

In a marketplace where brands are competing for new business, ensuring your redesigned packaging meets both the needs of the regulators and allows your product to stand out, can be a challenge as well as an opportunity.

As a whole, refill is generally a safer regulatory playground to innovate within than single use

4 – Transparent communications

Green claims legislation has increased tenfold in the past year and will continue to do so globally. Legislation is increasing in both volume and granularity, and consumer protection regulators are coming down hard on perceived greenwashing or misleading claims.

Brands need to transparently and honestly communicate the sustainability progress they’ve made when moving from a “nice to have” to making sustainability a “must have”.

5 – Place customer priorities at the heart of everything you do

Consumers of beauty products are some of the most discerning and demanding than in any sector, with many scrutinising ingredient lists, monitoring supply chain practices and paying close attention to material sourcing. As a result, brands can expect their sustainable credentials to come under extreme scrutiny, with pressure from consumers to do the right thing.

Microplastics, recyclability and excess packaging are key target issues for customers and regulators. Targeting these areas not only reduces a brand’s reputational and regulatory risk, it also helps foster brand loyalty.

It’s time to take action

To navigate the challenges around compliant packaging design, it’s essential to understand the specific regulatory landscape and limitations that your designers must work under.

Root’s Regulatory services provide customised action plans that ensure your business is policy-prepared. If you’d like to know more about our Quarterly Reports and Activation Guides, or are keen to understand what tailored outputs we can help you with, book a demo call with one of our sustainability experts.