The beauty industry is a $532 billion business expected to grow further and further through time.
However, this growth comes at the expense of the Earth. The beauty and cosmetics industry is impacting greatly on global carbon emissions and as a consequence are incredibly harmful to the planet.
To begin with, annually around 120 billion units of cosmetic packaging is produced and much of this is either too small to recycle, contains mixed materials so ends up in landfill or is left collecting dust eventually to be binned and replaced.
However, research has shown that 70% of carbon emissions ascribed to this industry could be reduced by just using reusable bottles.
What’s more, is that plastic is also directly harming the environment and animals. For example, it’s been estimated that by 2050 the amount of plastic items in the sea will outnumber fish.
This is alarming for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the plastic in the ocean releases harmful toxins which can be dangerous to the sea’s ecosystem and the animals within them.
Many cleansers, exfoliators and other cosmetic products also contain microbeads – small plastics made from the chemical polyethylene also known as microplastics.
Tragically, because of this, 100 million marine animals die each year from plastic waste alone. In fact, 500 marine locations worldwide have now been declared as dead zones.
Dead zones are low-oxygen areas known formally as hypoxic areas in oceans and lakes. Because most organisms need oxygen to live, few organisms can survive in a hypoxic habitat, hence the name dead zones.
What’s more, many cosmetics and daily essentials such as toothpaste, deodorant and lipstick also contain palm oil.
Palm oil is still one of the greatest culprits when it comes to deforestation. This has an impact on the forest ecosystem and the animals that call this habitat home.
Sadly, this is affecting already vulnerable species such as the orang-utan and Sumatran rhino.
Deforestation often involves damaging peatlands which can cause the release of carbon at a faster rate. Damaged peatlands are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, annually releasing almost 6% of global CO₂ emissions.
Moving forward: How to sustain change
What we have seen in recent years is the “greenwashing” trend within the beauty and cosmetics industry. Here, the promotion of additional natural ingredients masks the toxic chemicals already in the product.
So, as consumers how do we ensure we don’t fall for the trap and purchase products which are harmful to the environment?
1. Be a mindful consumer