Why Sustainable Packaging is Critical for a Sustainable Future

This is a series of 5 blog posts covering the following topics:


    Sustainable Packaging: A Chaotic and Unregulated Definition

    Alongside ‘natural’, ‘clean’ and ‘organic’, ‘sustainable’ has become a trending, sexy topic in the beauty industry in recent years. However, lack of regulation and oversight means that brands can use whatever marketing terms they like to define sustainable packaging.

    While the technical definition suggests that the container holding the formula is biodegradable, made from recycled materials, or recyclable itself; the reality is that consumers are often:

    • paying for ‘pricey’ marketing gimmicks, like compostable containers that hardly biodegrade due to recycling constraints or cardboard boxes that have lost their recyclable properties due to the laminas and glues; and/or
    • buying ineffective and unsafe formulas, like cosmeceuticals packaged in glass jars.


    At the beginning of the 1990s the environmental regulation of packaging in the United States was marked by increased-and increasingly divergent-state and local packaging legislation prompted by a combination of federal deregulation policies in the 1980s and the rise of public concern about environmental issues. However, the momentum of solid-waste-related environmental regulation of packaging has slowed somewhat since the early 1990s. (source)

    Confusion around definitions opens the door for emotional reactions, rather than informed decisions. For example, public furor over single-use plastics has led to quick, policy proposals in several US jurisdictions. Recent California legislation defines single-use priority plastics as the top 10 items typically found in coastal cleanups. This definition includes cigarette filters but excludes flexible film packaging. Others are banning single-use plastics, which leaves manufacturers scrambling for alternatives. (source)

    Why Sustainable Packaging is Critical for a Sustainable Future

    It’s common knowledge that sustainable packaging is critical for a sustainable future. Some of the most pressing issues we are currently facing include:

    1. Climate change

    On the one hand, the process of extracting and transporting fossil fuels to manufacture plastic creates billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases. For example, 4% of the world's annual petroleum production is diverted to making plastic, and another 4% gets burned in the refining process. (source)

    However, a more considerable threat to human health and the environment, is caused by poor waste management. South-East Asian countries, especially Thailand and Malaysia, are accepting over 200% of previous volumes of waste for recycling. They dispose of superfluous waste in endless landfills, where part of it ends up as ocean plastic, or they burn it (illegally) in the open air, releasing noxious fumes over local settlements. (source)

    Globally, in this year alone, researchers estimate that the production and incineration of plastic will pump more than 850 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. By 2050, those emissions could rise to 2.8 billion tonnes. (source)

    2. Pollution

    On estimate between 5.3 million and 14 million tons of plastic is dumped carelessly on land or in rivers, mostly in Asia. It’s unclear how long it will take for that plastic to completely biodegrade into its constituent molecules. Estimates range from 450 years to never. (source)

    3. Degradation of ecosystems

    Plastics pollution has a direct and deadly effect on wildlife and marine ecosystems. Estimates suggest that 100,000 marine creatures 1 million seabirds die every year from plastic entanglement and ingestion. Ocean acidification is also a growing problem and scientists have identified 200 areas declared as ‘dead zones’ where no life organisms can now grow. (source)

    Phasing out plastics entirely and developing effective and sustainable packaging alternatives is a massive issue that requires systematic, holistic thinking and united action from consumers, brands and regulators, to ensure that we don’t shift the burden to other areas like taking a toll on non-renewable resources, increasing waste and worsening greenhouse emissions.

    So what’s the answer? Developing new sustainable materials doesn’t necessarily address the underlying problem: our throwaway culture. We need to adopt a radically different model of production and consumption. This can be achieved by moving from a linear to a circular economy, where reduction, reuse and recycling of elements prevails, and by adopting a ‘zero-waste’ mindset.

    Find out how you can help as a beauty consumer without giving up the clean, effective products that you already love and trust.


    Choose Ao Skincare

    Better for you skin. Better for the planet.

    Here at Ao, we take sustainability seriously. Protecting your skin health and the environment has been at the core of our values since day one. Read on to find out some of the key things we are doing to protect our planet. We’d love to hear what you’re doing! Tell us in the comments or reach out to us on Instagram or Facebook.

    • At Ao, we source the majority of our pristine ingredients locally, from the remote New Zealand wilderness, and partner with EWG and Credo Beauty to assure you that our ingredients meet the strictest standards for your health.
    • We follow gold standard practices through every step of our supply chain. Our formulas are manufactured using an innovative and environmentally-friendly method known as cold processing, which not only preserves the integrity and potency of our delicate active ingredients but also significantly reduces resource consumption during manufacturing - in particular energy and time. Most traditional methods rely on heating and cooling processes that account for over 90% of the total energy costs for the production of an emulsion.
    • Our outer packaging is made out of FSC Certified recycled cardboard. We use an innovative glueless design in which boxes are held shut employing either tension or a locking mechanism. Additionally, we use no gloss or laminas during printing, to ensure that the cardboard remains 100% recyclable.
    • Our shipping processes are plastic-free. We use recycled paper shipping envelopes or bags, and no bubble wrap, polystyrene or plastic wrapping around shipping pallets.
    • Our airless pump tubes and containers can sent back to us (free of charge) to be recycled through TerraCycle Beauty Products Zero Waste Boxes™.
    • We periodically revisit our product packaging to improve our environmental impact and reduce unnecessary waste and resource consumption. Currently, we are working on a Full Airless Recycling Program (currently no other brands we know offer this), and a Reusable Program (refills). Stay tuned for more, either by signing up to our newsletter, or following us on Instagram or Facebook.
    • Our ultimate goal is to develop a fully biodegradable airless container solution.


    Sources: www.today.com/series/one-small-thing/what-eco-friendly-packaging-skin-care-t149686 organicallybecca.com/zero-waste-sustainable-packaging/ www.aoskincare.com/blogs/news/skincare-packaging-why-it-matters www.thinkstep.com/blog/packaging-under-siege www.thinkstep.com/blog/top-9-sustainable-packaging-trends-2019 academic.oup.com/asj/article/30/1/74/199813 www.packagingdigest.com/sustainable-packaging/3-ways-to-fix-chaotic-packaging-sustainability-definitions-2019-08-15 www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/reducing-environmental-impact/waste-and-packaging/rethinking-plastic-packaging/ www.packaginglaw.com/special-focus/packaging-and-environmental-legislation-united-states-overview www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/04/beauty-personal-care-industry-plastic/ www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-waste-pollution-trash-crisis/ www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-solutions-waste-pollution/ www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/ocean_plastics www.wwf.org.au/news/blogs/plastic-waste-and-climate-change-whats-the-connection#gs.70ioir www.carpmaels.com/innovation-in-the-beauty-industry-solving-the-ugly-problem-of-single-use-plastic/ www.marieclaire.co.uk/beauty/how-to/recycle-beauty-products-658670 www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/a-new-way-to-measure-word-of-mouth-marketing Guidelines on Stability of Cosmetic Products, published by the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA) in 2004



    "Skincare science needs to be on the very edge of social change and evolution in order to succeed."

    Dr. Mark Gray