LOOKING good can have a huge environmental cost to the planet as consumption of beauty and personal care products generates vast amounts of plastic waste.
An overwhelming majority of the products come in hard or glossy plastic packaging that is typically discarded rather than recycled.
While its contents may only last a few weeks or months for a person, the packaging which ends up in oceans or landfills where it slowly degrades, takes longer than the average human lifespan to break down.
But with single-use plastic bags and straws being the prime focus of environmental campaigns locally, most tend to overlook the equally harmful plastic waste in other aspects of daily life.
Beauty brand, L’Occitane, is seeking to change that mindset with its pop-up beauty market at the atrium of Gurney Paragon Mall in Penang, which ends tomorrow.
Besides showcasing its range of natural and organic skincare products, the brand is also highlighting its Big Little Things programme in partnership with Penang Green Council (PGC).
Ongoing since 2019 across 25 participating stores, the initiative rewards people with gifts when they bring in empty beauty, skincare and haircare product packaging – known in the industry as “empties” – for recycling.
For this event, the first 1,000 visitors who bring empties will receive a mini lip balm, while those who bring 10 are entitled to a lucky dip for extra rewards.
The empties can be from any brand but they must be clean and dry.
“This is because any remaining product content or residue will impede the plastic melting process and render the batch unsuitable for recycling,” L’Occitane Malaysia and Singapore brand general manager Elida Wong explained.
She said the brand had collected over 735,000 empties regionally since the programme started.
This is equal to about 60 tonnes or the weight of two small propeller aircraft.
More importantly, recycling these meant reducing the need to produce brand-new packaging, which resulted in 36 tonnes less of greenhouse gas emissions.
Some of the packaging have also been upcycled into colourful flowers which enliven the event area.
Resembling roses, daisies, lavenders and wisterias, they offer visitors a pretty backdrop.
Wong said the brand aimed to have 100% of its bottles made from recycled plastics by 2025, while ensuring that every store offered recycling services.
“As a company, we want to educate and mobilise consumers to create positive, long-term environmental impacts through small daily actions.
“Most people don’t realise it, but they can easily use 20 to 30 bottles or tubes of personal care products within a few months.
“Imagine how much waste we can prevent simply by recycling,” she added.
Studies have shown that an average household uses some 55kg of plastic per year.
There are an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic in oceans today and experts warn that there may be more plastic than fish by 2050.
Penang environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh and PGC general manager Josephine Tan both lauded L’Occitane’s efforts to effect positive change in the booming US$500bil (RM2.1tril) per year global beauty and personal care industry.
“It’s heartening that a brand is being responsible for their products not just when they sell it, but also after selling it.
“We hope it raises awareness among consumers to consider the effects their consumption has on the planet. This is because there’s no point looking beautiful if we end up making the Earth ugly,” Phee added.