Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable Cosmetic Packaging for Leading Beauty Brands

Americans generate an average of 4.1 pounds of recyclable trash per day, and while 75 percent of all the waste we generate is recyclable, only about 30 percent of this waste actually makes it into the recycling stream.  

The beauty industry is a major waste contributor, and conscious consumers are searching for ways to make smarter buying choices. One analysis shows that online searches for sustainable products have increased by 18.5 percent year-over-year every year since 2018. 

In the online webinar Beauty Big Ideas 2023, held in early 2021, Jenni Middleton, Director of Beauty as WGSN had this to say of sustainable cosmetics: 

“As we put the turmoil of the pandemic behind us and economies return to growth, consumers are going to want brands to act on the lessons they’ve learned in 2020 and 2021. Brands are going to have to seize the opportunity to rest or be held accountable as the beauty industry must recreate itself as more ethical, more inclusive, and more sustainable.” Now is the time for progressive transformation… Products that give back to the environment, rather than just take less from it, will be expected as regenerative design becomes the norm. Businesses must protect the planet for future generations and the future of beauty too.” 

As a cosmetics eCommerce brand, if you haven’t yet, now is the time to take a hard look at your packaging practices and find ways to make packaging choices that aren’t just neutral, but actually benefit the environment. 

Sustainable Packaging for Makeup


Just what does “sustainable packaging” mean? 

Sustainable packaging products are made and supplied in ways that don’t contribute to environmental degradation; they are sustainably sourced and the manufacturing process to turn these raw materials into the packaging you use for your cosmetics has reduced the overall carbon footprint.  

Additionally, when these products make their way to consumers, they can be reused or recycled instead of contributing to landfills. It’s also important to note that if sustainable packaging does somehow end up in the environment, they decompose without accumulating or causing ecological damage.  

More specifically, sustainable packaging typically is geared towards battling the growing plastic waste that poses a risk to our way of life on earth. For decades, plastic was the preferred packaging material in the beauty industry because it was cheap, easy to acquire, and protected the product in transit. While many cosmetics brands still use plastic packaging today, this doesn’t mean that plastic packaging is sustainable in the long term, as there are already more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic in bodies of water and waterways throughout the globe.  

Zero-Waste Makeup Packaging 

Another important practice that’s gaining traction in the clean beauty industry is zero-waste packaging. Zero-waste packaging has a circular lifecycle; it never ends up as waste because it is either used up entirely, reused, or recycled. There’s also no burning or burying of zero-waste packaging. Instead, zero-waste packages are designed to remain in circulation, never contributing to pollution or accumulation.  

 Some brands are turning zero-waste packaging into a marketing moment. For example, brands use compostable paper packaging embedded with seeds that can be planted and grown after the packaging is no longer needed. 

Eco-Friendly Packaging Strategies


What are some strategies that cosmetics brands can use to make their packaging more eco-friendly? Here are a few considerations.  

Reduce or Eliminate Disposables 

Since we know that so many recyclable products never make it into the recycling stream, just making a product’s package recyclable isn’t enough. Online beauty brands can look at the disposable items they sell and examine whether there are ways to make these products reusable. Cotton pads, for example, are not made with sustainable practices, and often rely on child labor and a great deal of water to get products ready for market.  

Are there ways to eliminate or cut down on disposable packaging? Cosmetics companies can limit or even cut disposable packaging, or avoid shipping that requires both inner and secondary packaging? 

Refillable Beauty 

According to a Pew Research survey, 59 percent of Americans believe that most types of items can be recycled, but many common beauty packaging items cannot be recycled in most areas, and end up in landfills instead. These items include:

  • Plastic caps 
  • Mirrors 
  • Pumps 
  • Applicators 
  • Magnets 

But here’s the thing: Most of these caps, pumps, and magnets are tied to staples that are easy to refill. Refillable packaging is becoming more and more the norm, with products like pressed eyeshadows packaged in refillable mirrored cases. In these kinds of products, refill pans pop in and out of recyclable compacts. Some companies are even offering discounted refillable bamboo packaging, which is one of the most sustainable materials available. Consumers can build lasting relationships with brands that offer refillable packaging; all they have to do is order the refills, which reduces waste and saves consumers money in the long run. It’s a win-win. 

Choose Sustainable Materials 

Some packaging materials for primary and secondary packaging are more sustainable than others. These beauty products are known for their sustainability:

  • Bamboo 
  • Glass and metal 
  • Compostable or biodegradable paperboard 
  • Recycled plastic 
  • Silicone 

Sustainable Fulfillment Practices


OceanX understands the need that many online cosmetics brands feel to create sustainable products, packages, and processes throughout their supply chain; we, too, are committed to choices that benefit our environment for generations to come.  

With decades of experience in the fulfillment industry, we have learned a thing or two about how to optimize fulfillment and can help you develop packaging and processes that serve the planet and your bottom line. This includes: 

  • Optimizing packaging shapes and sizes for lighter, more compact packages. This reduces the volume of materials needed and reduces carbon emissions.  
  • Tracking lots and applying first-in, first-out fulfillment practices for picking and packing to avoid waste.  
  • Inventory forecasting to avoid overordering or unsold, expired products 
  • Safe recycling and disposal practices.  

From the solar panels that top one of our fulfillment centers to the electric forklifts we use and the packaging suggestions we offer, we want to be part of your sustainability journey. To learn more, contact us today