Molecular recycling helps beauty brands reach a more circular packaging
Using raw materials like carpets, the solution can offer an alternative to, for instance, traditional glass serum bottles.
29 Nov 2023

One of many Nordic brands aiming to provide better beauty packaging is Lumene. By 2025, the company’s goal is to have 80% of the plastics used from recycled or renewable source.

— By using less virgin packaging materials we reduce the environmental impact of our products, Alain Mavon, VP R&D and Sustainability, explains. We have been using recycled plastics in our plastic bottles — often PET — and plastic tubes (HD-PE) since 2019. After that we have updated our makeup packaging to include recycled packaging in compacts, mascaras, and lip glosses. We also worked together with Sulapac on an important co-innovation project to use biobased and biodegradable packaging with water containing skincare formulation. We launched our best-selling moisturizers in Sulapac jar after five years of close co-operation to find a suitable technical solution for material and structure of the pack.

You’ve now also worked with molecularly recycled packaging. Tell us more.

— We were looking for a sustainable packaging option that would not compromise the product presentation. Often, glass-like plastic bottles are not made of recycled content nor are recyclable after use — this is both. For the Nordic Hydra [Lähde] Birch Dew Jelly we have used molecularly recycled packaging with 50% certified recycled content — allocated via ISCC-certified mass balance approach — which is also recyclable in the end-of-life stage. It allows visibility of the formula and elevates the overall consumer experience.

The technology comes from raw material manufacturer Eastman and packaging manufacturer Rebhan, using raw materials that otherwise could be incinerated or landfilled because they are not suitable for recycling through traditional recycling processes.

— They use for example carpets as raw material in the process. They break the raw materials into the initial building block, monomers, and through the molecular recycling process can create virgin-quality plastic materials. As part of our circular beauty strategy, we are constantly exploring new packaging solutions. This is a high quality and sustainable packaging solution which we foresee might be an alternative to traditional glass serum bottles.

What was the most challenging when working with Eastman and Rebhan (packaging manufacturer) to develop it?

— Like many of our new circular beauty project, the realisation requires parties throughout the value chain. This launch required finding the right partners to have both a suitable raw material manufacturer but also a converter to be willing to do trials with the new material in order to mould bottles out of the new material. One always needs several trials to study how the moulds work with the new materials and that was the case with this project as well. Our partner Rebhan is in the same journey of circularity with us and took the challenge.

We now see several strong beauty and beauty-tech players from Finland. How come?

— Finland has prepared a strategic programme to promote circular economy. The aim is to transform the economy into one that is based on the principles of circular economy by 2035. With this programme, the Finnish Government wants to strengthen Finland’s role as a leader in the circular economy. The transition is also a step towards achieving the Government’s carbon neutrality target, also by 2035, Mason shares. He continues:  

— Additionally, Finland has an oriented industry network towards sustainability, giving Finnish companies a competitive edge to embrace circular economy. In fact, we launched our first upcycled ingredient, cloudberry seed oil, already in 2001. We’re now having 29 upcycled ingredients, many of Nordic origin, featured in our products and continuing also beyond the formula, with packaging derived from side-stream of forest industry.

And now, what do you have coming in packaging innovations?

— We are kicking off a 3-year co-innovation project on upcycled berries or spruce needles waxes as side stream from food and forest industry. This project involves a dozen of partners from academia and industry and aims at developing a full value chain from raw materials, extraction, formulation, and commercialization into various products application in fashion, food, or cosmetics. In cosmetic, these waxes might replace waxes such as carnauba wax, thus bringing a much more sustainable alternative, and pending successful safety assessment for cosmetic use and formulation trials feature our future skincare, makeup, or hair care products.

— We’re the first beauty brand to bring out a bio-based facial cream packaging with both the jar and the label made of side streams from the Finnish forest industry, using a mass balance approach with certified value chain. It is made using a bio-based raw material from tall oil, which is used as a raw material in plastics production. Tall oil is a side stream product of pulp manufacturing from the Finnish forest industry. The plastic made from tall oil is widely recyclable, and the life cycle of our jars can continue in, for example, household products, Mavon concludes.

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