Like it or not, plastic has been doing the heavy lifting for most of our needs over the last hundred years. Its going to be a tough habit to break, not least of all, because its downsides aren’t immediately visible -- its a petroleum product; it doesn’t degrade and it leaches toxins and microplastics into our environment causing a host of health issues for all life. If we look at our dressing table or bathroom shelves there’s a huge amount of plastic there. And most of it is just tossed post use, because its tiny or inconvenient for reuse. Last week we talked about plastic and glass, how ‘eco-friendly’ materials are only worthy of the label if we get them into the right recycling stream when they leave our homes. This week look at some more packaging material options, both old and new.
So what about bio-plastics? What sounds on the face of it like everything thats great about plastic with the biodegradability of plants! The ‘bio’ refers to plastic made from biological renewable material instead of petroleum; materials like vegetable oils, corn starch, soy protein and sugars have been used. But there are several downsides. When we dived in deeper here’s whats to know: not all bioplastics degrade and those that do only break down in special industrial composters and most certainly not in landfills. Which brings the responsibility back to the end user -- you and me! Its all about what we do once we’re done with a product.
Several brands have also moved to materials like wood, cork and leather and even paper as secondary packaging to encourage reuse by giving people something durable and aesthetic to reuse many times. While this works, it hikes the cost of the product considerably, making this an option only for high luxury brands. And you’re still stuck with glass or plastic as the actual container.
One material that has been around in human culture for a long time needs to get more love-- aluminium. Here’s what we discovered. Though abundant in the earth’s core, it does not naturally occur in its metal form and the cost of extracting it made aluminium even more precious than gold right up until the mid-19th Century. Apparently, you knew you were the French General, Napoleon’s special guest if you were served meals in aluminium plates while the rest had to make do with silver and gold! This is especially funny when you consider all our take-out meals today are in disposable aluminium boxes.
Today, with extraction and refinement methods in place aluminium is one of the most widely used materials in packaging, especially because it is a non-reactive and non-toxic metal that can safely carry consumables like food and skincare. Aluminium is also a 100% recyclable without much loss in quality which makes it extremely relevant to us today. Unlike glass it is also light and resilient. If you’re old enough you’ll remember when toothpaste came in aluminium tubes and we’re happy to see them making a comeback in skincare.
Look out for them in Ilana’s next line of products!
So we’re glad to find a winner in the materials debate. Let us know in the comments if there’s other materials you think could work. Have a great weekend!I