Is there such a thing as environmentally safe packaging?

Is there such a thing as environmentally safe packaging?

Is there such a thing as environmentally safe packaging?

GREENWASHING AND COSMETIC PACKAGING

If we care so much about being natural, why does Cloud 9 Naturally use plastic?

Packaging cosmetics does not have easy answers. There is not a single, good solution to choose from. Instead, there are a whole lot of greenwashing (making something sound safe and environmentally friendly while hiding the truth).

So, what are our choices? Plastic (boo, hissss), paper (only works for some products), aluminum (not bad, I heard it can be recycled), glass (yay!) At least that is what we have been greenwashed into believing.

PLASTIC:

Yup, it’s bad. The only good things about it is that it is cheap, light weight for shipping, and comes in any shape, size and colour you want. Everything else about it is bad. But those three things are significant. I can ship a box of 350 jars to my door for about a quarter or more of the cost of glass. And when shipping our my product to customers, it costs a whole lot less. In some cases, up to half the cost.

Glass needs to be wrapped in protective paper or plastic bubble wrap to protect it during shipping adding to the environmental impact. Plastic does not. Another pro for plastic.

I can easily get 1 litre plastic bottles all over North America. Glass, not so much. The selection of glass is getting harder to find, not easier as you would think it would be due to the phasing out of bad plastic.

The weight for 100 bottles? approx 10kg. The weight of 100 glass bottles: 44kg. Now times that by 10 because we usually buy 1000 at a time.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that the cost to ship 1000 bottles to my door for just 1 size bottle is significantly more than plastic. Now, to ship a filled, glass bottle to my customers, wrapped in bubble wrap is costly, takes more gas (to get it to me and then my customer), and a whole lot of plastic wrap for something that big as well as the worry that it is going to reach my customer in one piece.

Do we have to use bubble wrap? No, there are paper products (which means cutting down trees just to wrap glass) out there but they are not as effective at protecting glass from breakage and scratching while shipping. We have used peanuts and you can buy biodegradable ones but they are more costly and end up in the landfill. All in all there is a whole lot of wastage to ship glass compared to plastic making it not as environmentally friendly as we are lead to believe.

I am not writing a lot about the evils of plastic because it has been covered extensively.  It is bad, PERIOD!  So why do we still use it?  Read on to find out.

Pros of plastic:

  • Easy to find, comes in all shapes, sizes and colours
  • Light weight for shipping saving on fuel and costs to ship
  • No extra wrapping needed/not breakable
  • Can be recycled
  • We do use recycled plastic when we use plastic containers for some of our products. It is not optimum but it does help a bit.

Cons:

  • Really, really bad for the environment from the toxic chemicals used to make the products to the lack of being biodegradable and ending up filling landfill.
  • Most people don’t recycle or have the option to recycle
  • Causes harm to all animals and fish
 Aluminum

Bloomberg did an article claiming that aluminum was greener than glass packaging. Hmm. Better look twice at that claim. In Ontario alone, up to 96% of glass beer bottles are recycled and used up to 15 times. Less than half of aluminum packaging is recycled.

Take a look at what it takes to make aluminum. It leaves a terrible environmental footprint behind.

https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/10/04/what-do-we-get-out-it/human-rights-impact-bauxite-mining-guineahttps://www.cmswire.com/digital-experience/how-bauxite-mining-destroys-nature-and-communities/

There is an excellent scientific article you can find if you google “Impact of Bauxite Mining on Quality of Life” that is worth skimming.

Lighter weight than glass, it sounds like an option until you look at what is available and the cost. 3x the price of plastic.

Aluminum can and does leach into products. The human body struggles to excrete aluminum which can lead to an overload over time. Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s, human breast cancer, bone disorders and is considered a neurotoxin. It also affects the growth of human brain cells. (1)

All aluminum containers are lined with plastic polymers. most with endocrine disrupting BPA epoxy. (2) I hate to tell you this but Cocoa Cola still uses BPA lining in their cans. I went directly to their site which proudly claims to use BPA lining. It doesn’t take much googling to find scientific study after study published on PubMed about the dangers of BPA lining. Bottom line: Aluminum uses plastic. Not as much as a plastic container but it uses a more harmful form..as far as I  can tell.

Pros:

    • less plastic
    • recyclable
    • light weight means less shipping costs
    • non breakable
    • fairly easy to find across North America
Cons:
    • less than half of aluminum is recycled
    • leaching of aluminum happens and can be dangerous to health
    • lined with dangerous plastics including endocrine disruptors
    • mining bauxite to make aluminum has large environmental impact

Paper:
I like paper. It can be recycled easily, readily available and biodegrades quickly. The problem is that when it comes to cosmetics, it can only be used for a few products like salves and lip balms. Water based products are a no go. They are expensive and there are very few options available in sizes and shapes.

On top of that, the global estimate to keep up with paper demand is between 4-8 BILLION trees cut down annually. As I often drive through the mountains of Alberta and BC, I admit that like most of us, I hate seeing the clear cutting on the sides of the mountains and I feel a twinge of guilt over my house framed in wood, my many paper books and the many sheets of paper that I waste each year. I would love to live in a strawbale house but lets face it, it still takes wood.
We can and do replace trees that we have cut down to make our paper but it still takes a long time to grow a tree.

Lets face it, approx 26% of our landfills are from discarded paper products. The good news is that in Canada almost 70% of our paper is recycled while the States is not far behind with 68% of it’s paper being recycled.

The bad news: pulp and paper mills generate the third largest amount of industrial air, water and land and gas emissions (that contribute to global warming) in Canada and the 6th largest in the US. In the USA, paper production contributes 20% of ALL industrial of toxic waste into the air and 9% of the toxic releases into our waters.

Did you know that to produce 1 kg of paper requires 324 LITRES of water?
Paper production is the 5th largest consumer of energy in the world!
Check out this site: https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/consumption/other-products/environmental-impact-of-paper

and google this one: The impacts of Paper on the Environment
And then there is the bleaching and paper making process itself. The Canadian government itself released a paper on the negative effects to our environment from the bleaching process of paper. Just google it to find the paper. In fact there are scientific papers from paper producing countries all published in scientific journals ALL speaking on the environmental destruction, toxic effects and cumulative damage of paper making.

Pros:
    • recyclable
    • fairly lightweight compared to glass
    • can’t break
    • made from a renewable resource
Cons:
    • 30% still ends up in the landfill
    • High energy cost to make paper
    • highly toxic to environment to make paper
    • billions of trees are needed and trees take time to regrow
    • extremely high water cost
    • limited sizes, shapes and product can use paper

Bottom line: Not my first choice or even my second choice.

Glass

Glass is looking pretty good right about now. Think again! Personally, I love glass. I like glass coffee cups, stained glass, large picture windows, cobalt blue drinking glasses, blown glass ornaments. You name it, if it is glass, I will most likely love it. I am still hoping to make it to Seattle to see Dale Chihuli’s Garden and Glass museum.

Glass is recyclable. An estimate of only 5% of the waste in our landfills is said to be glass. Pretty good compared to paper! That is where the good news ends.

Recycling glass facilities are shutting down North America wide due to the unprofitable price of recyclable glass. It is cheaper to make new glass than to recycle with few exceptions. Beer, wine, pop and liquor are up to 78% recycled over and over again by the Brewers distribution system. Food and cosmetics that use glass jars have no such system in place leading to glass going into our landfills.

Another problem is the cost of transporting glass to facilities. Since there are fewer and fewer facilities, the price of gas to take glass to the nearest facility leaves most municipalities with few options so the vast majority of cities across Canada and USA have cancelled glass recycling programs.

Next problem: who knew that the world could run out of sand. Than’s right: SAND! Yup, the kind used to make glass.

There are at least 24 different types of sand.The sand used to make glass is silica (quartz) sand. It must be at least 95% silicon dioxide and less than .6% iron oxide, otherwise it is just regular sand.

Silica sand is used in golf courses and sports fields, industrial blasting and water filtration, painting and coatings, ceramics and tiles, flooring, mortars, cement, roofing shingles, asphalt, digital components for automobiles, batteries, semiconductors and solar panels.

Sand is the second most exploited resource in the world, 50 billion tonnes of sand per year. Water is the first. There is no way that that much extraction is not going to have an impact! There currently is little to no regulations regulating sand extraction causing “coastline erosion, ecosystem disruption, air pollution, causing a severe lung disease called silicosis, aquifer contamination and threats to biodiversity across the globe” according to the United Nations.

Silica sand is mined using open pit, dredging, scooping it up from lakes, riverbeds and shoreline often leaving large holes and destruction behind. Communities close to these operations are expressing fears about the environmental impact, their health and drinking water loss or contamination. Some countries have already banned silica exports.

Problem #3:The weight of glass is it’s downfall. Shipping glass takes more fuel...way more fuel. First to have it shipped to my facility cost well over $800 in shipping fees for a small shipment of glass. Then there is the added cost of shipping to customers. On average it can cost more than $20.00 to ship one glass product to a customer. More if it is going several provinces away. Most customers are already finding shipping costs high and are unhappy at the addition cost. That means I am loosing customers. So between the cost of shipping glass and having to use more gas to ship it, problem #3 is a big deterrent to using glass.

Pros:
    • recyclable
    • may be less toxic to produce that other packaging though this is hard to judge
    • beautiful
    • No leaching of chemicals into product, no BPA
Cons:
    • heavy, leading to more gas consumption and much higher shipping cost
    • mined which causes environmental impacts
    • non renewable resource
    • much more expensive to buy
    • breakable

The bottom line: We use a variety of packaging based on availability, what product we are selling, cost addition to the product, how many we have to buy, storage, does it need to be unbreakable (as in shower and bath products).

There are no good solutions in packaging. So far, not one single option is better than another in our eyes. So until a good option becomes available, we will continue to use all option.

For an interesting article, check out: The Narwhal: Manitoba silica sand mining

Just google for more articles and studies on the environmental concerns over silica sand mining: silica sand mining environmental impact

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191108-why-the-world-is-running-out-of-sand


1 Response

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