Packaging Manifesto: Why we chose to work with brands that use the packaging they do.
To make the products we sell on Acala as sustainable as possible we not only look at the ingredients that go into them but also the packaging they come in. At Acala we operate around three of the 5 R’s; reduce, reuse and recycle.
Reduce first, reuse and recycle second.
Reduce: we seek out brands and products that use as minimal packaging as is possible to keep your product in the condition you would expect it. We work with our brands to further reduce their packaging and achieve the most sustainable option.
Reuse: we seek to make as many of the products from the brands we stock refillable so that you can reuse your packaging, avoiding landfill. Reusing an item is how earlier generations made the most of limited resources, we believe this is an area where we should learn from the wisdom of our elders.
At Acala HQ we are aiming for zero waste operations and reuse all the packaging that we receive your orders in.
Recycle: After reducing and reusing comes recycling. Packaging is a necessary evil in the health and beauty industry. Without it products will spoil and arrive with you in a very poor condition. All packaging used on our products is recyclable. We ask you to recycle everything that you cannot reuse. We have made the decision to use mainly card, glass and aluminium in product packaging as these materials have the highest rates of recycling in the UK.
On our decision to limit plastic use in packaging
At Acala we have taken the decision to work with brands and products that use minimal plastic. After extensive research, we believe that alternatives such as glass, card and aluminium (or nothing where possible) are the most environmentally friendly options currently available. We also know that you the consumer is currently making a concerted effort to reduce your plastic use and we want to make this as easy for you as possible.
Today’s alumina & bauxite producer (the minerals used in aluminium) is constantly challenged to improve the environmental impact of mining. To our knowledge, no such regulations are in place when it comes to mining of oil for plastic. When it comes to glass, Acala has opted to work with brands that use recycled materials. This prevents the need for virgin material use. Our brands use either recycled card or card from sustainably managed forests.
It is true that the production of paper and glass can be more energy intensive than the equivalent plastic container. The exact figures will vary according to production techniques and the full life-cycle of the packaging. For us the clear downside is that plastic bottles are made from petroleum and can leach chemicals.
Glass bottles are 40% lighter today than they were twenty years ago. This is constantly improving. As for aluminium tins, today’s models have a carbon footprint 43% lower than those in 1993. And the weight difference of card vs. paper is negligible. When it comes to transportation, our focus is on the environmental impact of water use in cosmetics and skincare.
Looking at the afterlife of this packaging, reuse of glass and aluminium in the home and for refilling with new products is much easier. On the Acala blog we are going to be bringing you ideas for reusing your glass and aluminium packaging. When it comes to recycling, recycled plastic bottles can rarely be made into cosmetic or skincare containers again. Instead it is downcycled into other plastic goods. Glass, card and aluminium can be recycled indefinitely to create the same grade product. They are also much more easily and widely recycled in the UK. Card for example has an 88% recycling rate in the UK, compared to 44% for plastic.
We realise that none of these packaging solutions are perfect which is why reduce is the first R on our agenda.
What we’ve ended up with
Taking carbon footprint, reusability, recyclability and functionality into account, this is the packaging that we are currently working with:
- Recycled card or card from sustainably managed forests that is 100% biodegradable and recyclable.
- Recycled glass jars that can be either returned to the brand that makes the product or recycled
- Bamboo pots that are refillable
- Aluminium tins and lids that are refillable and 100% recyclable
- A small amount of plastic. This is a necessary evil to ensure that your products have the high-quality condition and functionality that you would expect. This plastic is recyclable and in many instances the brand will accept return of the plastic packaging for reuse.
- We continue to explore the use of bio-plastics as we love that they are biodegradable and plant based. The production of bioplastics however, has very high emissions and we want to explore this further before making a final decision. Until then, we are stocking some products that use bioplastic instead of non-recyclable plastics. For example, instead of thin plastic films that are non- recyclable. Biodegradable is always preferable to landfill in our opinion.
Where we want to be
Our goal is to achieve a circular business model, based on the principles of the circular economy. The circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible. The maximum value is extracted from them whilst in use. Products and materials are then recovered and regenerated at the end of each service life.
A circular economy and business model is important because it reduces waste, as well as helping reduce the environmental impacts of our production and consumption. We are already working on phase 2 of Acala which will bring us much closer to achieving our goals of a circular business model. We will share more information with you about this very soon!
If you have any feedback on anything discussed in this article or would like further information please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.