Plastic waste is a huge problem for our planet and it's getting worse every day. Everywhere you look in the news there's a story about the growing plastic pollution problem and, quite frankly, I find it a bit depressing.
I understand the appeal of plastic packaging for cosmetic use, mainly that it's very economical and easy to get, but just a few months into my business I decided I didn't want to be a part of the problem anymore. So we went plastic-free and never looked back.
Here's why we changed and how you can play your part in reusing and recycling.
Plastic vs Aluminium
Although it's generally much cheaper to buy plastic packaging for our products, I decided to source other types of packaging that would be robust enough for the portability of our products but could also be recycled or reused. I considered timber pots, but these are hard to source within Australia and do contain some plastic for the seals and interiors. I also considered cardboard, but my testing showed that they would not stand up well to oil-based products without a plastic coating. The ultimate winner was Aluminium.
It may shock you to learn that plastic recycling rates in Australia are around 10%*. By contrast, aluminium recycling rates are around 50%**. Furthermore, plastic loses quality when it's recycled, whereas Aluminium can be recycled indefinitely. So what happens to all that plastic waste? Well it heads to landfill where it can take up to 500 years to break down!
Recycling and Re-using
There are two Aluminium container sizes that you'll find at Wilderness Lab: a 10g tin for the Solid Perfume Balms and a 50g tin which holds a 40g bar of Tasmanian Gold. When you are finished with your tins and don't want to re-use them, you can prepare them for recycling by washing, removing their labels and placing them in the appropriate recycling bin at your local council.
Another option is to re-use them. We've come up with a list of ideas for ways in which you can use your tins when they are empty. I'm sure you can think of more too, but this is a good start:
- storage containers for things like paper clips, push pins, or other small office supplies.
- store small sewing items like pins or buttons.
- planters for herbs or other small plants and seedlings.
- store and organize makeup or hair accessories.
- Use them as mini rubbish bins in small spaces like a car or office.
- store and organize workshop items like nails, screws, and other small hardware.
- Use them as candle molds.
- decant your personal care products into them and use as travel containers for things like shampoo or lotion.
- store and organize small craft supplies like beads
- Turn them into decorative containers for a party or event.
- Use them as portable snack containers.
- store and organize small tools, like pliers or screwdrivers.
- small containers for keeping track of pills or other medications.
- containers for keeping track of small items like jewelry or trinkets.
- Use them to store and organize small items in your kitchen, like spice packets or tea bags.
- containers for organising your coins.
Other ways we are reducing our plastic use
We've thought about every detail of our business and how we can operate without plastic. One area is in the packaging of orders. We've ditched plastic satchels to post customer orders in and use recycled cardboard boxes instead. We've switched over to using newspaper as packing material (instead of plastic bubble wrap).
Another area that you might not associate with plastic is petrochemicals, specifically mineral oils. We have never used any mineral oils in our products and this will not change.
Finally, we have custom-made timber display stands for our Stockists to store and display our products in their shops. Again, plastic stands would be the cheaper option, but we think timber just looks nicer too.
Chances are, if you're here and one of our customers, then you're also interested in reducing waste and supporting sustainable businesses. In that case, I want to say a big THANK YOU to you. Everyone can improve, but I believe that every little step we make (even if it's just being more conscious of how we consume), is a very good thing for our planet!