Working towards a sustainable environment

Health and beauty retailer The Body Shop has launched a multinational take-back scheme for its plastic packaging, after consumers voiced concerns that not all of the brand’s packaging is accepted by local authorities under kerbside recycling schemes.

<p>230 of The Body Shop's UK stores are covered by the scheme</p>

230 of The Body Shop’s UK stores are covered by the scheme

Introduced in partnership with recycling firm TerraCycle, the initiative has seen The Body Shop install recycling boxes in 672 of its stores globally, including 230 locations in the UK.

Items collected in the boxes will be sent to TerraCycle facilities, where staff will decide whether the packaging is fit for reuse. If not, they will sent for washing, separating and shredding, and then be melted and formed into plastic pellets. The pellets are then remoulded for inclusion in new plastic products such as outdoor furniture and fence posts.

In order to incentivise customers to use the system, The Body Shop will offer shoppers £5 worth of store credit when they return five items of its own-brand packaging in one transaction. The credit will be placed onto participants’ loyalty cards. The Body Shop is also running a communications campaign to promote the initiative.

“The focus of reducing waste at home has been largely reserved for the kitchen; food and beverage containers, plastic bags and food scraps are waste streams that most of us interact with and strive to be conscious of every day,” TerraCycle’s founder Tom Szaky said.

“But the bathroom, where we take care of ourselves and prepare to look and feel our best, is filled with packaging that simply gets thrown away when used up, making it a category of waste that is often ignored – so it is particularly heartening that the conversation around personal care and beauty waste is now becoming more top-of-mind.”

Under the scheme, The Body Shop will collect empty packaging from any brand, in a bid to maximise its impact. However, shoppers will only be able to earn store credits by bringing in the company’s own packaging.

Fairly traded plastics

The move from The Body Shop comes in the same week that it partnered with Plastics For Change, which is striving to expand the plastics recycling economy in developing nations, minimising their plastic pollution problems while providing financial empowerment to citizens.

Under the partnership, The Body Shop will purchase 250 tonnes of recycled plastic which is certified as “Fair Trade” by the NGO during 2019, for inclusion in its range of 250ml haircare bottles. This will enable the company to make the bottles with 15% “fairly-traded” recycled plastics from Bengaluru, India, and 85% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic from Europe.

In order for the plastic to achieve “Fair Trade” certification, suppliers must follow all 10 of the fair trade principles outlined by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WTFO).  They are creating opportunities for producers at an economic disadvantage; ensuring transparency and accountability; following fair trading practices; paying a fair price; eliminating forced labour and child labour; committing to non-discrimination, equality and the right to unionise; providing good working conditions; providing capacity building; promoting fair trade and respecting the environment.

Industry-wide challenges

The global cosmetics and toiletries sector has been estimated to produce 120 billion units of plastic packaging every year by think tanks, with many of these items either classed as “non-recyclable” in kerbside collections in developed nations or sold in the developing regions where recycling infrastructure is either sparse or non-existent.

The Body Shop is approaching the issue by including more recycled content in its packaging, designing for recyclability and offering its take-back scheme with TerraCycle – a system similar to those offered by the likes of Garnier, L’Oreal and Colgate Palmolive.

Other companies, including Lush, are taking a different approach, working to dramatically reduce the amount of plastic used in their packaging or to eliminate it altogether. This January saw Lush open its first plastic-free shop in the UK in Manchester, following the success of its ‘naked’ stores in Germany and Italy.

Sarah George