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Never ending journey: sustainability is the present and future of household and personal care packaging.

Rust never sleeps, so sings Canadian rocker Neil Young--nor does the quest to make a CPG business more sustainable. Regardless of size, the type of products it manufactures or price point at which its sells its goods, companies selling into the household, beauty and personal care categories are obliged to embed some level of sustainability into their operations, including their packaging.

Take the biggest player in household and personal care, Procter & Gamble, for example. The company just last month heralded expanded sustainability goals for 2020. P&G, which is currently on track to reduce packaging by 20% per unit of production by 2020, has raised the bar, committing itself to doubling the use of recycled resin in plastic packaging, and ensuring 90% of its product packaging is recyclable or that programs are in place to create the ability to recycle it.

"We continue to improve the environmental sustainability of our products across all aspects of their lifecycle, from manufacturing, packaging and delivery through consumer use," said Martin Riant, Procter & Gamble executive sponsor of sustainability and group president, global baby and feminine and family care, in a statement. "We are reducing the environmental footprint of our products for shoppers, our communities and the company while still delivering the quality and performance people expect from P&G products."

Work in Progress

Another one of P&G's 2020 goals is to have 100% of its paper packaging contain either recycled or third party certified virgin content. This, by the company's own admission, will be a tough task. "Given the complexity of the packaging supply chain, we do not anticipate this being an easy journey, but we will continue reporting our progress in future sustainability reports," the company penned it is 2013 Sustainability Report.

Another mountain to climb is the use of petroleum-based ingredients. In its October announcement, P&G announced that is "working across its supply chain to develop the capability by 2020 to replace top petroleum-derived raw materials with renewable materials, as cost and scale permit." That's a change from its initial goal, which was replacing 25% by 2020.

A shift away from petroleum is underway at companies like Tom's of Maine, which has moved to a 100% petroleum-free version of propylene glycol for natural deodorants. The Maine-based natural personal care player has long been emphasizing more eco-friendly packaging, and in terms of overall greener packaging, Tom's says that next year 50% of its packaging will be made up of virgin content. But not one to rest on its laurels, the company has promised to reduce that percentage with a goal of reaching 40% virgin content by 2020, and is currently exploring potato-based bio-packaging made from Maine potatoes (spuds are the state's biggest agricultural commodity) for mouthwash bottles and deodorant canisters.

Said Tom's of Maine CEO Tom O'Brien, "While we've been focused on sustainability for four decades, we're still inspired to never settle for 'good enough.' We made some strong strides in working smarter with energy and water in the last year and we're encouraging employees at every level to imagine more sustainable possibilities."

Tom's parent company, Colgate-Palmolive, is committed to increasing its sustainability profile as well. For example, Colgate says it has already exceeded its goal to increase recycled content by 20% by 2015 (an on-shelf example in North America includes removal of PVC from the Colgate 360 Total Advanced manual toothbrush packaging, reducing packaging waste by 17% and making the packaging fully recyclable).

This past Spring, in consultation with nonprofit organization As You Sow, Colgate unveiled new commitments for 2020, including upping the recycled content in its packaging to 50%, improving the recyclability of its packaging and "committing resources to enable breakthrough innovation in oral care packaging."

According to As You Sow, that means working toward a recyclable toothpaste tube or package.

What Consumers Want

According to Joy Chen, CEO of natural personal care brand Yes To, San Francisco, CA, despite an inconsistent standard and definition on sustainability, consumers want packaging that is "beautiful, functional and more sustainable."

But they may not all want to spend more for it. As Chen explained, "Only a minority or low percentage of passionate consumers is really willing to pay a premium for sustainability. To the broader consumer base, they are not willing to pay more for sustainability."

According to Chen, when it comes to more sustainable sensitive consumers, they are willing to purchase a more concentrated product or product with less packaging. Additionally, they are willing to purchase refills, packaging that are reusable or recyclable. Finally, they will look for the recyclable or compostable symbol on the packaging to encourage activity that is good for the overall environment."

Chen added that FJDPE and PET used to produce plastic bottles or tubes are No. 1 and No. 2 for recycling--so packages made of these two materials are best options for sustainable packaging. Post-consumer regrind (PCR) is also another good alternative for sustainable packaging. However, there are tradeoffs with overall appearance and higher costs. Certified FSC packaging for outer board or cartons is very popular as it promotes environmentally sound management of the world's forest, she told Happi.

Marketer Moves

Across the household and personal care market, there are many means to lessen the environmental impact of a product's packaging.

Naturals brand Kiss My Face, for example, touts a "chemical-free" continuous spray moisturizer, Kiss My Face Air Kiss 2 in 1 Light Moisturizing Lotion, which is packaged in an ergonomic air-powered container. According to the company, it utilizes compressed air technology, as opposed to chemical propellants, to provide a light, yet powerful continuous moisturizing mist to cover hard-to-reach areas. The brand's Peace Soaps and 4-in-l Moisture Shaves both tout sustainable packaging as well.

Similar technology was also unveiled at Method, which recently rolled out a new air refreshers line (exclusively at Target) that, unlike traditional aerosols home scenting SKUs, is packed in an airtight chamber powered by compressed air. Method contends the continuous spray product is the first in the air care category to use clear, transparent packaging that shows how the product works. (You can read more about this launch in our October feature, "All Around Us").

For Farmhouse Fresh, Frisco, TX, glass has a major presence in the brand's packaging. According to CEO Shannon McLinden, 80% of FarmHouse Fresh's retail line is packaged in glass bottles. "And many of our customers reuse our Sweet Cream Body Milk Cruet to hold flowers, coffee beans, etc. We use glass specifically for this purpose because it is timeless, reusable and sustainable," he said.

At hair care brand Pravana, all of its Nevo products are always packaged in bottles that are 100% biodegradable. And, in the spirit of caring, for every purchase of Nevo made, 5% of sales is donated to City of Hope toward the fight against cancer. All bottles begin breaking down within 250 days of being put in a landfill, and completely disappear in two years, according to company CEO Steve Goddard. The brand just recently rolled out Nevo Hydra Pearl Oil in a 4oz pump.

Other indie brands are looking to amp up their sustainable packaging efforts too. According to Juan Pinto, co-owner of Balanced Guru, Boca Raton, FL," Our bottles and jars are made with post-consumer resin (PCR), which means they are recycled and 100% recyclable. Our boxes are made with 100% recycled paper and are 100% recyclable, same with our marketing and shipping materials. Our labels are made with PLA biodegradable material and all of our formulations are 100% biodegradable, free of chemicals and toxins, safe for our bodies and safe for our planet."

Mineral makeup brand Jane Iredale recently unveiled new product packaging and a new logo. In fact, it received the 2014 ICMAD CITY Award for Member's Choice: Package Design. Reflecting the brand's commitment to the environment, the paper is fully recyclable and sourced from renewable resources. The ink uses natural tree resin systems and vegetable oils to reduce volatile organic compounds by more than 75%. The ink is also UV curable, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and overall environmental impact, said the company. The Leaping Bunny logo, the leading animal protection group for cruelty-free certification, appears on every carton and certifies Jane Iredale as "cruelty-free" and not allowing for any animal testing at any stage of product development.

Looking Ahead

Sustainable packaging practices and more sustainable materials will continue to be in demand in 2015 and beyond as companies make incremental changes. But the sea change will come only when the biggest players in the category make their moves.

Chen told Happi, "More companies and consumers will ask for it. However, it will require big companies or retailers to join forces in order to strengthen their demand for sustainable packaging in order to drive sustainability innovation. It is only with this created scale will there be disruptive sustainable packaging options that are cost effective ... with cost effective options, companies will broadly be able to provide an improved sustainable packaging to consumers that they will purchase."


* How does one define "sustainable packaging?" The Sustainable Packaging Coalition offers "version 1.0 of the definition of sustainable packaging." The Charlottesville, VA coalition says its definition, created in 2005, "provides a common vision and a framework for understanding activities directed toward improving packaging, and continues to inform the future vision of the coalition and its individual member-companies. This definition has been widely adopted throughout the packaging industry.

According to SPC, sustainable packaging:

* Is beneficial, safe and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle;

* Meets market criteria for both performance and cost;

* Is sourced, manufactured, transported and recycled using renewable energy;

* Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials;

* Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices;

* Is made from materials healthy throughout the life cycle;

* Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy; and

* Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles.

SPCs current household and personal care members include Avon, Merck Consumer Care, Amway, The Clorox Company, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, Sealed Air, The Estee Lauder Companies, Johnson & Johnson and Unilever.

More info:


* SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association and non-profit group Jason Learning have launched the 2014 'Think Outside the Bag!" plastic film recycling contest. Sponsored by SPI's Flexible Film and Bag Division (FFBD), with support from plastic bag manufacturer and recycler Hilex Poly and Jason Learning (which encourages students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math), in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the contest will ask students to come up with a creative campaign to increase recycling of flexible plastic films, like dry cleaner bags, product wrapping and traditional plastic grocery bags.

Participating student teams' campaigns will be judged on how well their campaign poster and a presentation educate and galvanize their communities to increase their recycling of plastic films.

"We each encounter flexible film plastic products in our everyday lives," said SPI vice president of industry affairs and FFBD liaison Patty Long. "But as of 2012, only 12% of this material makes it to the recycling plant, and too often it ends up in the trash rather than on a truck back to a processor that can turn it back into something useful. SPI, the FFBD and Jason are committed to increasing plastic film recycling and we want students to help us make sure none of these materials end up polluting our hometowns, our waterways and our beaches."

Campaign posters must be displayed in the students' communities--in grocery stores, libraries or anywhere the student group thinks will be most effective in influencing plastic bag and film recycling behavior. Teams must then photograph their poster design and submit it to Jason for judging, along with a detailed presentation that describes how they came up with their idea, what challenges the team faced and how the campaign changed and influenced plastic film recycling behaviors in their community, among other aspects of the campaign. Entries will be judged in three different grade bands (K--4, 5-8, and 9-12) by representatives from SPI and Jason and first-, second- and third-place winners for each age group will be announced in April and will be awarded with $750, $500 and $250 cash prizes, respectively. Winning entries will be featured on the SPI and Jason websites, and winners will be recognized in trade, local and national media.

"Students shouldn't limit themselves to just plastic grocery bags in their efforts to collect plastic films," said FFBD chairman Jim Russler of Bemis Company. "All sorts of items such as dry cleaning bags, food packaging and shrink wrap can all be recycled, and we want students to help us educate people about what goes in the garbage and what can be recovered, processed and reused."

Melissa Meisel and Christine Esposito * Associate Editors
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Author:Meisel, Melissa; Esposito, Christine
Publication:Household & Personal Products Industry
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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