picture of some plastic packaging, to talk about cosmetic waste and ecological impact.
July 11, 2023Cosmetic waste: The dark side of beauty

In 1947, when chemist Jules Montenier launched Stopette, a liquid deodorant sold in a polyethylene bottle, he most likely didn’t think that such an innovative packing would one day have dire consequences on the planet.

Now, cosmetic waste related to shampoos, lotions, deodorants, and other body care products has experts worried, but some companies are working hard to make a difference. Here’s why.

Less than stellar statistics

Although the history of plastic can be traced back to the distant past, it wasn’t until the 20th century – during the Quiet Revolution – that its use was truly developed. Now, this material alone is responsible for more than 120 billion packaging units each year, with the vast majority unable to be recycled.1 In fact, according to an OECD report, only 9% of plastic waste was recycled, globally, in 2019.2

The plastic crisis is one of the most important environmental issues of our time and we all – brands and individuals – have a role to play in preserving our ecosystems.

image explaining that about 120 billion packages are produced each year, and the majority are not recyclable.

The repercussions of cosmetic waste and plastic pollution in general are serious and far too common. Here are some of them:3

  • Since 2018, the beauty industry in the United States has manufactured 7.9 billion rigid plastic packaging per year.
  • The primary plastic market is packaging. It represents nearly half of all plastic waste that is produced in the world.
  • Since 2015, more than 6.9 billion tons of plastic waste has been produced internationally and 79% ended up in landfills or in nature.
  • Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into our oceans4.
  • By 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish and seabirds will regularly eat plastic.4
  • A third of fish consumed by humans contains plastic.
  • You don’t eat fish? Marine plants produce 70% of the oxygen we breathe and are greatly affected by plastic pollution.
  • Plastic waste dangerously contributes to the rapid extinction of coral reefs. By 2050, between 70% and 90% of corals could disappear, causing harm to thousands of marine species in the process.

Overconsumption leads to overproduction

Packaging isn’t the only culprit of cosmetic waste. Just look in your bathroom drawers and cabinets to find all the products that have been sitting there for far too long. And when people overconsume, brands overproduce!

The key is to buy only what you need and to check expiration dates. Why purchase so much cream if there’s a chance you won’t use it until the end?

Did you know?

The shelf life of several cosmetic products is displayed on the packaging. Search for the following symbol to know how long your self-care favourites will remain safe and effective after opening!

Image indicating the icon to observe to know the life span of the cosmetic care on the packaging

Making a difference

We love to say that we work to reduce cosmetic waste to create a better world for future generations. Not only do we develop clean formulas based on EWG’s highest standards of quality and transparency, but we also offer eco-innovative formats that range from eco-refills that are made with 80% less plastic than its bottled equivalents to our revolutionary bars and sticks.

Thanks to our experienced and innovative teams at both the laboratory and factory, every day we succeed at furthering our progress while reducing our carbon footprint on the earth.

Since 2021, our plastic-free packaging and eco-refills have allowed us to avoid the production of more than 1,000 tons of plastic while our reforestation project has resulted in over 1.5 million trees being planted.

Image explaining that more than 1,000 tons of plastic are saved every year through the use of plastic-free packaging, and that ATTITUDE has planted 1.5 million trees since 2021.

How to be a part of the solution

There are a range of simple things that you can do, as an individual, to help the fight against beauty waste.

1. Create a 100% plastic-free routine

Say goodbye to bottles and jars and say hello to leaves bar™ body care bars and Oceanly™ face care sticks! Formulated with powerful naturally sourced ingredients, these are packaged entirely with FSC-certified and biodegradable cardboard.

Not only are they luxurious and vegan, but they are also proven effective, pleasing to the senses and very easy to use. Are you thinking of making a switch to a zero-waste beauty routine? Take a peek at these 5 helpful hints that will make your life easier.

Image showing all ATTITUDE products with their plastic-free packaging, to fight against cosmetic waste.

2. Choose the right care for you

It’s the best way to avoid cosmetic waste altogether! If your products work well for your skin or hair, there’s a good chance you will use every drop before you get more.

To find products that precisely meet your requirements, try our quizzes and build your personalized skin and hair routines.

3. Buy less, buy better

As Leonard da Vinci fittingly said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” When you have the right care, you don’t need to have a ton! Choose proven and EWG VERIFIED™ formulas that are based on naturally sourced ingredients instead of caving for the discounted products on the market (we know it’s difficult!)

Fortunately, sometimes discounts apply to the cleanest products too!

4. If you must buy plastic, make sure you re-use or recycle it (properly)

One of the biggest obstacles of properly recycling plastic is the overwhelming lack of knowledge or instructions. When you’re about to throw away a package, make sure you know what to do with each piece (cap, pump, bottle, lid, etc.).

When possible, choose brands that use plastic #2 HDPE – the easiest plastic to recycle. And, of course, remember recycling is good, but reusing your plastic bottles with our eco-refills or opting for biodegradable packaging is great.

Cosmetic waste has grown tremendously since the introduction of plastic in the beauty industry. If you want to join us in doing even more to help preserve our beautiful planet, take inspiration from this article on a zero-waste lifestyle.

Reducing your carbon footprint is easier than you think!


  1. https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/blog/2022/1/25/the-ugly-side-of-beauty-the-cosmetics-industrys-plastic-packaging-problem
  2. https://www.oecd.org/fr/environnement/la-pollution-plastique-ne-cesse-de-croitre-tandis-que-la-gestion-et-le-recyclage-des-dechets-sont-a-la-traine.htm
  3. https://www.nationalgeographic.fr/le-plastique-en-10-chiffres https://www.sas.org.uk/our-work/plastic-pollution/plastic-pollution-facts-figures/ https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/14/t-magazine/sustainable-beauty-plastic-packaging.html
  4. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/worlds-plastic-pollution-crisis-explained/
  5. https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/ocean_plastics/
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Written by Team ATTITUDE