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Beauty brands brace for incoming sustainable packaging regulations

As we inch closer to 2024, significant changes to packaging regulations are on the horizon for both the EU and the United Kingdom. Beauty and cosmetic companies will need to pay close attention.

For too long, eco-conscious skincare lovers have felt a pang of guilt when throwing out empty plastic bottles once they’ve reached the end of their favourite products.

Their guilt isn’t unfounded either, as 95 percent of all cosmetic packaging is made from non-recyclable plastic. This has resulted in the beauty industry producing 120 billion units of single-use packaging each year – a number that is still on track to increase in the future.

In recent years, a movement to make beauty product packaging refillable has attempted to minimise the industry’s wasteful reliance on single-use plastic. Researchers suggested that the purchase of refillable products results in 70 percent less CO2 emissions, 60 percent less energy use, and 45 percent less water use than if customers purchased a brand new bottle.

But getting consumers to jump on this trend of refilling rather than purchasing a whole new product hasn’t been the smooth transition many brands hoped it would be – nor has it eliminated the production of virgin plastic packaging in the first place.

The good news is that big changes are on the horizon. Incoming regulations set out by the UK and EU are aimed at reshaping the way consumer goods are packaged, as governments recognise sustainability and circularity as some of their top priorities.

With some policies on packaging set to come into force as early as 2024, beauty brands will be scrambling to revolutionise how they serve up their magical creams, lotions, and serums.

Let’s look at what that will entail.

Last year, the European Commission warned that the EU would see a 19 percent increase in its annual packaging waste and a 49 percent increase in plastic packaging waste by 2030 if no serious action was taken to mitigate this problem.

Thankfully, their reports are being answered by a new policy called the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR).

Scheduled to take effect in the EU in 2024, the PPWR is striving to reduce waste from product packaging and eventually create a completely circular economy for waste resulting from packaging.

From next year, all packaging sold in the EU will be required to be designed for recyclability by January 1st, 2030, with a five-year grace period for full recyclability. The objective is to combat packaging pollution and reduce the environmental footprint of products sold on the market.

New rules about packaging waste in the UK are also striving to remove the burden of responsibility for recycling from customers, through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) bill which will come into place in 2025.

Under these regulations, brands will be financially responsible for the packaging they introduce into the market. By charging companies a fee, they will be forced to cover the expenses associated with collecting, sorting, and recycling packaging materials they produce.


While most brands will be well informed of these incoming changes, they still face challenges despite the heads-up.

The beauty industry, known for its constant innovation and evolving product lines, faces a unique dilemma. The rapid speed at which brands move from initial production to launching products on the market grossly conflicts with sustainability principles.

So while it’s obvious that cosmetics brands will need to reinvent their packaging and explore new technology that uses sustainable approaches, they will also need teamwork and partnership with experts working in other sectors.

For example, to ensure that they avoid greenwashing, companies should use data-driven decision-making when looking to achieve ecological packaging goals.

They should also have access to accurate, real-time packaging data across the entire supply chain while considering factors such as recyclability, recycled content, waste reduction, and shelf life.

With both the EU and the UK enforcing their regulations within the next couple of years, it’s clear that sustainability is about to become the new norm.

Top industry players will have no choice but to embrace sustainability as the guiding principle for the future of packaging – or disappear from the market altogether.