Europe has a leg up on the U.S. in a couple of regards when it comes to recycling, namely facilities capable of recycling more types of materials and a cumulative population that, in general, recycles more. But the global effort from companies to reduce waste and encourage recycling is making a worldwide difference, and they’re doing it, in part, by making recycling more convenient. P&G Beauty, for example, has introduced a packaging strategy in Europe that takes aim at increasing recycling rates while at the same time cutting down on plastics usage and maintaining customer convenience.
At the Reuters Business Summit near the end of October during the panel “The Window to Act is Now: Advancing Responsible Beauty in Europe,” P&G Beauty unveiled a shampoo refill system for its Head & Shoulders, Pantene, Herbal Essences and Aussie brands that will get underway in 2021. And, no, the idea of a refill system is nothing new, after all TerraCycle’s Loop program, of which P&G was a launch partner for, is nearing two years old — and that itself is a take on old-fashioned milk deliveries.
What makes P&G Beauty’s system unique is the blend of packaging it uses: a new reusable 100% aluminum bottle and recyclable (in certain areas) stand-up refill pouch, made using 60% less plastic (per ml versus the standard brand bottle). P&G Beauty says it’s on track to reduce virgin plastic usage by 50% in its shampoo and conditioner bottles by the end of 2021, where through collective efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle it will result in 300 million fewer virgin plastic bottles being produced yearly.
“We need to start turning the tide on the plastic waste crisis, and there is no time to waste when it comes to protecting our planet. That is why I’m thrilled to announce a new packaging innovation called the ‘good refill system,’” says Artur Litarowicz, senior vice president and general manager of haircare for P&G Europe. He then adds, “We know this is just the start. There is so much more to do, and I am passionate about P&G Beauty being a force for good across Europe as we step toward achieving our 2030 Responsible Beauty goals at pace.”
The “2030 Responsible Beauty” goals Litarowicz references are the company’s aim based on five interconnected guiding principles: Quality and Performance; Safety; Sustainability; Transparency; and Equality and Inclusion. Those five components form the foundation of the company’s 2030 goals which represent its vision “to be a positive force for beauty in the world.” The goals extend to a range of initiatives from social aspects like equality to increasing the environmental responsibility of its ingredients. When it comes to packaging, the company aims to have 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2030. It expects to have 90% of its major packaging platforms being recyclable or reusable by 2025. Also by 2025, it expects to have a 50% reduction in the use of virgin fossil-based plastic across its lines.
Virginie Helias, P&G’s chief sustainability officer, says, “We have committed to enable and inspire responsible consumption through innovation on our product and packaging. Our leading beauty brands in Europe touch millions of lives. This new packaging innovation will contribute to making the reuse of packaging irresistible, while enabling a reduction of virgin plastic as per P&G’s Ambition 2030 commitment. It’s no longer about if or what we can do, but how quickly we can do it — the window is now for embracing new sustainable lifestyles.”
Efforts like those made by P&G Beauty helps consumers to more easily make environmentally conscious choices that, in turn, spur CPGs to make further environmentally conscious changes. It’s something that Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, comments on during the panel at the Reuters Business Summit, “I’ve long been a believer that a refill behavior is a big part of the future of sustainable packaging, and the innovation announced by P&G Beauty today is a positive step in the right direction for the many millions of households Head & Shoulders, Pantene, Herbal Essences and Aussie serve,” he says. “While there is of course more to be done, it’s great to see large companies such as P&G Beauty taking the issue seriously and using their scale to drive change quickly and impactfully.”