New Report Unpacks Beauty Industry's Waste Problem

Danielle Lowe
By Danielle Lowe

Danielle Lowe is the Marketing Manager for ConsultingRoom.com, (www.consultingroom.com) the UK’s largest aesthetic information website. 


Boop, the new online outlet for too-good-to-go beauty, has brought together a panel of movers and shakers to take on the beauty industry’s waste problem.

Sustainability has been hot on the lips of the beauty industry, with excess packaging and green claims taking the limelight. But the beauty industry has a pretty big elephant in the room – beauty product waste.

Together the panel explored three of the industry’s biggest waste culprits: overproduction, packaging and imperfect stock and look ahead to explore emerging trends, shifting consumer mindsets, how brands can take small actionable steps towards reducing waste and the Boop Beauty Revolution.

The panel:

  • Yasmine Amr, Founder of Boop
  • Bianca Foley, Founder and Editor of Sustainably Influenced
  • Lisa Payne, Stylus Head of Beauty Trends
  • Anna Priadka, Entrepreneur and beauty industry expert focused on sustainability. Founder of Planetpacks
  • Michele Scott-Lynch, Founder of Bouclème
  • Catarina De Avillez, Founder of The Natural Africa

“The beauty industry is grappling with waste problems; and our discussion really honed in on the areas of overproduction, packaging, and imperfect stock as the biggest culprits. Boop Beauty and similar companies are vital because they offer solutions to reduce this waste, aligning with shifting consumer demands for more sustainable practices.”

- Bianca Foley, Founder and Editor of Sustainably Influenced

The key challenges for beauty brands in the plight against waste

Overproduction and excess products

More than 10% of beauty products go to waste in brands’ supply chains. To put this into perspective, that’s $4.8bn worth of beauty products destroyed each year – or the entire skincare industry in France. To break that down further, 6.2% of product destruction is solely due to overproduction (that’s $2.89 billion worth of stock) and 4% get thrown out because they’ve reached their expiry date or are damaged (that’s worth $1.86 billion).

Why are these numbers so high? It’s mainly down to two factors: overproduction and poor stock management. This outcome isn’t surprising given inventory accuracy in the beauty industry is 50% on average – and at some high SKU retailers, this is as low as 30%. ii This means the average brand or retailer is getting their stockholding wrong half the time. If brands and retailers don’t have an accurate record of their stock, then they don’t know how to manage the items – which means products could be sitting in warehouses for the entirety of their shelf life.

The overproduction problem is exacerbated by ambitious stock forecasting and trends – things like Christmas edition sets or trend-driven packaging such as the Barbie pink limited edition sets that flooded the market in 2023 and have relatively short-lived customer appeal.

Developments can also exacerbate the industry’s waste problem. Reformulating products, rebranding and changing packaging in line with the latest regulations or advancements can make old stock redundant. Ironically, as brands make moves to more recyclable packaging, it can result in existing, non-recyclable packaging being destroyed or sent to landfill.

Packaging

When we talk about waste, the first thing that might come to mind is packaging. Packaging makes up 70% of the beauty industry’s waste iii and 95% of cosmetic packaging is thrown away, making packaging one of the biggest sustainability challenges facing the beauty industry.

Consumers are demanding more sustainable packaging, with expectations driving new formats and refill schemes.

Anna Priadka, Entrepreneur and beauty industry expert focused on sustainability and founder of Planetpacks shares different approaches for more sustainable beauty packaging:

  • Designing for recyclability with mono-material packaging is the best option for brands now.
  • Bioplastics offer a greener alternative to synthetic plastics.
  • Brand recycling schemes. These can work well as the brand takes control of how well the waste is recycled rather than the customer bearing responsibility. However, it can be difficult for brands to manage, expensive and it isn’t a long-term solution as packaging still ends up in landfill.
  • Design for zero waste/solid or powder products.
  • Digitise product information, no leaflets or excess packaging layers. Where necessary, use FSC-certified card or Mycellium fibre-based packaging.
  • Compostables are a challenge for cosmetics due to contamination and have a short shelf life as they are often stored in high water/humidity places such as the bathroom.
  • Reusability is another key trend for the next decade. It is a workable solution for cosmetics but requires an investment in infrastructure to make the model work.

“Sustainability is seen as a barrier for a lot of brands, but you can use it to help drive the brand creatively and inspire product development. A fragrance brand in the US has used extinct plants as inspiration to create new scents that they create scientifically in a lab. In addition, Krave Beauty created a new cleanser but the formulation wasn’t right, so they upcycled it and relaunched as a body wash instead, offering a 50% discount to customers. It is important for brands to address and communicate these challenges and the journey to consumers.”

- Lisa Payne, Stylus Head of Beauty Trends

Imperfect stock

Premium and luxury brands want to uphold their hard-earned brand value and a key way they do this is by making sure their products appear pristine. But that means products can be destroyed due to ‘wonky’ packaging.

Boop is an online retail site, that saves too-good-to-go products from landfills and re-homing ‘imperfect’ stock. Boop founder Yasmine Amr explains the key reasons some products are deemed ‘imperfect’ and find their way onto the Boop website:

  1. Minor packaging “issues” - from packaging that gets dented or marked during the manufacturing, packaging, or transportation process, to wonky labels or typos on packaging.
  2. Products returned by retailers when they don’t sell. Once products have been on the shelf and handled by customers, their packaging usually isn’t perfect, so they won’t be sent to another retailer for resale.
  3. Products can be missing their box for many reasons, for example, if they’ve been manufactured for sets which weren’t produced in the end.
    Boop example: Some Aromatherapy Associates products have made their way to Boop as they were manufactured without a box because they were meant to be put into sets. However, they didn’t end up making as many sets as they thought, so they’ve got a lot of items they wouldn’t have been able to sell via traditional retailers.
  4. Products which brands consider imperfect because they could be better – these are reformulations, discontinued products, or re-brands.

Emerging trends in sustainability and shifting consumer behaviour

Innovation in beauty coupled with changing attitudes towards ‘second chance’ products means positive change is coming.

Regenerative beauty

The emerging trend for Regenerative Beauty sees brands going above and beyond ‘clean’ and ‘sustainable’. Regenerative Beauty is more than being sustainable, it’s about positive impact, i.e. not just responsible ingredient sourcing and production processes but being restorative for the planet and creating a positive impact.

Consumer behaviour shifts

With buzzwords such as ‘pre-loved’ and ‘upcycled’ becoming the norm within the fashion space and consumers stepping away from fast fashion, the tides are beginning to turn and 1 in 4 customers are prepared to pay more for sustainability.

“As consumer knowledge around sustainability and greenwashing increases, it’s more important than ever for brands to consider how they manage their excess inventory and think about what they view as ‘waste’. But, as we see an uptick of consumer understanding on recyclability and ingredient traceability, I believe it's an opportunity for brands to begin transparently and positively managing their stock. It’s not waste when it’s wanted. Over 95% of women said they’d happily buy imperfect products and 23% said they’d pay the full price for those items. With Boop, we’re showing that what’s traditionally considered ‘undesirable’ can be very much desirable.” 

- Yasmine Amr, founder of Boop.

What’s next?

The beauty industry needs to ride the tide of shifting consumer mindset and acceptance of ‘wonky’ products. Yes, there is innovation in packaging and regenerative beauty also spells hope for the industry’s impact on the planet but how can we prevent excess beauty products from ending up in landfill? The more transparency we demand from brands, the more pressure there will be for them to find a solution for excess stock and perfectly imperfect stock.

Embracing the acceptance of 'wonky' products and advocating for transparency from brands is imperative when speaking about sustainability in the beauty space. With brands demonstrating these steps towards combatting beauty waste further highlights the potential for brands to prioritise sustainability in their supply chains.

Founder Yasmine Amr explains what’s next for Boop and saving too-good-to-go product from landfill:

  • Continuing to grow Boop’s brand offering with brands that have this problem – until now, premium and luxury brands haven’t had an outlet which upholds their brand value while allowing them to efficiently clear unwanted stock. Younger brands can often be more agile, and sustainability-focused, whilst established brands are key for large-scale change and putting pressure on other brands in the industry.
  • Raising the issue of beauty waste, making sure people are aware of how big of a problem this is, and educating them on why ‘imperfect’ products need to be saved from landfills.
  • Building out a community of forward-thinking consumers, making Boop a platform for like-minded individuals to share their thoughts and recommendations and engage with each other. Brands respond to customer demand, so consumers have a huge role to play.

About Boop

Boopbeauty.co.uk is an online outlet dedicated solely to giving a second chance to too-good-to-go beauty & wellness products – whether brands made too much, changed their packaging, discontinued lines or if the products are a little imperfect on the outside. Boop sources directly from brands then sells them to customers at up to 70% off to save them from landfill - making the ‘undesirable’, desirable.

CREC

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