The Need to Innovate Beauty Industry
Have you ever thought of the highly underestimated cost we pay for everything we consume?
And I am not talking here about the price we pay for solely acquiring goods. What I have in mind is slightly more overlooked and all-encompassing, which is each product's afterlife cost, e.g. the amount of resources it takes to take care of the product after it has been discarded.
Due to the complexity of materials (owing to chemical nature of most formulas), this cost is especially high in the beauty and personal care industries. Let's look at a simple case of a toothbrush, which can most likely be found in everyone's bathrooms. Statistically, toothbrushes need to be replaced every 3 to 4 months (which equals to around 4 toothbrushes a year used), thanks to oral bacteria that assembles and can otherwise cause infections. All toothbrushes are made of mixed materials, most common ones being a combination of plastic and rubber for the hand piece, nylon for the bristles, and a mix of plastic and cardboard for the actual packaging.
Except for the cardboard, none of those materials are biodegradable (polypropylene plastic and nylon are also non-renewable fossil fuels), thus they go straight to landfills, as the process of dissembling aforementioned elements from one another, in order for them to be recycled, is simply not economically viable. Now, just imagine that every single toothbrush you have used since birth is still out there, lying in one of your country's vast landfills. Staggering, isn't it? In the United States alone, it is estimated that over 1 billion toothbrushes are discarded and end up in landfill every single year. Just to put the numbers in context, it is enough to stretch around the Earth 4 times. Additionally, Australia can "boast" of over 30 million toothbrushes disposed each year, resulting to approximately 1000 tons of landfill or worse, the ocean.
Luckily, there are better alternatives out there, and the cause, as well as the answer, of the problem lies in the design! Product designers should not only take into account the attractiveness (color, shape, design, materials and finishing touches) and optimal performance of the product for the period of usage, they should also think hard and long about the product's fate after it has done its deed. To finish the case of a plastic toothbrush, one of many greater alternatives would be a toothbrush, which is made of bamboo. It eliminates all the unnecessary plastic, and the handle (after removing the bristles) can go back to the soil.
Moreover, recycling is only the middle part of the pyramid, with most sustainable solution being reusing the object, which in our case could be: using the toothbrush after its "first life" to polish jewelry, comb eyebrows, clean shoes, etc. However, these functions should be well thought out during the design process, and customers should be well informed and educated about them. Only by doing this, we can arrive at a better, less wasteful and more cognizant future (or with our current waste levels, any future at all whatsoever).
Author: Ieva Dobilaite / Homo Eminens