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5 common ways beauty brands are greenwashing


Brands know that they have to do something about their environmental impact. But sadly a lot of brands end up doing things that make them seem more sustainable rather than actually lowering their negative impact on the planet. I think it's important for consumers and brands learn more about this so consumers can demand better and so brands will do better. Greenwashing is not going to cut it and I hope more brands start to cut the bullshit in 2022.



1. Plastic recycling

"100% recyclable!"

Plastic recycling does not work. it has been well known for decades. but brands still promote it as sustainable. Plastic Recycling is a scam and perpetuating this idea is just helping the fossil fuel industry keep destroying the planet. Only 9% of plastic has ever been recycled and only 10% of that gets made into something that even CAN be recycled again.


References:
Videos

Plastic Recycling is an Actual Scam | Climate Town

The Plastic Problem - A PBS NewsHour Documentary

The recycling myth: What actually happens to our plastic

Does recycling work anymore?


Audio

Waste Land


Articles

The Recycling Myth - Big Oil’s Solution For Plastic Waste Littered With Failure

Here are 5 Reasons Explaining Why Recycling is a Scam

How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

Most plastic will never be recycled – and the manufacturers couldn’t care less

Plastic Wars: Industry Spent Millions Selling Recycling — To Sell More Plastic

Exposing The Myth Of Plastic Recycling: Why A Majority Is Burned Or Thrown In A Landfill

'Plastic recycling is a myth': what really happens to your rubbish?

More Recycling Won't Solve Plastic Pollution

A Whopping 91 Percent of Plastic Isn’t Recycled

Recycling Myth

Recapping on BP’s long history of greenwashing

What Percentage of Recycling Actually Gets Recycled?


Report

Deception by the Numbers



2. Take-back-programs

"terracycle will take care of it!"

Terracycle (or PACT or any other similar company) actually can't recycle everything. They make their money from brands that pay them to greenwash their reputation and to take their trash. It is not safe from the landfill and some hard to recycle items cause more negative impact from being recycled than going to landfill. The intention of programs like this is to make consumers believe that all plastic can be recycled, which is just not true.


References:
Articles

What is TerraCycle? [& Why Going Low-Waste Matters More Than Recycling]

How a lawsuit against TerraCycle shows the limits of recycling trash in the U.S.

This company claims to help the world’s biggest corporations recycle. Activists say it’s greenwashing.

TerraCycle Is Corporate America’s Favorite Recycling Company. It May Be Helping Them Greenwash

Raining On The Parade: A Critique Of Packaging “take Back”​ Programs (Terracycle,loop, Nespresso Etc.)



3. Bioplastic

"it's made out of sugarcane!"

Sugarcane gets turned into biofuel that then gets turned into plastic, once it has been turned into plastic it is chemically the same as fossil fuel plastic. There is NO difference. You are still causing as much plastic pollution as if you use fossil fuel based plastic.


References:
Articles

Why Bioplastics Will Not Solve the World’s Plastics Problem

Five sustainable boondoggles: greenwashing all the way to the bank

What you need to know about plant-based plastics



4. Ocean waste plastic

"were saving the oceans"

Plastic taken out of the ocean is generally degraded and dirty. It takes manual labor to sort and clean it and in most cases you need to mix it with virgin plastic for it to be useable. This makes it extremely expensive, most OWP is actually "ocean bound", plastic that otherwise would of gone into the ocean. The only way to keep plastic out of our oceans is to produce less.


References:
Videos

Why recycled ocean plastic is (often) a lie


Articles

Plastic collected by The Ocean Cleanup will be burned to generate electricity

Marine plastic pollution



5. Plastic Neutral/Negative

"were plastic negative!"

The only way to actually be plastic neutral or negative should be not using plastic. Since plastic recycling is a scam, supporting programs to clean up plastic waste does not in any way compensate for you using plastic for your products. Cleaning up plastic is good, but it doesn't give you license to just make more plastic. The only way to keep plastic out of our oceans and environment is to make less.


References:

WWF Position Plastic Crediting and Plastic Neutrality - Statement

A Sea of Plastics Claims and Credits: Steering Stakeholders Towards Impact - Report


Articles

The Wild West of plastic credits and offsets

Plastic Credits – Helpful or Harmful?



Don't fall for it!

we need to do better.

It's not just consumers that fall for greenwashing. It's easy to believe something that we really want to be true. It can be really hard to accept that you were wrong and something you are doing is not as sustainable as you thought it was. Think about where you get your information, is your sustainability expert selling you the solution?

Jennifer Carlsson
Photo of Jennifer Carlsson, blue hair with a fringe, big glasses with clear frames and cute pastel clothes
Beauty Brand Strategy Consultant
I spend most of my days gathering data about the beauty industry into a huge database and thanks to my eidetic memory the database is both in both my computer and my head. Want to know what’s going on in the beauty industry? I’m the person to talk to.

As a multitalented Unicorn bringing together a critical eye and aesthetic sense as a professional designer with data science, business analysis and strategic thinking I offer a unique holistic perspective and understanding of the industry.