PCR - Our Latest Shift Toward Sustainability

You may have noticed a new look being debuted on some of our best-selling collections. au Naturale is fundamentally built around the belief that everything we do should be good for both people (you!) and the planet - and that includes our packaging!

Years ago, when we first introduced our aluminum packaging, we thought we were doing the earth a solid by using a material that is easily recyclable. Now, after much research, evaluating, testing and learning, we know that’s unfortunately just not the case.

That’s why we’ve pivoted in a new direction and landed on a truly more eco-friendly packaging solution - introducing, PCR! And what better way to introduce clean, new packaging than with a clean, new look!?

You might be thinking - wait a minute, isn’t PCR plastic? And isn’t plastic packaging (especially in the beauty industry) the leading contributor to 8 million metric tons of plastic waste ending up in our landfills and waterways each year? Plastic is bad, not sustainable!

…And you’d be right. Kind of.

Let me break it down for you. 

First off, what is PCR?

PCR (or post-consumer resin) is a plastic that has been repurposed for use again. It's created from already-existing discarded plastics - think water bottles, food containers, shampoo bottles - through the recycling process. These plastics are collected curbside and brought to your local material recovery facility (MRF’s) where they are sorted and melted or ground down into resin pellets that can be remolded to create new PCR material for use in finished products - like our new packaging!

How does using PCR help the environment?

In SO many ways!!

  1. It reduces the amount of virgin (or brand new) plastic being introduced.
  2. It reduces the amount of plastic waste in our landfills and oceans.
  3. It ultimately reduces (y)our carbon footprint!

Okay - that all sounds great, but why does it matter?

Let’s dive a little deeper…

By not manufacturing new plastic, we lower greenhouse gas emissions! The amount of carbon-intensive energy used to source and manufacture products made of recycled (PCR) feedstocks is significantly lower than with virgin materials. 

Reducing the amount of total plastic waste in landfills and oceans? Self-explanatory. A total win all-around.

Using PCR also allows us to close the loop, creating a demand for PCR materials and making huge strides toward a circular economy.  Recycling has a marketplace, just like any other industry, and just like any other market, demand (from brands like us!) drives supply. Creating a vital and thriving market for recycled materials is crucial for a circular economy. If no one uses PCR, plastics will continue to be discarded, new virgin plastic will be created, and we continue to enable a system that isn’t working for our planet. 

Litter on land and in our waterways is a global environmental issue that is affecting human health, the wellbeing of our ecosystems and the economic livelihoods of many. When materials, like plastic, are valued through their end-of-life, they are more likely to be recycled, collected and repurposed and less likely to end up as land or marine pollution. 

Still not sold on PCR?

What if I told you it’s the most sustainable packaging solution when you take into account its entire lifecycle, not just its capacity to be recycled?

Things we considered when choosing a new packaging material:

Sourcing > Manufacturing > Distribution > Usage > End-of-life 

  1. Sourcing is the extraction of raw materials and/or the use of recycled content.
  2. Manufacturing is the conversion of the raw materials into packaging.
  3. Distribution is the transportation from where it was manufactured to the point of use.
  4. Usage is the practical use of the packaging for its intended purpose.
  5. End-of-life encompasses all of the fates the packaging could have after its use.

How does PCR rank on all of the above?

  1. We talked about sourcing PCR above. Removing plastic waste from our landfills and waterways is a total win. Super sustainable and eco-friendly.
  2. We also spoke about how it uses less energy to manufacture products using recycled feedstocks vs. virgin materials. Another sustainable and eco-friendly win!
  3. When it comes to distribution, PCR plastic is far superior to other materials. It is super durable, so it doesn’t require extra packaging materials to keep it safe during transport (unlike glass and aluminum). It also is super lightweight (where glass and metal are super heavy), so it takes less energy to transport which reduces the carbon footprint! Win!
  4. PCR is also a win for usage. It is practical for use (and reuse!) for products in the cosmetics and beauty industry. It keeps products safe, stable and fresh, while protecting the contents inside. 
  5. PCR can be recycled and reused multiple times before its end-of-life (approx. 7-9 times).

So what are the downsides?

For the consumer? None! 

For the brand? There are a few challenges.

  1. Color consistency and color matching are a common challenge. Unlike virgin materials which don’t originally contain pigment, PCR is derived from a mixture of existing materials that may contain a variety of pigments. Long story short - it’s harder to get an exact color match. So you might notice some subtle color differences from batch to batch… no biggie! The product inside is exactly the same!
  2. PCR also has additional processing and sourcing costs for the brand. However, we consider these extra costs to be an investment in our planet and are willing to pay that price. 

What can you expect moving forward?

Right now you can catch 5 collections with our new, PCR packaging:

  1. su/Stain Lip Stain
  2. High Lustre Lip Gloss
  3. Completely Covered Concealer
  4. Color Theory Correctors
  5. Creme de la Creme Shadows

These components are made up of 50% PCR content.

Our plan is to switch over our entire line to components made of at least 50% PCR material as the inventory of our current aluminum components runs out. We've accepted that sustainability is not a destination, it is a complex journey. The goal is to continue to become more and more sustainable, always moving the needle. 

Stay tuned for more updates on our sustainability efforts as we evolve!


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