Mulch ado about nothing: How viable is industrial composting for beauty?

Plastics that are industrially compostable are a subset of trending biodegradable plastics – but what conditions are required, what standards need to be met and, ultimately, is this a good solution for the cosmetics industry?

If you are a marketer, the idea of slapping the word ‘compostable’ on a beauty pack might be an attractive one. Its connotations are not simply that ‘this packaging does no harm’, but that it is a positive influence, providing the deep, rich material that keeps our garden plants growing.

But how viable a solution are industrially compostable materials for beauty? And how do they stack up against other eco-friendly strategies?

Robert Lilienfeld, a waste expert with more than 20 years experience investigating and reporting on packaging and the environment, tells Cosmetics Business that biodegradation “in and of itself is not necessarily good”. He elaborates: “Biodegradation is a process whereby organic materials are chemically broken down and, when they break down, there are a number of things that happen: you get water vapour and carbon dioxide. And, depending on the type of process, you get methane or ammonia as well. Now, all of these are greenhouse gases.”

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