The Body Care Industry's Plastic Waste Problem

Aussies throw 152 million empty bottles of plastic body care products to landfill every year. We've found a way to make it zero.
The Body Care Industry's Plastic Waste Problem

There's nothing pretty about the amount of plastic waste the Australian body care industry produces. In the last 12 months alone, a total of 179 million bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and deodorant were purchased, used once, and thrown away, and that was just through Aussie supermarkets.

How many of the bottles used get recycled or end up in landfill?

According to a Federal Government Waste Report, only 15% of the plastic we use in Australia actually gets recycled, so that means a heartbreaking 152 million of those plastic bottles ended up in landfill.

Plastic in landfill

How big is the plastic waste problem? 

To put that another way, by volume, that's the equivalent of taking 15,200 Big Bananas from Coffs Harbour and burying them underground. It's no wonder the plastic pollution problem is starting to turn up everywhere from our oceans to our blood stream to our lungs. 

But don't freak out, because all the big body care brands have agreed to stop sending plastic to landfill next year. Woo! Just kidding. Things are only getting worse, because the body care market in Australia (and around the world) is booming, and the industry is completely hooked on single-use plastic, so the tsunami of plastic waste is only going to keep growing.

Despite global conglomerates like L’Oréal and Unilever signing up to make all their body products 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025, they'll still be producing obscene amounts of virgin plastic, which costs the earth precious resources, so the problem of plastic in landfill remains.

Looking at reports on plastic waste, like one from recycling company TerraCycle, it states the cosmetic industry produces 120 billion bits of packaging each year. BILLION! That's too many Big Bananas to calculate, but it's definitely proof the days of giant companies spruiking reduce and recycle have passed and the closed loop economy is the only way to untrash the planet. Enter a little company from Byron Bay, Australia.

What’s the solution to plastic in landfill? 

Mike, our grand poobah plastic-buster, was all over this when he started Zero Co. One of his favourite mantras has always been "no more plastic in landfill, we need to move towards a circular economy and by adopting habits or consuming brands that support this movement you're actively choosing to protect our planet and minimise your footprint." Or words to that effect.

Starting out focused on smashing plastic waste in people's kitchen and laundry, the plan was always to expand and help people win the war on waste everywhere. When it came time to develop new products, there were a few ideas on the whiteboard, but as soon as we learnt how much the body products industry contributed to plastic in landfill that's when the idea for the world's first single-use plastic free body care range was hatched. 

In addition to developing amazing shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and body lotion, minus all the single-use plastic, part of the solution is encouraging everyone to make little changes to their daily routine.

Alongside our first-of-its-kind pouch recovery machine, which was custom-built to clean and sanitise used refill pouches, returned by our community, this closed-loop model means no more plastic in landfill, so Aussies can now restore themselves and the planet for the first time. 

Zero Co pouch recovery machine


 Dr Kate Forbes, former global head of product at Aesop, now Zero Co product innovator, is pumped on the project: “It’s such a brilliant concept and one that solves a significant challenge for the body care industry. The innovative pouch cleaning solution that Zero Co has developed has allowed us to create these products in the liquid format that make it easy to use for people. It's been incredibly difficult, but the team have been persistent in creating products that leave no barrier to entry.”

Where to start? 

There's no denying the size of the body care plastic waste problem is crushing. Who knew all that glowing skin and lovely locks came at such a high price? But there is a simple solution. People just need to start small. Little changes can have big impact. The future of the body care industry can be beautiful.

Published on Thursday 14 April, 2022