Consumers increasingly demand sustainable packaging. Especially eco-conscious shoppers who buy brands with a green core want to see packaging that is recyclable, renewable or made from sustainable resources. According to predictions from European Bioplastics, the market for bioplastics will increase to from around 1.6 million tons in 2013 to approximately 6.7 million tons in 2018.
While these numbers are impressive, the Body Shop is taking the concept one step further. The company plans to use methane and carbon dioxide, which would otherwise be released into the air as greenhouse gas, in its packaging. The new technology aims at taking greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere and keeping the oil in the ground.
The Body Shop is working together with California-based Newlight Technologies, a California-based company that found a way to turn methane-based carbon emissions into plastic pellets that can be used for packaging, among other things. Newlight Technologies was founded in 2003 with the ambition to use greenhouse gases as a resource. This would not only conserve fossil fuels but also help solve one of the greatest challenges the world is facing today.
After more than 10 years of research and development, Newlight has commercialized a carbon capture technology that combines air with methane-based greenhouse gas emissions to produce a plastic material called AirCarbon. The methane can be sourced from a variety of sources including landfills and wastewater treatment plants. AirCarbon matches the performance of petroleum-based plastics and is cost-efficient, according to the company.
It can be used in extrusion, blown film, cast film, thermoforming, fiber spinning and injection molding processes. What’s more, the material has also been certified by an independent third party to be carbon-negative in a cradle-to-grave assessment. Newlight is currently working with more than 60 companies, making everything from cellphone cases, to plastic chairs, to bottle caps.
The newest addition: The Body Shop. The Body Shop is the first company in the beauty industry to commit to using AirCarbon in its packaging. For Mark Herrema, CEO at Newlight, this is a clear success. He says: “We are proud to work with The Body Shop to help them replace oil-based plastics with AirCarbon, and use captured carbon as a source of good.”
The partnership with Newlight is part of The Body Shop’s new global initiative with ambitious goals. The company announced its plans to reduce the use of oil-based packaging by 70 percent by 2020. To this end, The Body Shop seeks to explore a number of new academic, technology and research partnerships to find new packaging solutions. The company is inviting global experts to join its search for better, more sustainable packaging.
Christopher Davis, International Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at The Body Shop International, sees the partnership with Newlight as one step in the process toward greater resource efficiency of product packaging, which has the potential of radically reinterpreting the way cosmetics are bought and sold.