Waste Not
Reducing Material Use Through Packaging Innovation:
Aveda's Journey

As a leading producer of premium personal care products committed to environmental and social responsibility — articulated as Earth & Community Care — Aveda has long been focused on reducing the environmental impacts associated with product packaging. The sustained commitment has evolved over 35 years but can be summarized in three main themes:

  • Reducing the amount of packaging used for any product to the minimum necessary to meet safety, regulatory and marketing requirements.
  • Using materials that are:
    • Recyclable
    • Contain the maximum recycled content feasible
    • Sustainably produced and/or sourced and certified so when appropriate
  • Recapturing and repurposing materials so that they do not end up in waste streams

Limiting the Amount of Packaging

According to long-term employees, rom our earliest years in business. This approach was not necessarily consistent with common practices in the premium personal care products industry at that time but it was consistent with Aveda’s long-term commitment to environmental responsibility that dated to the founding of the company. While there are not records of specific projects designed to achieve this goal prior to 1991, by the early 2000s Aveda innovated a refillable lipstick container (pictured above) as well as a number of makeup items with innovative minimal packaging. Later in the decade a “Litership” marketing program was developed for shampoos and conditioners — two of Aveda’s primary product lines — to encourage customers to purchase larger containers. Two benefits of this program are reduced cost for customers compared to regular-size product[1] and a reduced packaging-to-product ratio resulting in the need for less packaging per unit of product.

Driving Recyclability

Aveda’s focus on recyclability of packaging materials and use of high post-consumer recycled content (PCR) in our packaging is motivated by two interrelated objectives: reducing the use of petroleum-derived virgin materials and promoting markets for recycled materials. This process began in 1991 with the development of the first official Aveda Packaging Guidelines, which were followed by a steady increase in the use of PCR:

  • 1992 — 25% PCR in HDPE bottles
  • 1996 — 45% PCR HDPE bottles
  • 1999 — 50% PCR paperboard cartons
  • 2001 — 80% PCR in HDPE; cumulative estimate of 150 tons of waste avoided to date
  • 2002 — 100% PCR PET bottles introduced; 35% PCR polyethylene tubes introduced
  • 2003 — 100% PCR newsprint in makeup packaging
  • 2005 — 25% PCR polypropylene caps introduced
  • 2007 — Over 1,000,000 pounds (500 tons) of PCR used to date
  • 2008 — 100% PCR HDPE bottles and 100% PCR polypropylene caps introduced
  • 2010 — All shampoo bottles contain a minimum of 80% PCR
  • 2011 — 60% + of all Aveda packaging contains PCR; 65% PCR achieved in tubes
  • 2012 — 100% HDPE bottles launched for some major new product lines including Invati,™ designed for guests experiencing signs of hair and scalp aging such as thinning, loss of volume and lack of density.

This commitment to steadily increasing the use of PCR was reinforced during the 2000s by Aveda’s decision to work closely with EPEA and seek to apply its Cradle-to-Cradle® principles; especially the concept of technical nutrient cycles in which materials can continuously cycle and not become waste. While recycling alone does not completely fulfill the C2C vision because some materials deteriorate in quality after a few cycles, it is an important first step as a company strives to identify materials that ultimately can cycle continuously either in the biosphere or technosphere, which is Aveda’ ultimate goal for packaging. In the meantime, our aggressive growth in the use of PCR materials — which has been achieved through active partnerships with our suppliers — has avoided hundreds of tons of waste and helped to support public recycling programs. We have been recognized for these efforts through C2C silver certification by EPEA for several packages.

Packaging Retrieval

Aveda fully realizes that despite reasonably well-developed recycling programs in North America, the “Green Dot”-related initiatives in Europe and developing programs in some Asian countries, only a fraction of the packages that we put into the marketplace are recaptured and repurposed. This is despite our long-term commitment to promoting markets for packaging materials. As a result we embarked in 2008 on an initial program to retrieve one resin — polypropylene — that was not then frequently recycled. The Recycle Caps with Aveda program was launched with several goals:

  • Engage school children in recycling and promote broad awareness
  • Promote caps recycling in public programs
  • Reduce threats to wildlife from ingestion caps and
  • Recapture resin for use in caps on Aveda products

To date we have collected an estimated 115,000,000 caps and reused a significant share of the recycled resin in caps for Aveda products, and we have seen a significant increase in public recycling of polypropylene. Despite the success of the caps program, however, it doesn’t really meet our C2C goal of recapturing Aveda packaging, since the vast majority of caps are from beverage containers. As a result, in 2011 we launched a pilot Aveda packaging “take-back” program in one sales region in the US. We are evaluating next steps for this program.

We are pleased with the results of our efforts to date, our work with organizations such as the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, of which Aveda was a founder, and look forward to continued progress towards Cradle-to-Cradle® nutrients cycle for packaging in the future — where no non-compostable materials are released to the environment.

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