While trying to make my beauty routine plastic-free, there was one thing I picked up on pretty quickly: Refillable was better than recyclable. Of course, recyclable packaging is certainly preferable to throwaway plastic, but it’s even better if you can avoid waste altogether by using products that can be refilled.
In terms of sustainability, recycling is problematic. Due to the long lifespan of plastics, including those designed to be recyclable, disposing of them is difficult, and can often place huge pressure on resources and the environment — whereas if you buy a refill instead of a completely new product, you save 70% on CO2, 65% on energy, and 45% on water, according to research conducted by The LCA Centre. Up until earlier this year, China dealt with the majority of the world’s recycling (the UK alone shipped 2.7 million tons of plastic to China and Hong Kong in the last five years, Greenpeace reported), but with the Chinese government banning imports, the recycling problem is set to get worse.
This is why, when makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis created her eponymous beauty line, Kjaer Weis, investing in a refillable system was key. Each of the brand's luxe products is housed in a weighty keep-forever metal case which can be refilled when finished. “Refillable packaging is very important to me because it really cuts down on the overall amount of waste that we produce and leave behind on this planet," Weis says. "We see the consequences of not recycling everywhere, especially in the oceans with the enormous amount of plastic buildup. It has had serious ramifications that haven’t been paid enough attention to."
While Kjaer Weis is one of the big names pioneering this movement, with more and more consumers now looking for eco-friendly alternatives, a whole host of beauty brands are starting to offer refillable options. Even better, refills are often also wallet-friendly; much like when you get a discount for bringing a reusable coffee cup for your latte, buying refills is often cheaper than a brand new product.