How California’s Plastic Law Will Impact The Beauty Industry

3 min reading time

The US is one of the worst offending countries for plastic waste. But, with a sweeping new law, California is trying to make a difference. This will mean big changes across industries, and beauty is no exception.

Every year, more than 380 million tons of plastic waste is produced around the world. Around half of that is single-use.

When these plastics break down, they don’t disappear. They break into tiny pieces, called microplastics, which, research suggests, leak harmful chemicals into the soil and waterways.

Microplastics are, quite literally, everywhere. They’re in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and much of the fish people consume, too.

Now with a new law, which was signed back in June, California is trying to get to grips with the problem and crack down on single-use plastic pollution.

By 2028, the state aims to ensure that at least 30 percent of the plastic bought and sold in the state is recyclable. By 2032, that rises to 65 percent.

Brands that don’t partake will be faced with costly fines (a maximum of $50,000 per day).

This means the beauty and personal care industries, which are already responsible for producing around 120 billion units of packaging a year, will have to take action.

Beauty will be forced to tackle its waste problem

Brands will have to make big changes if they want to sell their products in California, a state with a significant customer base for the industry.

According to the LA Business Journal, around 116 million US consumers bought beauty products online in 2020. More than six million were based in the Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange counties alone.

Beauty products often come with things like pump dispensers, for example, which are difficult to recycle. Most mascara and lipstick tubes also present a challenge. Due to their size, industrial recycling machines struggle to break them down.

Face wipes, sheet masks, and under-eye patches are just a few more examples of single-use beauty products.

Brands will now have to take more responsibility for providing refillable, reusable, plastic-free, or recyclable options.

According to Mia Davis, Credo’s vice president of sustainability and impact, California’s new law “feels like a very bright spot in a dark time.” The clean beauty retailer started ditching single-use plastics in 2020.

Under the new law, California will establish a state recycling program, which will be run by a “producer responsibility organization.” The latter will also manage a $500 million per year plastic pollution mitigation fund.

Davis told Vogue Business: “I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it feels like there’s a lot of very strong thinking that is based in reality in this bill. I think it is something we should be proud of, watch and hopefully emulate in other states.”

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