What Do Beauty and Baby Food Have In Common? They Produce a Ton of Waste

On average, every American produces 1,609 pounds of garbage every year–and on the global level, we produce 2.12 billion tons of waste every year. You read that right. And when it comes to plastic, 91% of plastic waste hasn’t been recycled.

On a daily basis, many of us try to do right by the environment. We recycle. We plant trees. We minimize water usage. We carpool. But when it comes to waste, the current efforts just don’t balance out the monstrous mountain of trash that is created yearly. Sustainability is – a lot of times – easier said than done. But some brands are taking on the urgent challenge, solving problems, setting standards, and making meaningful sustainable decisions that are much easier for the rest of us.

Take Palette by pak. This beauty start-up is leading the sustainable beauty packaging revolution and is on a mission to make beauty reusable. Not an easy feat when you consider all the disposable plastic tubes, pumps, droppers, containers, and bottles that are used in just one day in the average person’s beauty and personal care routine. Disrupting a billion-dollar disposable beauty industry, Palette is using innovation, form, function, and design to provide refillable, washable, and reusable beauty products to stop disposable beauty in its tracks.

How big is the problem? About 120 billion units (yes billion) of disposable beauty and personal care products are produced every year. If you need a visual of how big this actually is, it’s enough to fill the entire Pacific Ocean each year. Considering that recent statistics reveal that as much as 95% of this packaging is not actually getting recycled, it doesn’t take long for alarm bells to start going off.

Tackling disposable beauty one category at a time, Palette is first addressing a very important subset of the greater single-use and disposable beauty packaging problem–travel size and minis.

Most people don’t know that tiny plastics like single-use travel size and minis do not get recycled at all due to their small size and go straight into our landfills, our waterways, and oceans. This is why California and New York have banned travel-sized products in hotels beginning in 2023 and 2025 respectively.

Another industry that is big on single-use items and is being shaken up? The baby food industry. It is projected to reach $96.3 billion by 2027 and currently lacks the same regulations and requirements as its baby formula counterparts.

What that means: Pretty much anything goes when it comes to how the food our little ones eat is packaged and processed, which not only means more waste, it can also lead to issues in brain development due to chemicals seeping into sauces and purees.

Brands like Cerebelly are keeping nutrition a top priority by making vegetables the first ingredient and reducing sugar. The food they offer is non-GMO, 100% plant-derived, dairy-free, gluten-free–and they’re setting standards where none previously existed.

It is the first and only baby food brand to provide the 16 essential nutrients that are critical to brain development, which in itself is a big enough development; but they are also the first children’s food brand to receive the Clean Label Project’s Purity Award, which is given to products that are tested for over 400 contaminants and heavy metals.

While transparency and science are big wins, they’re also leading the way in working with customers to reduce consumer waste. Through a partnership with international recycling leader, TerraCycle, which specializes in providing recycling solutions for typically unrecyclable waste, Cerebelly has achieved a major milestone of 100,000 baby food pouches recycled and, as of Earth Day 2022, Cerebelly’s waste collection is expected to reach 110,000 pouches recycled.

Terracycle is hoping to help other baby food brands, too. Gerber currently has a recycling program with Terracycle to mail-in packaging that otherwise can’t be recycled in local municipal programs. With prepaid shipping labels, you can send in your packaging for reprocessing. It’s a start.

Thanks to companies like Terracycle, more than 200 trillion people around the world are now recycling, and they’re aiming to eventually be able to “recycle everything”–a lofty goal worth pursuing.

Recycling reduces the needed amount of raw materials to be processed, therefore, reducing air and water pollution. It also positively affects climate change by saving energy and thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s vital for businesses to contribute to the sustainability of our planet. And while a lot of us try our best via sustainable habits, we want–and should–try to do more, and support brands that are not just solving problems, but setting the standards for us to follow in the future. As a mom of littles and a woman who likes a bold lip now and then, I’m keeping my eye on ways to reduce my waste.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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