We have to get rid of plastic. But not just!

Ellen MacCarthur Foundation

The key issues mentioned in the video above by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation are:

To create a Circular Economy for plastic we must take three actions:
Eliminate all problematic and unnecessary plastic items

Innovate to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

Circulate all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.

But when we work on a truly systemic approach, we have to consider many levels of a products’s production as you will see from the diagram below.


I will be running a course next week on developing Circular Packaging with Marketing Students next week.

A large part of the course is dedicated to thinking about a Circular Systems Based approach to designing packaging. Here is a Circular Systemic Levels diagram, I use to talk about lipstick packaging as an example:

As you can see, ideally, we have to work with others to think about the bottom of the pyramid – the materials we will use to make the lipstick. Where do they come from? Are they harmful to the environment? If they are vegan which materials would replace the chemical ones? Most lipsticks are made from three basic ingredients: wax, oil, and pigment. Pigment is the colour. Waxes provide shape and a spreadable texture. Oils – such as petrolatum, lanolin, cocoa butter, jojoba, castor, and mineral – add moisture.

Then we have the exact recipe – where other elements could be added to the materials above. We are are also looking at plastics here or metal for the tubing or primary packaging sub-components.

Then the product – the range, the different colours – for example, A common pigment in red lipstick is carmine red, which is derived from boiling an insect!  Pink lipsticks are made by mixing white titanium dioxide and red shades.

Then the service created around the Product – things we need to consider when distributing the lipsticks, makeup purchase or services in-store or online, Duty Free… We need to think about transport, logistics, merchandising units, secondary and tertiary packaging etc…

Near the top of the pyramid are the socio-economic issues in cosmetic industries – how about animal testing and consumer safety, industrial context – factories etc, staff exposure to certain materials, staff conditions, pay etc., stores…

And finally, at the top of the pyramid, are the societal effects of this whole production process on chemical or air pollution or climate impact. But also, self-image and self-esteem.

It’s hard for designers, or those commissioning packaging in Marketing Departments to consider all tiers of this diagram, but eventually we will need all to, to create a real systemic approach where all waste is reused responsibly.

Here is a company which is really committed to changing the whole way the make-up industry works, and in particular, lipstick. La Bouche Rouge… take a look at this video (in French) to understand how it is making a difference with a sustainable approach.

If you would like to know more about my course in this area or workshops I run with a Circular Approach, please get in touch.

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