As more big brands partner up to start making their products more sustainable at the core of their manufacturing chain, it’s a positive sign for climate progress
Beauty products maker The Estée Lauder Companies and specialty chemicals firm Eastman announced an agreement to incorporate Eastman’s molecular recycled technologies into the packaging of the cosmetics giant’s products.
This marks the first sustainability agreement for Eastman with a major luxury cosmetics brand. Eastman’s molecular recycling technologies break down waste into its molecular building blocks. As a result, those plastics can be reused over and over again, explains the company on its website.
Also known as mechanical recycling, traditional recycling involves breaking down clear resins of categories 1 and 2 such as clear water and milk bottles (the numbers in the triangle at the bottom/side of most plastic products). Molecular recycling, on the other hand, would include codes 3 through 7, such as fast-food containers, colored plastics, and plastic eyeglass frames. These items usually end up in landfills or get incinerated.
These and several other technologies are part of Eastman’s efforts to transition from a linear to a circular economy. In a linear system, raw materials move through several stages of production to end up in consumers’ hands and then in landfills. A circular system ensures that source materials are part of a circular cycle, whereby they get recycled at the end of their use and then follow on back into the manufacturing process to start the cycle all over again.
Eastman states that 300 million metric tons of new plastics are produced globally and 260 million metric tons of plastics are disposed of annually. Only 12 percent of those actually get mechanically recycled. The remaining 40 percent end up in landfills, 25 percent is incinerated, 19 percent end in unmanaged dumps or leaks into the environment, and 16 percent is sent to mechanical recycling. Eastman’s goal is to target the non-recycled materials and use its technologies to move them from a linear trajectory into a circular one.
For Estée Lauder, this agreement expands their ESG focus of providing sustainable packaging of their cosmetics. The company has set a goal of making 75 – 100 percent of its packaging recyclable, refillable, reusable, recoverable, or recycled by 2025.
Last year, Estée Lauder achieved its goals to source 100 percent renewable electricity and have net-zero carbon emissions. The company switched to two new solar systems in North America and Europe, adding 3.8 megawatts of solar power to bring its total solar capacity to more than 5 megawatts.
It also created science-based targets for reducing scope 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the company met its goals of zero industrial waste-to-landfill for its own global manufacturing, distribution, and innovation sites.
“Our suppliers play a critical role in helping The Estée Lauder Companies continue to move the needle and think innovatively about sustainability,” said Roberto Magana, senior vice president and chief procurement officer at Estée Lauder in a statement. “Eastman’s molecular recycling technologies and portfolio of Renew products will help drive the achievement of the company’s sustainable packaging goals while maintaining the high-quality aesthetic, safety, and performance of our prestige products. We look forward to collaborating with them.”