Fans who excitedly ripped into their first orders from Glossier Play — Glossier’s new line of “dialed up beauty extras” — after the brand’s mid-March launch got more than they bargained for. In addition to coveted bottles of Nightshade liquid highlighter and click-pen applicators of Vinylic Lip lacquer, customers found a whole lot of packaging waste. Many took to Reddit, Instagram, and other social platforms to lament the excess cardboard and plastic — and now, Glossier Play’s packaging might be changing for the better.
Granted, Glossier packaging has never really been green, per se. Customers and Glossier reps alike have called attention to this issue in the past, asking the brand to discontinue its cute but non-recyclable stickers, make the famous bubble wrap “pink pouch” optional at checkout, and reconsider the two to three layers of shipping materials that wrap each product.
But Glossier Play’s packaging — while perhaps a fun unboxing experience — took this all to the next level. Brand-loving Redditors were particularly concerned about the individual foil wrappers that encased the cardboard boxes that housed the products themselves. “What were they thinking?” one fan asked. Another Instagram Story post from "anonymous beauty collective" Estée Laundry highlighted the amount of packaging versus product in one order (below); a four-to-one ratio at least. Luckily, Glossier is heeding the eco-conscious call — and fast. The brand has always fostered open conversation with its customers, and after listening to concerns about sustainability, it responded to comments on Instagram confirming it will be phasing out Glossier Play’s foil wrappers over the next six months.
Additionally, Glossier has discontinued sticker sheets from shipments and updated its shipping boxes to be made out of 100 percent recycled materials, a source tells TZR. The brand even promised via Instagram comments to swap out the plastic glitter used in the Glitter Gelée product in favor of a biodegradable version; and is planning to share more about its ongoing efforts in the eco-friendly space soon, the source continues. As of now, most of Glossier’s secondary packaging can be recycled (barring the plastic carton of Cloud Paint, per a tweet from the brand), including the pink pouches — which are also intended to be reused as makeup bags, pencil cases, and TSA-friendly travel pouches (they're perfectly quart-sized for a reason, after all).
This quick-to-action approach is a smart one for the millennial-focused company, considering the fact that consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their beauty products — with good reason. “Of the 1.3 billion tons of waste produced globally each year, over 300 million tons per year is plastic; half of which is for single use,” Susan Stevens, the CEO and founder of Made With Respect, tells The Zoe Report. “The packaging industry alone is responsible for 40 percent of all plastic pollution.” That translates to about $90 to $120 billion worth of plastic — only 2 percent of which is recycled for future use, per Stevens.
So apart from the 2 percent that’s recycled, where does the remaining packaging waste from all these orders end up? “Either in a landfill, where it can take up to 500 years to decompose — for one single plastic coat hanger to break down in landfill, it takes about 40 generations — or in the ocean,” Stevens says. “It’s estimated that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.” Here, plastic gets consumed by marine life, then enters the human food chain. "These particles are now found in every part of our life chain: food, water, and air," Stevens tells TZR, "which can lead to long-term health and environmental issues."
The rise of the Insta-worthy “unboxing experience” definitely isn’t helping the situation. “Unfortunately, through advertising and marketing, as consumers, we’ve been conditioned to see packaging as being reflective of quality and status,” Stevens explains. “But the reality is, once unpacked, unwrapped, and opened, most packaging goes straight in the bin.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that pretty packaging is the enemy, though. “The good news is that technology is advancing every day, offering new solutions to make it easier for brands to operate more sustainably,” Stevens says, noting that conscious consumers have the power to push environmentally-friendly practices forward. Because when you demand better from brands, as in the case of Glossier Play, progress happens.