Friday, 27 October 2017

Sephora: Why Do Cosmetics and Skincare Companies Insist on Overpackaging?

When excess packaging is removed, this Sephora box looks way too large.

I ordered from Sephora a few days ago and received my package promptly. The box was a bit overly large, though not as bad as some other orders I have received. There was a lot of packing paper on top of the items ordered and then some bubble wrap under the items. 

Not that big of a box.

What struck me the most about this order though, was the amount that cosmetics and skincare companies continue to overpackage their products. I’m not sure if this is just to attract attention on overcrowded shelves (I have even seen people complain online that packaging on a particular cosmetics item wasn’t “pretty” enough) or if it’s to justify their high prices, but it really should be dialed back. Most of the products that have a ton of packaging don’t actually need it (ie. they’re not breakable, etc.).

For instance, I ordered a Boscia facial cleansing sponge. The sponge is quite small, about three inches in diameter and maybe an inch or slightly higher in height. However, the package that it came in was far, far bigger and made of hard plastic. The sponge wasn’t breakable and it was already wrapped in shrink-wrap too, so all of this plastic packaging seems very wasteful and unnecessary. Yes, it’s recyclable, but it’s a waste, so it should not exist in the first place (and the instructions printed on the plastic could have been printed on a little slip of paper to go with a shrink-wrapped sponge).

A big plastic package for a tiny sponge.

This package is ridiculously large and unnecessary since the sponge is already wrapped in plastic.

Redundant plastic.

I also ordered some Bite Beauty lipsticks that were on sale. I had forgotten the packaging that this lipstick came in as I had not bought one in quite a while. I opened the box thinking that I had received the wrong lipstick because the size and shape of the box were so different than my lipstick. But it was my lipstick. It was in a box at least two times bigger than necessary. I have blogged more than once about how I think that items like mascara and lipstick should just have a safety seal or maybe shrink-wrap around them and no box to reduce packaging. I stand by this.

Three lipsticks, three unnecessary boxes.

When one opens a box one finds the lipstick and then tons of empty space and a cardboard spacer.

The box is way bigger than the lipstick tube.

What a waste of cardboard.

Then there’s the matter of samples. With each Sephora order one receives three samples. But I also received a gift bag packed with a ton of other samples as a bonus. Plus, I ordered a 100 point sample of hair detangler (this was just in a bottle with no unnecessary box). The samples were all sparely packaged except for the Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil, which had a glass and plastic vial and then a folded cardboard jacket which I thought overly large.

The Bumble & Bumble sample had too much packaging.

That's a huge jacket of cardboard for such a small vial.

I have talked before on this blog about “free” makeup or cosmetics bags and samples (you can find the links here and here and here and here and here). Many women (and some men too) end up with way too many free makeup or cosmetics bags from buying cosmetics and/or skincare products over the years and receiving these as a bonus or “free” item (really these are probably built into the price of the products sold by the company). A lot of these bags probably end up as garbage or collecting dust. I have also seen a lot in thrift shops. Even with giving away these bags or repurposing or reusing them for other things like packing (see my blog post) I still have way more than I ever needed.

Naturally, the cosmetics bag comes wrapped in a plastic bag and tissue paper. That makes sense!

Garbage before one even makes it to the cosmetics bag.

The tiny samples definitely don't need such a large package.

All the samples around the cosmetics bag that they came in.

The other samples added to the bonus samples and the 100 point sample show just how many things I didn't pay for in this order and how much more garbage and recycling there will be out of this order in the end.

A special mention goes out to Bumble & Bumble for not placing their hair product, Don’t Blow It, that I ordered in a box and just having it in its tube. A facial oil I ordered came in a box, but as it’s a glass bottle, this is acceptable because of the risk of it breaking in shipping.

Excellent packaging. No excess box.

When I removed all of the unnecessary packaging from the products that I ordered and put them back in the box from Sephora, there was so much more empty space. What a waste. If we keep heading in this direction, we’re going to be left drowning in a huge pile of recycling, without the resources to process it.

These are all empty packages and the paper and plastic and cardboard from just this one Sephora order before I've even used anything. So, after I use up things there will be even more waste.

A much smaller box or bubble mailer envelope could have been used for this tiny amount of stuff if packaging had been less to begin with.

Let's reduce packaging.

BioGaia Protectis Baby: Probiotic Drops in a Bottle in a Box in Another Box with Paper Too

A giant box for a tiny bottle of probiotic drops.

Without the bottle to recycle yet, I already have all of this waste.

My doctor recommended that I consult with a pediatric dietitian to figure out ways to ease my baby’s gas. The dietitian recommended probiotic drops by BioGaia called Protectis Baby. I am on probiotics myself and have seen their benefits, but I still read the scientific literature that I could find online including clinical trial results to ensure that I thought that this was the best thing for my baby.

My husband originally purchased a box and pulled the bottle out and I did not see the packaging. The second bottle, which we had to purchase about three to four weeks after because they only last about a month with the recommended dosing, came from Walmart. While the price was about $14 cheaper (about $28 dollars plus tax) than the other bottle that my husband had purchased from another pharmacy (about $42 plus tax), I forgot about these savings when I took the bottle out. I was stunned by the wasteful overpackaging.

From the size of the box it looks like the bottle of drops will be big (if one ignores the 5 mL label).

First of all, I should explain that this bottle of probiotic drops is about two inches tall and made of glass with a plastic lid (so when recycling it’s already going into two different bins at our place). However, the package that we purchased from Walmart was about six inches tall and made of cardboard. When I opened this box, I found a bunch of empty space, some paper inserts, and another cardboard box!

A box in a box and tons of empty space and a paper insert.

More wasted space in the second box plus another paper insert.

Why is there a box in a box? I understand that one box might be necessary instead of just a safety seal because the bottle is made of glass and could easily break in transport, but why are two boxes necessary?

As for the paper inserts, one was directions on how to use the probiotics, which could have been printed on one of the two boxes and the other was a slip advertising their various products. There were not even any coupons on anything, they just wanted people to know what else they sold. Most people now don’t find out about new products from inserts in boxes. So, this seemed like a waste too.

Upon opening the second smaller box, I finally found the tiny bottle of probiotic drops. So, one box held another box, two paper inserts, and a bottle. That’s a lot of resources for a tiny bottle that will be gone in three to four weeks. It was like a Russian Stacking Doll of waste.

There's the tiny bottle!

So much waste for such a tiny bottle.

All that wasted paper and cardboard

This bottle is so tiny it is dwarfed by even the smallest box.

Giant boxes for tiny bottles only infuriate customers.

What a waste.

I find it disturbing that companies who manufacture or sell children’s products seem particularly wasteful with packaging. Should they not be considering the future for these tiny customers? I’m not a rabid environmentalist, but I also don’t like seeing waste, especially not such blatant waste. One box is quite enough, two crosses the line into exorbitant waste and complete disregard for future generations.

All the paper and cardboard is going straight into the recycling bin.

Yes, cardboard, paper, glass, and plastic are all recyclable where I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, but that doesn’t mean that using all of these resources unnecessarily is okay. Recycling items takes a lot of energy and produces pollution too. It’s better to reduce or eliminate packaging where possible.  BioGaia, needs to rethink its packaging because the way it is now just makes it look as my husband cynically suggested like they are trying to trick customers into thinking that the bottle of probiotic drops is larger than it actually is (how many of us can accurately visualize what 5 mL looks like?). I pointed out to my husband that it’s a Swedish company and that in Europe they have had stricter packaging rules and goals than we have had in North America for a long time. My husband wondered if North American retailers required this huge packaging so that the item was visible on shelves and/or looked bigger. Let’s hope that nothing this dark is at play and that it is just another example of overpackaging.

And I'll be getting this pile of paper again in a few weeks since the bottle is so small.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Reusable Bags: Are We Now Drowning in Something Worse than Single Use Bags?

Bags, bags, reusable bags everywhere . . .
Years ago, in Canada, various retailers and businesses started to give out or sell reusable bags to try to reduce how many plastic bags or "single use" bags were produced and ultimately thrown away. This was supposed to be good for the environment.

A bag of bags.
I can remember as a child having to take reusable bags to the grocery stores and various food retailers in Europe when we were there on vacation (this was decades ago). We’re slow to catch on here and the way we’ve done it has still perhaps not worked quite the way it did in Europe. Here, while some people are religious about using reusable bags, others supplement, and some refuse or always forget their reusable bags.

In Victoria, British Columbia, Canada where I live, certain stores have started to charge for bags (or offer “discounts" per reusable bag brought to the store with you) or have banned plastic bags completely. The municipality of Victoria is currently debating what should be done about plastic bags or single use bags from stores.

I use a reusable bag to save plastic "single use" bags so that I can reuse them.
This is complicated, while reusable bags can be very good if they are of good quality so that they don’t break soon after purchase of being gifted to the user. Unfortunately, there are a lot of reusable bags that I’ve had over the years that break, rip, tear, or become somehow unusable very quickly. The problem with this is that it takes much more resources to produce these reusable bags than it does to produce a thin plastic bag. Also, the materials that they’re often made out of are plastic, just like plastic bags, but they are thicker and even worse for the environment. If they have mixed materials, fabric plus plastic, then good luck finding somewhere to recycle them when they break. Whereas, plastic grocery bags can be returned to the grocery store for recycling.

But there's just so many reusable bags and this isn't even my entire "collection" . . .
I order online from Thrifty Foods from time to time and have my groceries delivered (with a baby in the house, grocery shopping is an extra challenge that I don’t need). Because I can’t use my reusable bags since they are delivering to my house, they use paper bags (since they banned plastic bags). While this might be somewhat good, it’s a lot of paper, since they can’t fill a lot of bags as full as a stronger plastic bag could be filled. I reuse these paper bags to put my compost in (before putting it in my compost bin, because the City of Victoria, unlike other municipalities requires compost to be in either a compostable or a paper bag before it goes in your own bin- a waste for sure since it’s all being chucked in the same big truck).

And I use a reusable bag to keep  some of my many, many paper bags so that I can reuse them.
My favourite reusable bag my husband and I bought in Amsterdam the summer before last. We were at a grocery store and realized we had no bag to put our purchases in. They don’t give out bags there so it was either try to carry everything in our arms or buy one. We looked at the beautiful canvas bags and wondered how much they could possibly cost. They were sturdy, a good size for carrying a small shop, and comfortable to wear over the shoulder or carry in the hand. We could not believe it when the cashier told us the price, about $4.00 Canadian. A bag like that here would probably costs at least four times that. No doubt their good quality reusable bags are priced to encourage people to use them (and reuse them) and for less waste to occur over time. Plus, canvas is biodegradable, unlike plastic which most of our reusable bags seem to be made from here. Also, the bag became dirty from travelling for about a month and when we arrived home I was able to pop it into the washing machine to clean it easily. Good luck doing this with one of those mixed plastic and fabric numbers.

My favourite reusable bag is from Amsterdam.
I always reused plastic bags that I was given at stores and I still do. They are handy for carrying other items, for garbage cans around the house, for cleaning out the kitty litter box, etc.. I am still not convinced that the mountain of reusable bags being produced is going to save the world. They are choking out thrift shops and eating up all of our closet and trunk space. I suggest that if we are going to move towards reusable bags in the long term that they be more like our beautiful, high quality, biodegradable, and cheap Dutch canvas bag.

Let's make more reusable bags like this sturdy and cheap canvas bag from The Netherlands.

Amazon Prime: Box in a Box the Sequel

Another sizable box from Amazon Prime
I ordered a present for one of my sister’s children. It was a hopper ball for children. The package was shipped through Amazon Prime. I have had a series of overpackaged items from Amazon Prime (you can find links to other posts here and here and here).

When this item arrived, the box was large. I was confused given that the ball is just a deflated piece of plastic and should not have occupied much space (especially since it is a small child's size).

I was confused as to why the box was so large for just one item.

When I opened the box, it was filled with two huge long pieces of folded brown packing paper.

Lots and lots of paper.

More packing paper nestled around a cardboard box. 
Once that was removed, there was a box that the hopper ball was in. A box within a box (just like when I ordered diapers from Amazon Prime, link here). The hopper box was quite small and there was no wasted space inside of its box. The waste came from Amazon Prime alone. Why could they not have wrapped the product box in paper or plastic or even used a bubble mailer rather than a much larger than needed box plus all of that paper?

A box in a box.
The product itself looks tiny compared to all the cardboard and paper that it came wrapped in.
The paper and the box are of no use to me, so they went right out to the recycling. What a waste of resources. Even if they are recycled, it takes a lot of energy and resources to both produce and recycle them. It would be much better if they had not been used in the first place. I have had a few Amazon Prime packages that were wrapped very well in that they did not use overly large boxes or a lot of packing materials or redundant boxes, but many of my packages from Amazon Prime are overpackaged (and from reviewing Twitter, it seems that a lot of other Amazon customers are experiencing overpackaging).

Packaging is something that companies need to pay more attention to as they start receiving more online orders and have to ship more. Overpackaging is a problem that is going to impact us all in the future when our precious resources have been used and there is nothing left but a bunch of garbage and mountains of recycling to process.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Sample Through Well.ca: How Much Packaging Does a Sample Need?!

I previously wrote a post (that you can find here) about getting a sample after shopping online at Well.ca, a Canadian online shopping site. The website has many interesting products including food, vitamins, protein bars, a wide range of baby products, kitchen implements, etc.. I’ve been very pleased with the website so far (their customer service is excellent too), however, there is one aspect of ordering products from them that makes me a little annoyed. When one places an order, depending on how much one has spent, certain samples are offered. One does have the right to refuse the samples, but in this case, I took the sample offered which was Neutrogena Hydro Boost gel cream. I figured it might be handy to take along when travelling instead of lugging along something larger.

I pulled it out of a drawer yesterday when I was organizing and was struck by how much packaging was involved in this tiny sample. There was a large plastic wrapper with an expiry date stamped on it. There was the tiny plastic tube of moisturizer. There was also a big coupon for buying more of the product printed in high colour on cardstock.

Big plastic wrapper, giant coupon, and tiny little sample.
So much waste.

Why is this coupon so big?

Why does the coupon have to be so huge or on cardstock? Why is a plastic wrap even needed when the tube is plastic? There is overpackaging galore involved in this sample. Neutrogena should reduce the amount of packaging that it’s using for samples. Our children are going to having nothing left but a pile of garbage if companies keep using so much wasteful packaging for all of their products including free samples. Well.ca, being a company focussed on wellness, should perhaps put some pressure on the companies that are sending samples to them to distribute to use less packaging for the “wellness” of the planet. 

Overpackaging impacts us all. Now I’m left with a plastic wrapper and a piece of cardstock which the coupon is printed on, all of which I will never use again and some of which I can’t even recycle. As for the tiny tube of moisturizer, once that’s gone, it will end up in a recycling bin somewhere too. I wonder if it would have been better for Neutrogena to put the lotion into one of those little tear open pouches which while they are not recyclable, they don’t take up much room. The tiny plastic tube, if it is recycled, will take a lot of resources to process. Too many resources are being squandered on things like redundant packaging. It’s time that we all thought of a better way to make our finite resources last.