How To Get Rid of Unused, Unwanted, Unrecyclable Beauty Sample Sachets

Environmentalists worldwide have been campaigning about banning plastics for years now (and quite right too!).

Environmentalists worldwide have been campaigning about banning plastics for years now (and quite right too!).

But then why are so many plastic beauty sample packages still handed out on the streets or glued into magazines? And more so, do people want them?

Using plastic packaging for single-use products, such as a spritz of perfume or a dab of moisturiser, is of course not good for the planet and the ocean floor is literally littered with billions of sachets. However, the UK government has yet to take any causal action on this problem.

In October 2020, environmentalists welcomed the ban of plastic straws and cotton buds in the UK, but plastic sachets were not included in this ban and are still widely used by beauty manufacturers worldwide. In November 2020, around 40 politicians, business leaders, and campaigners, signed an open letter urging the UK and the EU to include sample sachets in their single-use plastic bans (Sack the Sample Sachet), but this has not had any real traction. Yet.

According to research by anti-plastic group A Plastic Planet, the Personal Care & Cosmetics industry produces 122 billion plastic sachets each year, most of which are not recycled. This is partly because the mixture of metal and plastic used to create these sachets is almost impossible to recycle, and partly down to the fact that people often won’t think to recycle something so small. As Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, succinctly put it, “plastic sample sachets are not going to be recycled, they’re entirely valueless and they’re contaminating our environment from the depths of the ocean to the soil we grow our food in”.

The sachet issue then begs the question if shoppers and consumers even value the torrent of free samples. A lot of research has been done into the phenomenon of the ‘freebie’ and how much we love and want them. This research highlights the fact that free samples usually do increase sales, but only at the point of purchase, and that this happens especially with food and drink samples. So, why hand out beauty samples to random people walking along a shopping street, who likely have no intention of buying beauty products in the first place?

The best would be to get rid of beauty sample sachets altogether. But if not, the question everyone is asking is what to replace the plastic packaging with. There seems to be no conclusive answer to this question. Whilst the use of Vegware has been promoted successfully to tackle similar issues with single-use plastic in the food industry, it is not clear of any such thing would be able to replace the beauty sample packaging with its largely liquid content (hence the metal reinforcement of the sachets).

As part of its ‘Sack the Sachet’ campaign, A Plastic Planet conducted research into how many people in England would support banning sample sachets, and a whopping 79% of the population agreed that this would be a good idea. So, if the public agree that the production of 122 billion plastic sachets per year for momentary gain does not outweigh the fact that these sachets will then be polluting our planet for centuries, why is so little (read nothing) being done about this? Maybe the beauty industry, precisely because the cost of the sample is so low and the potential gain so high, is not motivated to change.

So, it is up to us to say no to beauty sachet samples and push our favourite beauty brands to #skipthesachets on social media and/or start an anti-plastic petition on Most change, after all, starts from the ground up.

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