What once felt like an impossible-to-achieve ambition in the quest for more sustainable beauty-product packaging has, as of late, become a rapidly increasingly reality: More and more brands are launching products with options to refill the original container. As we predicted, companies at every level — little-known indie lines, designer skin-care creators, drugstore staples, and more — have heard the call to reduce waste, and they’re not ignoring it.
“The benefits of refillable packaging are a net decrease to the amount of plastic that is produced,” Sonya Lunder, senior toxics advisor for Sierra Club‘s Gender, Equity & Environment program, tells Allure. “Only nine percent of the plastics made have ever been recycled, and I am motivated to reduce my environmental footprint where possible.”
Olga Kachook, senior manager of GreenBlue‘s Sustainable Packaging Coalition, tells Allure that reuse is considered a more environmentally preferable way of managing materials than recycling and composting. “That’s because the energy and materials required to manufacture a package are only expended once,” she says. “Consumers are also increasingly interested in participating in refillable and reusable programs, so this is a way for brands to meet the needs of their customers.”
According to Lunder, however, the onus to engage in refillable packaging shouldn’t fall solely on the shopper. “While refillable packaging may be effective in reducing plastic pollution on an individual consumer level, this ‘shopping our way out of the problem’ — telling individuals what to buy and not buy — shifts attention away from corporate responsibility and government protections, which are the most equitable and effective ways to protect the environment and reduce plastic production,” she explains, pointing to the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which was reintroduced in Congress in March 2021. The bill focuses on producer responsibility to shift to refillable, returnable containers to reduce plastic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Another benefit of refillable products to consider is one that directly affects your budget: More often than not, the refill for any given product is less expensive than the full bells-and-whistles originally-packaged product.
But either way, it’s a meaningful trend worth trying, and we’ve got 23 options for you to start with. Hopefully, there will be many, many more as it evolves from fad to fundamental.