In our exclusive interview, Patrick Bousquel, marketing director EMEA skincare & color cosmetics at Aptar, discusses the technology behind the regenerated PP bottle housing the relaunched version of Evercalm from REN Clean Skincare. He also touches on the packaging formats beauty brands are increasingly looking to in the sustainable realm.
With REN’s airless bottle made of chemically recycled PP using Sabic technology, Aptar is boosting its circular approach. What impact has this project had?
Sabic’s chemical recycling technology means that plastic can be infinitely regenerated without losing any of its properties, while also overcoming the constraint of mechanical recycling: that a polymer can only be recycled with its own kind. This offers tremendous potential; we can now recycle resins that cannot be separated and plastics that have no recycling stream and obtain polymers with the selfsame qualities as their virgin counterparts in terms of mechanical resistance, longevity, barrier (food grade) properties and the aesthetic advantages of transparency, ‘bright’ whites and decorative possibilities.
Unlike bottles resulting from other pyrolysis technologies, these new formats are ISCC certified.
Yes, and this is a worldwide first. (Editor's note: ISCC is a sustainability certification covering the entire supply chain and all types of bio-based feedstocks and renewables.) It should be noted that the new regeneration technologies via thermolysis consist in heating the resins under pressure and without oxygen to obtain pyrolysis oil that is then mixed with petroleum. At the end of the process, the percentages of pyrolysis oil incorporated are difficult to evaluate, but this certified recycled plastic offers all of the guarantees: Sabic’s production site obtained ISCC PLUS certification, which attests to the traceability of the raw material used to inject the packs as well as to the reduction in the amount of oil used. Our Villingen site in Germany, where REN’s bottles are injected, is also ISCC PLUS certified. Finally, these single-material airless packs are approved for end-of-life recycling by the Comité Technique pour le Recyclage des Emballages Plastiques (COTREP, or Technical Committee for the Recycling of Plastic Packaging).
Yet pyrolysis processes consume more energy than traditional mechanical recycling techniques.
This is true, but the tradeoffs it offers are invaluable. Let's be clear: this regenerated plastic is not intended to compete with mechanical PCR; it is a complement. Both solutions have the same objective of reducing the use of virgin plastic and giving value to used plastics. Certified recycled plastic broadens sourcing opportunities, with very high product return rates and almost no material loss.
So recycling remains a priority for Aptar?
In times of transition, a circular approach is essential and this is a first solid step in that direction. That being said, the beauty market is going to see a certain amount of segmentation with, on one hand, a boost in recycling for mass and masstige brands and, on the other hand, the rise of multi-material formats in prestige with high added value in a product’s look and feel, correlated with more refill and reload formats. This could lead to a sort of functional transfer between primary and secondary packaging, with the primary pack taking the place of the secondary pack and becoming an accessory of sorts for long-term use. Reload formats would therefore take on the true role of packaging. And in sync with the trend to curtail the use of preservatives, reload formats still have an advantage over refills for non-rinse beauty products (creams, foundations...) and lightweight plastic mono-material reloads are a good way for brands to communicate a message of responsibility, while the sophistication of a rechargeable dispenser stays in line with brand image. A handful of brands are already asking us to rework their dispensers with materials and decoration techniques that are even more sustainable over time.
See the summer issue of our sister publication Formes de Luxe for an in-depth report on The Future of Plastics.