With the climate in peril, the zero waste movement has caught on. Everyone from universities to cities are trying to slash their trash. Consumer brands are jumping on board by revamping their packaging from plastic and paper to aluminum. And while we typically think of beer, pantry staples, and pet food packaged in metal, aluminum packaging is popping up in surprising categories like beauty. In fact, this sustainable adoption has given beauty brands a new look.
Plant-based hair care brand Eva NYC features several sizes of custom-shaped aluminum bottles for its shampoos, conditioners, primers, hair and body mists, and other styling products. Unilever’s new line, Love Beauty and Planet, features16-oz reusable aluminum bottles, some of its shampoo and conditioner, something that the company said reduces plastic by 56.7% over a year. In addition, Colgate-Palmolive just launched aluminum containers for its hand soap as part of its 2025 sustainability goals. And REN Clean Skincare recently debuted a zero-waste aluminum tube. So, why the sudden boom? There are several reasons.
Consumers Demand Sustainable Packaging
If brands want to succeed, adopting green practices is a must. Consumers increasingly consider themselves to be “environmentally aware” and expect companies to support their lifestyle choices by offering environmentally responsible products packaged in sustainable materials. In fact, new data from sustainable metal packaging company Trivium Packaging’s 2021 Buying Global Buying Green Report revealed 67% of consumers identify as environmentally aware, with 83% of younger consumers willing to pay more for products in sustainable packaging.
“Customers are looking for the most sustainable packaging solutions and see enormous potential in metal,” says Michael Mapes, CEO of Trivium. “Sustainability is a topic that energizes people and stirs engaging discussions about ‘purpose.’”
The demand is so strong, Eva NYC–who works with Trivium–saw a 100% spike in orders in just the first two weeks of the new packaging’s launch. And another Trivium client–hand soap company Hand in Hand–saw a growth in sales of 1,000% year over year.
Aluminum Is Infinitely Recyclable
Recycling has been around for decades. But brands (and the planet) realize the traditional reuse of materials is not the best course of action. Instead, true sustainability is circularity; this is where metal packaging excels.
“Aluminum and other metal packaging are 100% infinitely recyclable,” says Chas Aylsworth, Business Development Manager of Trivium. “In sustainability terms, you often hear of a substrate’s life cycle as cradle to grave, the time in which it was first produced to the time it is no longer able to be used. Metal packaging is different. Its life cycle is cradle to cradle; it can be recycled again and again without losing any of its inherent properties.”
Incredibly, an aluminum bottle can be recycled and made into a new bottle in as little as 60 days. Ultimately, it contributes to brands’ sustainability objectives to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” all in one package.
Ingredients Are Preserved Better
In addition to being better for the environment, the use of metal packaging is ideal for the preservation of beauty ingredients as well. Food and beverage cans present a clear value to consumers because they are highly effective at preserving their contents without impacting flavor. Now, beauty brands are seeing these benefits too.
The aluminum bottles excel over other substrates in preserving beauty formulas because of their barrier properties and durability. They completely block UV light that can deteriorate formulations and resist moisture and oxygen permeation, which can dry out or harm many beauty products.
“The strengths of the aluminum package offer brands a durable bottle which will not rust, inside or out, or crack while remaining reusable and infinitely recyclable,” says Aylsworth. “The beauty industry understands the need for sustainability in packaging as well as the ingredients in their products.
Branding Becomes Premium
From a design standpoint, the aluminum bottle is a blank canvas that can be directly printed on. This is good for two reasons: it eliminates the requirement for a label. Second, it enables brands to use their packaging as a decorative addition to the home for these refillable systems.
When brands use aluminum packaging, there is no need for an extra label to be added to the bottle that would require additional materials and increased complexity to the recycling process,” says Aylsworth. “The direct printing of the graphics onto the aluminum package does not impact the recycling of the empty used aluminum container.”
A variety of beauty products, from soaps to perfumes, are being placed in aluminum packaging for this reason. Utilizing the aluminum bottle tackles the three major trends in the market of premiumization, sustainability, and convenience.
Beyond beverages and beauty, other emerging categories are beginning to adopt aluminum packaging. “We are seeing the consumer health industry begin to adopt aluminum packaging for a variety of items such as vitamins, supplements, OTC meds, topical and liquid medications,” said Aylsworth. “Consumers are looking to brands to drive sustainability in their package offerings while keeping the convenience they desire and value.”