38.5 kg – that is an average consumption of plastic packaging per year in Germany .
It seems more natural to simply throw things away than to repair or reuse them. The throwaway mentality has taken over in the last few decades however now now we reached a point where looking away no longer works. The need for action is obvious: there is a gigantic global waste problem and on of the main contributors is the omnipresent plastic. Within 100 year the material has changed from a highly praised miracle substance into a burden for the entire planet.
No wonder - plastic is cheap and can be used practically anywhere. Disposable packaging has become a natural part of our everyday life. For decades, neither the consumption of resources caused by the production nor the disposal of plastic was critically questioned.
As hard as we try to separate our plastic waste, much of the plastic waste we create cannot and will not be recycled. Much of it ends up in the sea or pollutes the landscape. According to estimates, 80 million tons of plastic waste were floating in the oceans in 2020, and up to 12 million tons are added every year .
What can we do?
Today we would like to introduce you to the circular economy, an economic model that has answers to our pressing waste problem.
The post focuses on the topic of packaging - because MINIMALS' mission is to eliminate single-use packaging from your beauty routine and because packaging makes up a huge part of our daily waste.
What is circular economy?
Circular economy is a model of production and consumption in which existing materials and products are shared, leased, reused, repaired, refurbished and recycled for as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of the products is extended” .
In practice, this means that waste is reduced to a minimum . After a product has reached the end of its life cycle, the material remains in the economy as much as possible to continue generating value.
The recycling economy stands in contrast to the linearly organized economy that has prevailed up to now, or rather: the throw-away economy, a one-way street from production => (one-time) use => disposal.
Both at EU and national level, legislators have finally recognized the need for action and passed appropriate laws that are intended to pave the way from linear economy to circular economy. In Germany, this is implemented in the Circular Economy Act (KrWG). The aim is to increase the promotion of the circular economy by avoiding and, above all, by increasing the recycling of waste. In its coalition agreement, the Federal Government dedicated a separate passage to the circular economy, according to which the legal framework should be tightened. There is talk of a "National Circular Economy Strategy" on the basis of which the Federal Government would like to advocate for uniform EU standards . We are looking forward to the implementation!
Let's switch from the theoretical perspective to a philosophical one: The circular economy is about appreciation and respect . Behind every product that we consume is the work of people and a production process that entails the consumption of resources. We seem to have lost that awareness, especially when it comes to packaging . They are a necessary evil that is usually not appreciated at all, but ends up in the garbage after a very short time. In doing so, we can implement essential aspects of the circular economy, especially in packaging: reuse and recycling. Let's take a closer look at these two aspects:
Reuse plays a key role in avoiding packaging waste. If we extrapolate how much packaging we use every day, hundreds of packaging could be saved through repeated use. Reusing has already become easy and natural in some areas of life: we fill our water bottles, we use re-usable coffee cups. In other areas, however, there are still hardly any providers of reusable solutions. Let's look into the beauty sector: if you consider how many bottles of shampoo, soap and lotions you use each year, then it makes sense to switch to reusable packaging in this area as well!
And now you know the reason why we founded MINIMALS: We were looking for plastic-free cosmetics and realised that there are practically no alternatives to disposable packaging in the beauty industry. We then decided ourselves to take matters into our own hands and create a brand for natural, vegan refill cosmetics.
In addition to the choice of material, the aspects of appreciation and respect are significant: I have to treat a container that I want to reuse more carefully than a disposable container. This plays a special role in the refilling of food and cosmetics, because here it is not just a matter of the container looking beautiful for as long as possible, but also of preventing food or cosmetics from being contaminated. The right care is neither complicated nor does it take a lot of time - it requires only a small change in our everyday routine.
At some point, after hopefully many refills, each packaging will reach the end of its life cycle. In the linear economy, this is where the cycle would end: the packaging would go to the landfill. The aim of the circular economy though is to make waste usable again through recycling and reintroduce it into the economic cycle.
Whether resource-saving recycling is possible depends on the material itself on one hand and whether a suitable recycling infrastructure is available on the other. And of course it's also on us, consumers: we can choose which packaging material we buy or avoid and we are responsible for separating our waste properly. In one of the next blog posts you will learn what you can do at home to increase recycling rates.
Basically, mixed materials are difficult to recycle. This is a common problem with plastic waste, for example, where different types of plastic are often mixed up. In this case, downcycling occurs: high-quality pure PET, for example, can then only be recycled into lower-quality polyester, which is more prone to breakage. Although they can still be processed for textiles or foils, they are usually no longer recyclable.
Let's take a closer look at aluminum, the material our minimals reusable bottles are made of:
- Aluminum has an unbeatable recycling advantage: it can be recycled as often as you like without losing its value. In addition, recycling puts the high energy input required for the extraction of primary aluminum into perspective. Because only 5% of the energy needed to produce primary aluminum is required to recycle aluminum.
- Another important aspect is that there is already a very well-functioning recycling system for aluminum in Germany. According to the Gesellschaft für Verpackungsmarktforschung mbH (GVM), the recycling rate for all types of aluminum packaging in Germany was 95.7% in 2020, and the trend is rising . The model of the circular economy can therefore already be implemented very well with aluminium.
- Another reason why we chose this material is the elegant look. Because in addition to all the plus points in terms of sustainability that the refill concept brings with it, it also offers the opportunity to finally replace the ugly collection of plastic bottles with stylish containers that enhance the bathroom instead of littering it.
MINIMALS & Circular Economy
At minimals, we believe that circular economy is the solution to our global waste problem. And that's why we don't just write about it, we also live the circular economy:
Reuse is at the heart of minimals!
We not only implement the topic of reuse with our minimals bottles, but throughout our refill concept:
- Our entire production and supply chain is organized in such a way that all containers in which minimal's cosmetics are filled and stored are reused. We have created a zero-waste cycle: there's no single-use packaging from production to your till the moment you use your cosmetic.
- Of course, all accessories that you get from minimals are reusable, for example our bottle brushes and pouches.
- We do not use disposable shopping bags or any disposable packaging in our shop .
In order to keep our footprint at the lowest level, we do everything we can to use only existing materials. On one hand, we take responsibility for the selection of materials for the production of our bottles by only using recycled aluminum. On the other hand, we ensure that our bottles are disposed at a certified recycling center at the end of their lifecycle. We also attach great importance to the conservation of resources for the other materials we use: they're recyclable and processed in the highest quality in order to achieve the longest possible life cycle.
Do you have questions or feedback about this post? Write to us at info@minimals. We look forward to mail from you!
1. Plastic Atlas 2019 of the Heinrich Böll Foundation
3. WWF- Plastic waste in the sea - the most important answers, as of January 5th, 2020
5. Coalition agreement 2021-2025 between the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), Alliance 90 / The Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP), p. 33
7. The only exception are our packages for orders from the online shop. We use boxes made from recycled cardboard for this.