The Beauty of the Circular Economy

38.5 kg – that is our average consumption of plastic packaging per year in Germany [1].

In Germany, just like in many other societies, a throwaway mentality has developed over the last few decades. It seems more natural to simply throw things away than to repair or reuse them. We have now reached a point where looking away no longer works. The images of mountains of rubbish and oceans flooded with plastic are omnipresent and the need for action is obvious. Our inflationary use of plastic contributes significantly to the global waste problem. From a highly praised miracle substance, the material has developed into a burden for the entire planet within around 100 years.

In the 1950s, almost 1.5 million tons of plastic were produced per year, today it is almost 400 million tons [2].

No wonder - because 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 [3].

What to 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” [4].

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 the linear economy to the 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 [5]. 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:

1. Reuse

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. In some areas of everyday life, it is already a matter of course for us to reuse packaging, such as water bottles or coffee mugs. In other areas, however, there are still hardly any providers of reusable solutions - such as in 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 ourselves and realized that there are practically no alternatives to disposable packaging in the beauty industry. We then decided 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 already mentioned are important for reuse: 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 only requires a small change in our everyday routine.

2. Recycling

At some point, after hopefully many refills, each packaging will reach the end of its life cycle. In the linear economy, this is where it ends: the packaging ends up in the landfill and is incinerated. The aim of the circular economy is to make waste usable again through recycling and thus reintroduce it into the economic cycle.

Whether resource-saving recycling is possible depends on the material itself on the one hand and whether a suitable recycling infrastructure is available on the other. And of course from us consumers: We have the choice of which packaging material we buy or prefer to 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 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.

How we live with minimal 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:

Use-Clean-Refill concept. Circular economy as a way of reducing plastic pollution

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 , with which we avoid single-use packaging from production to your minimal bottle.
  • Of course, all accessories that you get from minimals are reusable, for example our cleansing breasts and pouches.
  • We do not use disposable shopping bags or any disposable packaging in our shop [7]. 

In order to keep our footprint as small as possible, we at minimals do everything we can to cover our material requirements 100% from existing material. On the 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 100% returned to the aluminum cycle at the end of their life cycle by disposing of them at a certified recycling center. Apart from our reusable bottles, we also attach great importance to the conservation of resources for the other materials we use. The materials are recyclable and the processing of our products is of high 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

2. https://www.nabu.de/natur-und-landschaft/meere/muellkippe-meer/muellkippemeer.html

3. WWF- Plastic waste in the sea - the most important answers, as of January 5th, 2020

4.https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/de/headlines/economy/20151201STO05603/Circular economy-definition-and-benefits

5. Coalition agreement 2021-2025 between the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), Alliance 90 / The Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP), p. 33

6. https://gvmonline.de/files/recycling/Recycling_2020_summary_results.pdf

7. The only exception are our packages for orders from the online shop. We use boxes made from recycled cardboard for this.