Society

Cosmetics firms rethink wrapping as focus shifts to saving Earth’s beauty

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Summary

  • Kenya’s beauty and cosmetics industry has attracted major investments pulling new lines of businesses and products into the market.
  • The industry involving the making and packaging products such as soaps, shampoo, lotions, petroleum jelly, wet wipes, hair and skincare oils has been valued over Sh100 billion as both men and women fret about their looks and grooming.

Kenya’s beauty and cosmetics industry has attracted major investments pulling new lines of businesses and products into the market.

The industry involving the making and packaging products such as soaps, shampoo, lotions, petroleum jelly, wet wipes, hair and skincare oils has been valued over Sh100 billion as both men and women fret about their looks and grooming.

But the sector may not be as glamorous when it comes to its effects on the environment.

Data show that food and beauty industries contribute about 50 percent of plastic waste.

But some local businesses are trying to change this scenario adopting reward programmes for glass containers, using refillable jars and organic materials.

“We use glass jars for our butters and kraft bags made from recycled material to package all orders that go out to customers,” Miriam Ndambuki, founder of Shea Organics says.

The business has been specialising in handcraft natural skin and hair products using raw Ivory shea butter and pure oils from local manufacturers in Africa - for three years.

Products range from organic body butters, body scrubs, hair butters, shampoos, conditioners and natural eczema.

Customers get a Sh50 discount on refills on each jar.

“I think customers are happy because they enjoy the small discount while feeling they are taking an active role in preserving the environment,” Ms Ndambuki says.

“Many repeat customers usually take the initiative themselves and call us to pick up their empty jars once they have accumulated them. We double sterilise and sanitise all our jars in line with Covid-19 compliant protocols.”

“We get a lot of jars that end up in our store. There was a time there was shortage with the supplier and these came in handy.”

Apart from returns, customers are encouraged to re-use the jars in creative ways including storing cooking spices, homemade jams, chutney, food leftovers, nuts, seeds and dry food stuff like green grams, beans and rice.

Containers can be used as flower vases, children projects in art and crafts, making piggy banks, candles or alternatives for serving cocktails.

Running an eco-friendly and sustainable business has not only been tied to non-toxic and biodegradable packaging, or refillable products but also use of organic ingredients in production and cutting out pollution in manufacturing.

For Ms Ndambuki, Shea Organics sticks to using organic ingredients, raw butter and cold pressed natural oils to make the products with no chemical additives.

“The reception has been amazing and has shown us that more people are making a conscious choice to use more natural eco-friendly products for their skin and hair. A large portion of these were referred by other customers,” she adds.

Bu.ke, a hair and skincare brand, makes products such as Shampoo bar doing away with bottles. Founder, Ms Lucy King’ori, says the bar was previously wrapped in plastic film and then packaged in a box.

“We have recently removed this film, and we have managed to reduce a lot of plastic with the use of those boxes,” Ms Kingori said.

She is also running a reward programme that gives customers up to 10 percent discount for return of empty plastic containers for use in packaging hair and skin products.

“We are working on changing our entire line of product packaging to glass packaging. It's expensive, that's why it has taken time but we are working towards it,” Ms Kingori says.

The Kenyan brand formulates the hair and skincare products using raw materials such as Baobab oil from Taita hills, shea butter from South Sudan and most recently Purple Tea from Kenyan highlands.

“We are very keen on the process of growing the ingredients we use in our products. For instance, other than the amazing benefits of Purple tea on both hair and skincare, we chose to work with it as an ingredient because there is no use of pesticides on it and it is sustainably farmed.”

With this time of pandemic, more people are for the idea of organically formulated products because they understand that what goes on your skin, somehow winds up in your kidneys.” Ms Kingori adds.