Head and shoulders above: wiping away that plastic smile

17 July 2018

The problem of plastic waste and marine litter has been widespread in public discussion in 2018, and many leading companies are doing their part to resolve the problem. Cosmetics Packaging Insight gathers understanding from the sustainability and packaging teams in Procter & Gamble, to learn more about how innovation can play a part.

Procter & Gamble (P&G) has pledged to make all of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. This will encompass about 95% of packaging materials used and will be possible thanks to new package designs, a more sustainable material choice and cooperation with sustainability experts. The company wrote in its report, “In the absence of a globally aligned definition of recyclable, our definition goes beyond the technical ability to recycle an item and calls for a recycling system to be operational at scale, with viable collection, recovery and end markets in place. By 2025, all of our major packaging platforms will be recyclable or reusable.” P&G CEO, chairman and president David Taylor said, “We believe P&G can be a force for good and a force for growth, and we are taking a more deliberate approach to delighting consumers while enabling responsible consumption. Consumers expect the brands they trust to deliver superior performance and help solve some of the most complex challenges facing our world. Our global reach, our understanding of the five billion consumers we serve and our innovation capabilities give us a unique ability to make a positive difference.”

Ambition 2030 is an amendment to P&G’s previous sustainability goals, which were to be achieved by 2020. Although the corporation reached some of these goals (for example, reducing energy use at its facilities per unit of production by 22%) it looks like there is still a lot to do.

In its previous plan, P&G pledged to cut absolute greenhouse emissions by 30% by 2020. So far, it has only cut them by 16%. It also committed to doubling the use of recycled resin in plastic packaging, though it is yet to achieve two thirds of that target.

P&G vice-president of global sustainability Virginie Helias said, “Building on our progress to date, our 2030 goals seek to address two of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges: finite resources and growing consumption.”

As P&G continues its efforts and moves towards its ambitious goals, there are going to be challenges, as Helias acknowledges, “One of the biggest challenges is that this whole call to action relies on collaboration. We are in this task force, aptly called ‘Holy Grail’, which is about using tracer technology to better sort plastic, meaning the end value is higher because it’s better sorted. These are things we’ve never done before. We need to build the capability there, and we need to have a new mindset of it being a shared obligation. It’s not just competition and innovation; we need to participate in these societal collaboration efforts. We cannot succeed alone, and neither can individual partners. We can only get where we need to go together.”

She added, “P&G continues to innovate to develop new products that grow the relevance of our brands with the increasingly environmentally concerned shopper. We do this without a performance trade-off so consumers continue to get the results they expect from P&G brands.

“Some of the latest examples in beauty that come to mind include our newly acquired natural segment brands, Native, a natural deodarent, and Snowberry, a skincare product – both from New Zealand.

“In haircare, we launched Herbal Bio:Renew, which is made with a blend of antioxidants, aloe and sea kelp, and is free of parabens, dyes and gluten. We launched Rejoice Micellar Water in China, which is a non-silicone shampoo and conditioner. We are launching Pantene Micellar to bring the same benefits of a gentle cleansing shampoo and conditioner that removes impurities, but with no silicones, parabens and dyes.”

Our 2030 goals seek to address two of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges: finite resources and growing consumption.
 – Virginie Helias, P&G

Sorting the mess

Equally optimistic about the work and direction it is taking is Gian de Belder, principal scientist, who added a few additional remarks on key developments in plastics using tracer or watermark sorting for recycling.

“Sorting technologies have the potential to create what we refer to as a ‘barcode for recycling’,” as he explained. “By baking tracers or watermarks into packaging, the product isn’t altered in the eyes of the consumer but will add value at sorting and recycling plants that are equipped with the requisite technologies. Impacted supply chain members, such as waste manufactures (including sorting plants and recyclers) will need to retro-fit machinery, which requires additional investment.”

He continued, “This needs to be done across all EU member states and beyond. Harmonisation addresses the need to reach the increased recycling rates necessary to achieve circular economies. The goal of the ‘Holy Grail’ project, which is run as a pioneer project within the New Plastics Economy, is to bring together the value chain and agree on what a value tracer or watermark could bring to the industry in order to consider the scenarios where this technology should be implemented first.”

“In addition, eco-design and highquality or quantity post-consumer recycled materials (PCR) are a big focus of all value chain members that need to develop packs for circular design, while still meeting the primary objectives of a pack for containment. There is a need for an objective assessment of recyclability. Take the RecyClass tool, which was developed by Plastic Recyclers Europe and combines all existing EU guidelines for compliance. There is also a need for more high-quality recycled materials at the right cost, quantity and quality. P&G’s strategy is to double PCR use by 2020, and we are continuously looking for partners in this field.”

One of the most recent high-visibility launches by P&G in this sector was based on the limited edition release from Carrefour, in France, of Head & Shoulders bottles made from PCR beach plastic.

Helias said, “The project with Head & Shoulders is a very concrete sign to customers, consumers and governments that we care about plastics and, specifically, plastics in the ocean. We had not set out to do anything more than provide an experiment. We had no idea whether people would be interested or not. Many design changes, such as amending the iconic brand colours for the bottle, caused initial consternation. But it paid off with top ten sales wherever we piloted the new product. There was also amazing work from the retailers in helping us get people in-store, because consumers need a little education around what this is about. Also, we allowed people to participate in the beach collection – there was a beach cleanup where you could go and participate. We had 1,000 volunteers to collect plastic from French beaches.”

Getting involved

This further highlights an increasingly important part of sustainability, which is consumer interaction. Frustration is one of the biggest issues for today’s shoppers, who question plastic litter and its ecological impact but might feel they can’t do anything about it. But as Helias says, sustainability does not need to be daunting or inaccessible, “We tell our customers that visually, you are not going to clean the ocean, but just by recycling your Head & Shoulders bottle, this is how you can help and be part of the circular economy. This is very rewarding for people. We have tangible signs that there is interest and we want to take it to the next level.”

The project is in partnership with recycling experts TerraCycle and SUEZ. It will be the world’s largest production run of recyclable bottles made with PCR beach plastic, and the first step in establishing a unique supply chain that involves the support of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of NGOs collecting plastic waste found on beaches.

“We felt that the leading shampoo brand in sales should lead in sustainability innovation, because when we do this, it encourages the entire industry to do the same,” said Lisa Jennings, vice-president at Head & Shoulders and global haircare sustainability leader at P&G. “We’ve been fortunate to work with great partners, in TerraCycle and SUEZ, to make this target a reality.”

Also, P&G announced that, in Europe, by the end of 2018, more than half a billion bottles per year will include up to 25% PCR plastic. This represents more than 90% of all haircare bottles sold in Europe. The project will require 2,600t of recycled plastic every year – the same weight as eight fully loaded Boeing 747s. P&G has been using PCR plastic in packaging for over 25 years, and the announcement is an important step in the company’s journey to meet its 2020 goal of doubling the tonnage of PCR plastic used in packaging.

“At P&G, we believe actions speak louder than words. The increased use of PCR plastic across our haircare portfolio of brands demonstrates our continued commitment to driving real change,” concluded Helias, “The Head & Shoulders recyclable shampoo bottle made with beach plastic is a world’s first in the haircare category. Increasing the use of recycled plastic in the packaging of our flagship brands, like Pantene and Head & Shoulders, makes it easier for consumers to choose more sustainable products, without any trade-offs. So while we’re proud of what we’ve done and what we’re doing, we know there is much more work ahead.”


Progressive P&G: some of the most recent product launches, from Product Launch Analytics

Secret Freshies On-The-Go – Paris Rose, Luxe Lavender, Cool Waterlily, Chill Ocean

New Secret Freshies On-The-Go antiperspirant deodorant has arrived on the market in the US. Designed specifically for women on the go, the invisible solid antiperspirant and deodorant is uniquely packaged in a small, discreet, portable ball with a twistoff cap for quick and easy swiping application. It can be stored in most purses, backpacks, gym bags, clutches or desk drawers. Today’s consumers are busier than ever, making a strong market opportunity for products aimed for use on the go. In the case of this deodorant, women can quickly and easily reapply it throughout busy days for a burst of freshness and odour control, wherever they might be. P&G distributes Paris Rose, Luxe Lavender, Cool Waterlily and Chill Ocean scent options in 0.5oz plastic blisters within paperboard sleeves for $4.97.

Hair Food – Kiwi & Exotic Fig

In Canada, P&G has launched a new Kiwi & Exotic Fig volume shampoo under the Hair Food label. The formula is inspired by ‘fresh, energy-packed ingredients known for their vitalising power’. The shampoo is described as having a fragrance of kiwi and exotic fig to cleanse hair and leave it with luxurious body and shine. It is also free from silicone, paraben and mineral oil. The roll-out of this shampoo is based on the idea that the hair needs nourishment, just as the body does. Thus, natural power foods found in nutrition can be beneficial in haircare formulas as well. The prominent ‘free-from’ claims and natural food ingredients in this product could resonate with Canadian consumers. A 530ml plastic pump bottle retails for C$9.98.

Old Spice – Captain, Bearglove, Swagger, Fiji

While not uncommon, the ‘invisible spray’ versus ‘invisible solid’ versions of anti-perspirant and deodorant are making their way onto store shelves in specific scents to appeal to the just-for-me consumer, fitting into the individualism trend. One example is Old Spice’s 48Hr Anti-Perspirant Deodorant Invisible Spray, which comes in Captain, Bearglove, Swagger and Fiji variants. An established brand targeted at men, this range offers the consumer invisible, long-lasting protection from sweat and odour. Distributed in the US by P&G, each variety is sold in a 3.8oz aerosol spray can for $5.49.

Old Spice – Captain, Bearglove, Swagger, Fiji
Hair Food – Kiwi & Exotic Fig
Secret Freshies On-The-Go – Paris Rose, Luxe Lavender, Cool Waterlily, Chill Ocean
In France, Head & Shoulders released a bottle made from PCR plastics recovered from French beaches.

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