California’s plastic law puts beauty and fashion on red alert

California-based Boox — which CEO Matt Semmelhack says is on track to ship 1.3 million Boox boxes in 2022 compared to roughly 100,000 in the inaugural year of 2021 — launched a new service “almost directly to SB54,” it says Semmelhack. It invites brands to return the Boox shipper and inner packaging material for reuse. “Over time, this will lead to e-comm brands transitioning to reusables not only for the outer carrier like Boox, but also for any inner packaging material, garment bags, etc.”

Reorienting a business toward reuse is also more likely to avoid unintended consequences, such as “manufacturers finding other resource materials — like cutting down trees — to meet guidelines according to the letter of the law,” he says. “We will need to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, not just give an “out” by making things more recyclable or compostable.”

Refill and reuse systems can also reap dividends for the business, he adds. “Brands are able to make the returns process an additional offline touchpoint after purchase that leads to sales, retention, loyalty, etc. — all those critical things that direct-to-consumer brands look for.”

Building momentum

Brands already focused on reducing plastic welcome the bill. Everlane says it has eliminated 90 percent of virgin and single-use plastic from its supply chain, shifting to recycled plastic polybags and recycled fibers in its clothing, among other things, and Katina Boutis, the company’s director of sustainability brand, says they are working on the rest. “We hope that Senate Bill 54 will support us in developing solutions for the last 10 percent of our goal, namely apparel and spandex, driving much-needed innovation in recycling,” she says. “Most of the virgin plastic left in these areas requires material innovations that are not currently available at scale.”

Some companies have already found alternatives or ways to avoid some common products that generate waste. Hailey Bieber’s Rhode beauty brand, which launched in June, doesn’t offer samples, according to CMO Claudia Allwood, who says they’re holding off until there’s a better, “responsible” way to offer them.

Credo moved away from all single-use plastics in 2020, including sample packs, as well as other items, including sheet masks. “That item can last for hundreds of years, even though we only use it for seconds,” Davis says. They now have a travel-sized jar made from recycled, plastic-free materials that they invite customers to refill when they want to try a new product. But, Davis says, the search for a sustainable way to test products is about more than the material itself.

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