The new eco-friendly packaging has been praised for solving a conundrum for firms that currently sell organic ‘clean’ products in plastic containers made from fossil fuel products.
Toxicologists from Heriot-Watt University worked with partners across Europe on the BioBeauty product.
Dr Helinor Johnston, associate professor of toxicology at Heriot-Watt said: “Brands that develop natural and organic products need packaging that aligns with their philosophy and consumer demand for more environmentally-friendly packaging that reduces waste.
“This is a huge opportunity for the industry to gain a competitive advantage – a recent survey showed that over 70 per cent of European consumers would be willing to pay more for greener packaging.”
The huge organic beauty market in the UK was valued at £85.8 million in 2018.
The new packaging is made from polylactic acid (PLA) obtained from renewable resources like corn starch or sugar cane, and is compostable and biodegradable.
In order to improve the performance of the PLA plastic and to increase the shelf life of the cosmetic product, scientists had to incorporate two different materials.
They added nano clays, which improve the barrier properties of the product, and a rosemary extract which acts as an antioxidant to protect the cosmetic product from degradation.
“As toxicologists, we know that even natural ingredients like rosemary can be toxic in the right dose,” said Dr Johnston.
“At Heriot-Watt we tested the toxicity of the rosemary extracts and different types of nano clays to select the least toxic candidates for the final product, to ensure it is safe for consumers.
“We focused on assessing potential harmful impacts on the skin, but also looked at the response of target sites like the liver and immune system.
“We had to establish the toxicological profile of the individual components, as well as the potential risk to the consumer from any migration of the packaging components of the final product.
“We’re creating better ways to test products ethically. As part of this project, we used artificial skin to provide a more comprehensive assessment of how the packaging might react with skin.”
Since 1950, only nine percent of the world’s plastic waste has been recycled.
Around 12n percent is burned while the majority of it ends up in landfill or out in nature, which includes the plastic in oceans.
The Heriot-Watt team believes the new bio-packaging has huge potential in the cosmetics market.
A spokeswoman for Zero Waste Scotland said: “It’s great to see scientists working on alternatives to hard-to-recycle packaging to really impact on climate change, however, we need to reduce the number of single use products we produce in the first place – regardless of the material they’re made of.”
Published on edinburghnews.scotsman.com