Drowning in Plastic: How the Beauty Industry is Contributing to the World’s Plastic Crisis

If the beauty industry doesn’t adopt sustainable practices soon, we, and marine life, could be soon drowning in plastic.

These days, one can be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t use a KeepCup, doesn’t recycle or doesn’t cut down on plastic in some way.

The world has firmly turned its attention to environmentally sustainable practices, but yet the cosmetics industry isn’t following suit.

Globally, the beauty industry produces 120 billion units of packaging every year. And the cardboard that houses foundations, mascaras and moisturizers also contributes to the deforestation of 18 million acres of forest each year.

It’s worrying statistics like this that are shining a spotlight on the beauty industries practices and formulas that aren’t considering the environment, or the planet’s unstable future.

And with statistics revealing that 100% of marine turtles have ingested plastic pollution, and by2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish, it pays to think about how beauty can become more sustainable.

Clean beauty makeup artist, Afton Radojicic, is trying to do just that. With over 18 years of experience in the beauty industry on a global scale, her career spanning both Australia and London, Afton sees the cosmetics industry’s excessive waste consumption as incredibly worrying.

She’s trying to increase the conversation and education around clean beauty and encourage the industry to follow suit, before the impacts become irreversible.

“The beauty industry hasn’t changed in so long, all it’s doing is making the same formulas, with different advertising,” she says.

“But it’s inevitable that these practices are destroying the planet”

“I’m trying to speak up, to educate people, and help them make informed and educated decisions about the brands they use. People need to understand the situation that we are actually facing.”

Drowning in Plastic

As a part of a campaign with the UK Marine Conservation Society, Afton worked on the “drowning in plastic” shoot, commissioned to promote The Great British Beach Clean in September 2019.

In collaboration with art director and photographer Elisabeth Hoff, the campaign took the most common plastics and single-use items found in waterways; plastic bags, bottles, balloons and glitter.

Drowning in Plastic great british beach clean shoot
It’s a haunting vision; but it could become reality if we don’t change our environmental practices. Photo Credit: Elisabeth Hoff and Marine Conservation Society

Synchronized swimmers and models then swam through the pollutants to create “a beautiful take on a dirty subject”, Elisabeth said. 

The models are wrapped up in plastic and surrounded by our own waste that shouldn’t be present in the home of marine life. What is created is a shoot that is both visually striking and haunting; painting a picture of the bleak future of the oceans if practices don’t change fast.

Afton credits her work on this project as instrumental in her realizing the need to focus on the environment.

Models were wrapped in the most common plastics found in waterways: balloons, plastic bags, bottles and glitter.

“Seeing and working on this shoot, and the more I learnt and read about the statistics, I realized more and more we need to make a change so we can protect our planet.”

Afton highlights the magnitude of colour, texture and contrast present in the natural world as her main inspiration towards her practice.

“I grew up at the beach, and I’ve always been surrounded by my natural surroundings,” she says.  

“It’s so beautiful that the natural world is forever changing, and the inspiration can really be endless”

You can follow Afton on Instagram here, and view her other work here.

Click here for Afton’s top tips on changing to a sustainable beauty routine.

Zoe Bradbury

Zoe is a self-confessed health and fitness fanatic. She loves working out and being active, almost as much as she loves going out for brunch and eating avo toast. If she’s not in the gym, you’ll usually find her online shopping, buying something she definitely does not need, or updating her Pinterest board with travel and adventure ideas for the future. Her other loves include dark chocolate, coffee and cats, all enjoyed while watching bad (or really good?) reality TV

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