Initiated by circular economy consulting and training company Circul’R, with the support of the sustainable development consultancy We Don’t Need Roads (WDNR) and the support of the Citeo reuse fund, the Cosmétiques et Réemploi Coalition (Cosmetics and Reuse Coalition) aims to launch a pilot deposit scheme on point-of-sale for the packaging of skincare products by the end of 2024.

"The deposit model for cosmetics remains largely unexplored in France, if not non-existent. Our ambition is to develop it,” said Jules Coignard, co-founder of Circul’R. With this in mind, the creation of a coalition makes it possible to pool flows and to achieve a substantial reduction in costs.

According to Arnaud Lancelot, Reinvention Director at WDNR and founder of Cozie, a skincare brand he sold in May 2023 after having pioneered refill solutions at the point of sale, "this experience will enable to share valuable lessons with the coalition participants, particularly on aspects such as product and packaging selection, efficient supply chain management for bottle collection, and the technical skills required in the washing and traceability processes.

A deposit packaging scheme focused on skincare

In a context of strengthening regulatory constraints (the AGEC law in France and the draft regulation on packaging and packaging waste, scheduled for 2025 at the European level) and of changing consumption practices (88% of French consumers would have already tested reuse practices, and 94% say they are ready to switch to reusing their shampoo bottles), the cosmetics industry is called upon to innovate and collaborate to reduce its production of packaging waste.

Eight dermo-cosmetic brands – Mustela (Laboratoires Expanscience), Garancia, La Rosée, Bioderma (NAOS), A-Derma, Ducray, Eluday, and Klorane (Laboratoires Pierre Fabre) – have ben tested since June 2023 a in-store refill system for 15 hygiene products, including shower gels, shampoos, or micellar water. Supported by (Re)Set, a consulting agency specialized in economic and environmental transition, the Pharma-Recharge Consortium, requires consumers to wash the glass bottle themselves.

The ambition of the Cosmetics and Reuse Coalition is to go further with a system centred on skincare products for which microbiological requirements are more stringent,” explains Arnaud Lancelot. In this new system, already used packaging will be collected at the point of sale, then sent to a specialized washing centre before being redirected to the brand, when fully washed up, to be refilled at the factory, as if it were virgin packaging. At the point of sale, this system will not require the installation of dedicated piece of furniture.

There are some uncertainties in the project – in particular regarding the resistance of the different packaging solutions and decorations to washing cycles. The creation of a coalition makes it possible to pool risks and increase volumes to make the collection and washing operation financially viable,” continues Arnaud Lancelot. The founding members also invite other brands that may be interested to join the coalition.

In a first step, glass and PET jars and bottles will be preferred, as well as best-selling products, in order to generate maximum volume. The concrete terms of the deposit scheme have not yet been decided, even if for Arnaud Lancelot “a monetary deposit is obviously a powerful incentive lever.