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Plastic cotton buds should not be seen on shelves after April 2020

Cosmetics Businesses Need the Right Insurances as Anti-Plastic Sentiment Reigns

Jul 2019


Plastic cotton buds should not be seen on shelves after April 2020, due to a recent UK Government ban, which builds on those on the use of micro-beads in cosmetics, prohibited in manufacturing since January 2018 and banned from sale since June 2018. 

As well as such bans, there is going to be a much higher focus on recycling plastic.  Only 52% of us recycle in the bathroom – far fewer than those who habitually recycle their kitchen waste. One third of us now buy brands based on their social and environmental impact.  Consequently, the biggest cosmetics brands are trying to balance the issues associated with plastics with the convenience that buyers also want when using cosmetics.

This conundrum is hitting businesses in different ways, with some smaller firms having already switched from mass-production methods, to hand-filling of tubes.  Profit margins are also affected, with plastic having traditionally been a very cheap choice.  New materials likely to be found in our bathroom cabinets are metal, glass, carton board and wood pulp.

Beauty Kitchen in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire launched in 2014, as an independent, family-run beauty products’ manufacturing business, intent on taking on some of the world’s biggest brands. Beauty Kitchen’s new Seahorse Plankton+ products are all housed in returnable glass and aluminium packaging.  Bottles and jars are then washed and re-used.  

Beauty Kitchen does not use distributors – doing everything directly with retailers.  Its labels are made from waste limestone rock, as rock paper production uses no trees, no water and no bleach. The company also uses other brands’ unwanted packaging - making use of bottles, jars and even fabric, otherwise going to landfill.

This example shows that the cosmetics sector is experiencing a rapidly changing dynamic and one that requires an insurance safety-net.  Firstly, there is a potential legal issue facing those who accidentally sell a product containing plastic after a ban is in place.  Here, legal expenses protection would be a lifeline, enabling a business to mount a defence in court.

Product recall could be another unexpected action, should an item be unwittingly distributed with banned plastic components.  Product recalls are incredibly expensive, but there are insurance policies for such eventualities.

Using new materials in packaging production will completely change some risk assessments and require in-depth staff training, to stay abreast of health and safety law compliance.  Liability protections – both employee and public – will need suitable limits, based on the likely cost of any future claim.

And, with new materials replacing cheaper plastic, there could be a pressure on cash flow, due to reduced profit margins.  Businesses may need to purchase Trade Credit Insurance, ensuring invoices are paid on time, thus safeguarding cash flow.

With 89% of people supporting the ban on plastic-stemmed cotton buds, the public mood is very much against those using plastic unnecessarily.  Every cosmetics business should be examining its product portfolio, asking if the use of plastic is really necessary and innovatively devising plastic-free solutions or recycling initiatives, to give consumers what they want.  However, as they are businesses, they need to ensure that these actions do not lead to their demise and insurance is part of the thinking that should accompany change.

If you are already altering your business strategies to move away from plastics and need help in buying tailored insurance protection, a site visit from a broker is probably a wise appointment to book in. 

To find a broker, who can visit your premises, see what you do and analyse the risks involved, please use our ‘Find a Local Broker’ tool.

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