As an avid skincare lover and frequent micellar-water-user, I have been looking for a sustainable alternative to cotton pads. Currently, I am using a soft towel to get rid of my makeup, but it doesn’t quite get into the nooks and crannies like cotton pads do (srsly, try and take off eye makeup with a towel, it’s not an easy feat). The Eco Pads are advertised as ultra-soft, reusable microfibre pads that effectively yet gently remove makeup. If it wasn’t for the fact that they’re entirely made out of polyester, the marketing definitely could have tricked me into thinking they’re sustainable. Yes you heard right, the “eco” pads are 100% made of polyester and come from one of the most polluting industries in the world. So, despite the company using a lot of renewable energy in their production process, I just couldn’t ignore the material and additional lack of transparency from the company. Ultimately I was only able to give the product 0.5/3 planets.
Even though the pads can be used up to 1000 times and therefore save many single-use cotton pads from being thrown out, I’m undecided whether they’re actually that much more sustainable. This is because the eco pads cannot be recycled and, more importantly, are made out of 100% polyester. As many of you might already know, polyester is a common plastic made from synthetic petroleum-based fibre, ranking third after polyethylene and polypropylene as the most used plastic. The fact that it's made from petroleum should already give you a hint as to why I’m not entirely sold on its sustainability. While I’m going to get a bit more into the environmental impacts of polyester in the next section, it's pretty obvious that polyester’s least attractive trait is being non-biodegradable… What happens to the pads after we throw them out? Will they just end up in yet another landfill? The main reason why I’m disappointed that Garnier opted for polyester is because there are other companies that produce reusable make-up pads from sustainable cotton and bamboo. It shows that even though there are other ways to make reusable make-up pads, Garnier chose the cheapest rather than most sustainable alternative. Not in love with the greenwashing...
That being said, I wasn’t very surprised when I couldn’t find information about the sourcing or manufacturing process. This is because Garnier gives greater attention to the transparency of their ingredients rather than their plastic production. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s necessary to be open about ingredients, but it’s just as important to be clear about the sourcing process of other materials.
I couldn’t find any information about the manufacturing process on Garnier’s webpage, but since polyester is made from a carbon-intensive non-renewable resource, it can be assumed that its manufacturing isn’t the most sustainable. As more than 70 million barrels of oil are used to make polyester each year, it is extremely hard for me to see this product as sustainable. Also, polyester requires more than double the energy of conventional cotton to be produced, which shows that the eco pads can’t be that much more sustainable. The production of polyester involves the use of harmful chemicals that can cause significant environmental damage when they get into water systems. This isn’t just damaging to the environment, but also for surrounding communities. Although I was unable to find where these eco pads are made, most polyester is produced in China, Indonesia and Bangladesh where environmental regulations are much more lenient and water/air pollution is often left untreated. While this might not be the case for Garnier’s factories, there is no way of knowing due to their lack of transparency in this regard. The company also claims that each standard single-use cotton pad needs far more water for cotton cultivation than the water needed for one laundry wash of a Garnier eco pad. Even if this is true it just feels like one evil is exchanged for another, especially since there are other alternatives out there.
On a positive note, up to 61% of energy at Garnier’s industrial sites comes from renewable energy and 49% of production sites are carbon neutral. The company even aims to have all their sites be 100% carbon neutral and only use renewable energy by 2025. Personally, I think the carbon neutral target is a bit too ambitious considering that they’re still actively using carbon-intensive materials like polyester for the eco pads. Also, Garnier is planning on moving towards using 100% post-consumption recycled (PCR) material and sustainably sourced/biobased plastics by 2025. The only thing that remains unclear is whether this goal is meant for the eco pads or mainly targets the packaging of products. Nevertheless, the company wouldn’t be 100% free of virgin plastic if they’re still producing their eco pads with polyester.
The eco pads are made by Garnier, which is owned by the parent-company L’Oreal. Although I was unable to find much information about Garnier’s polyester sourcing and manufacturing, I saw that the company has a Solidarity Sourcing program. In 2019, the program helped 670 communities with social and financial challenges access jobs, health care and other essential services (there is more information and evidence on the webpage). While this made me less frustrated with the company, it doesn’t excuse their use of polyester and lack of transparency about it.
Since the social agenda wasn’t really made clear on Garnier’s webpage, I looked at L’Oreal’s to find out more. L’Oreal and their brands follow a Human Rights policy in line with UN standards and, as of 2019, are part of the Danish Institute of Human Rights. I was also pleasantly surprised that the company is a member of Open For Business, which is a coalition of global businesses that aims to support LGBTQIA+ rights internationally and create a social consensus of inclusion. In terms of their employees, L’Oreal works together with the Fair Wage network to ensure that a living wage is paid throughout their supply chain. This means that all employees AND suppliers have to be paid enough to buy food, housing and basic needs for themselves and their dependents. As there weren’t any scandals or negative comments about these initiatives, it’s safe to assume that they’re actually taking their values seriously. Overall, I don’t think that Garnier in itself is a terrible company, but I just don’t see the point of the eco pads. We all know that polyester isn’t the sustainable way forward and even if the company is on its path to only using renewable energy, the process of producing polyester remains carbon-intensive.