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Packaging Sin: Skincare Brand Innisfree’s “Paper” Bottle

We who are adopting a more sustainable approach to consumption or are in a zero-waste lifestyle are always on the lookout for products and practices designed to ease up the pressure on the environment.

And we know that when it comes to plastic, single-use packaging materials are a major no-no.

Not only is plastic packaging one of the largest contributors to CO2 and GHG emissions, but it also remains in our surroundings practically forever.

It’s nice to see businesses making the change from plastic containers to biodegradable and compostable options.

But in our desire to search for do-good brands, there’s also the risk of being misled by greenwashing tactics.

Innisfree’s “Paper” Bottle

Take the latest from the popular Korean skincare brand, Innisfree.

The brand is known for cultivating a sustainable approach. They source all-natural ingredients at the legendary Jeju Island, a volcanic oasis in South Korea. Among their sustainable ingredients include green tea, soybean, and tangerine, among others.

But they’ve recently come under fire for a misleading packaging design.

Photo from The Korea Herald

Last year, the brand unveiled an eco-friendly paper edition for their packaging. Their Green Tea Intensive Hydrating Serum was launched on a label that says, “Hello, I’m Paper Bottle”.

The paper packaging claimed to use 51.8% less plastic than the original version.

However, one South Korean customer showed in a Facebook post that the bottle is actually just a plastic bottle wrapped in paper.

The packaging features an outer paper mold made from recycled scrap paper. The brand explains that when the paper cover is pulled away, both the paper and the plastic bottle can be recycled separately.

But instead of approval, the new look garnered questions about the brand’s eco-friendly stance.

The customer, along with many online commenters, accuses the brand of greenwashing, and “misleading marketing”.

And Innisfree had to respond. In a statement, they said: “We used the term ‘paper bottle’ to explain the role of the paper label surrounding the bottle,” as indicated in The Korea Herald.

“We overlooked the possibility that the naming could mislead people to think the whole packaging is made of paper. We apologize for failing to deliver information in a precise way,” the brand explained.

Amorepacific, the brand’s parent company, reported in their July corporate news that aside from the 51.8% less plastic usage, there is 10% recycled plastic in the bottle cap and shoulder as well.

The packaging is part of Amorepacific’s plan to reduce about 700 tons of plastic packaging by 2022.

Packaging Sin: Lessons Learned

We know that plastic waste is a serious contaminant in our natural environment.

A very small percentage of plastic packaging is actually recycled (only 13% in the U.S.). Industry big names (we’re still waiting, Coca-Cola) are encouraged to take action in reducing their plastic reliance.

And there are available materials now that promote a more sustainable packaging. From recycled cardboard, compostable containers, to plant-based fiber innovations, there are many options businesses can consider.

But news like this one can be pretty disappointing. Companies that are supposed to invest in solutions are still resorting to misleading marketing moves.

It’s one thing to not do anything zero waste or eco-conscious. But it’s another to claim environmental merits as a sustainable brand when there are little or none at all.

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