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The "Reduce, reuse, recycle" principles guides us from the drawing board phase

An interview with Stefanie Gunz, Head of Marketing at German company Geka, one of the world leaders in plastic cosmetic packaging.
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The "Reduce, reuse, recycle" principles guides us from the drawing board phase

You are mainly known for your complete packaging and applicator solutions for mascara, liquid eye shadow, nail polish, etc. Who are your main customers?

We now have a presence all over the world with factories in Europe, but also in Brazil, the United States and China, and we work with the most iconic names in the beauty industry as well as with those launching their first beauty brand. We partner with those who seek turnkey solutions as well as responsible and sustainable packaging. We are proud of our thousands of patents related to packaging and brushes.

 

 

What are the main polymers used in your products?

We are first and foremost plastics manufacturers and therefore use a wide range of polymers to meet our customers' requirements in terms of functionality, performance, aesthetics and, above all, health and safety. In the cosmetic packaging industry, the requirements are as demanding and restrictive as those for food packaging, for obvious reasons. It is indeed imperative that our packaging provides a barrier to anything that could contaminate or degrade (bacteria, oxygen) the often-fragile cosmetic products.

Our cosmetic packaging consists of five different elements: bottle, cap, threaded neck, brush or applicator and wiper*. We look for the polymer with the best characteristics most suited to the product that is to be packaged. Waterproof mascara tubes, for example, are made of polypropylene (PP) because it has excellent water vapour barrier properties. This means that the mascara will not evaporate even in very hot weather. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is very robust, is used for other mascaras that are wax-based and therefore less volatile.

 

 These two polymers are the most commonly used plastics because they are easy to mould and have excellent properties to act as a barrier to anything that might contaminate cosmetic products. For the fibres of the brushes and applicator threads, we chose acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), a polymer that is resistant to friction. This is important because a brush can be used several times a day and each time it rubs against the wiper.

* The wiper is a part usually placed in the neck of the bottle. It is used to remove the excess product deposited on the applicator in order to facilitate its use.

What actions are you taking to green your packaging?

The beauty packaging industry is facing strong demand from cosmetic brands for beautiful, trendy and now sustainable products.  In addition, regulatory and consumer pressure is pushing us to follow the concept of "reduce, reuse, recycle". First of all, from the drawing board phase, we seek to reduce the quantity of materials without affecting the performance of the product. This is eco-design!

 

 

We are also working on the design of refillable packaging. In fact, we believe that the combined use of recycled polymers and refillable packaging will play an increasingly important role in the very near future.

 The increased use of recycled plastics is another important trend. Our goal is to achieve 100% recycled plastics in our packaging.
Finally, we are already using some bio-based plastics and are still in the study phase for others.

We are also committed to using less water and energy, and we are optimising our logistics processes as much as possible in order to always emit less CO2, and thus constantly improve our carbon footprint.

Which recycled and bio-based polymers do you already use?

Our mascara and lip gloss tubes are now 100% recycled PET. This RPET comes from used bottles that are recycled via the continuous solid state polycondensation (SSP) process, a technique that guarantees the food or cosmetic use of this polymer once recycled. Our caps are made from 100% recycled polypropylene (PP) which is derived from PP packaging waste such as detergent bottles.

 

The wipers comprise a portion of linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) and 84% of a bio-based polymer derived from sugar cane, the threaded parts are made of 66% of different recycled polymers. The different applicators can be made of at least 25% recycled plastics.
As for the mascara brushes, some are made from a biosourced fibre that we have developed. This is an exclusive product that we have called EOSgreen and EOSgreendelta fibres, which are made from a polymer derived from castor roots.

Are these new materials as effective as traditional polymers in preserving cosmetic products?

 

Yes, they are. Our in-house laboratory of chemists, polymer experts, packaging and application specialists inspects and tests them thoroughly to ensure their compatibility with the textures packaged inside them.

 

 Are your products easily recyclable?

We still have a lot of progress to make in this area. We are working on the development of future single-material packaging, which is much easier to recycle.

At the end of its life, however, this packaging will be considered contaminated by the products it protects and will be subjected to a thorough washing phase.
We work closely with polymer manufacturers and are always on the lookout for innovations in this field.

 

 

Finally, Geka is a company that is almost a hundred years old. What is its history?

It started out as a brush factory, founded by Georg Karl in 1925 in Bechhofen, the German stronghold of the business. 97 years later, we are still there. We started producing our first brushes for cosmetic applications in moulded plastics in the 1960s and are now a market leader. At the beginning of 2000, we were the first company to develop and market moulded mascara brushes, thus patenting our various manufacturing processes. Today, our range of cosmetic packaging for liquids includes more than 1,200 items, offering countless possibilities for combining bottles, caps and applicators. Finally, we have had our own filling line in Europe since 2012 and in the USA since 2019. In 2021, we became part of the Swiss company Medmix, a world leader in high-precision injected delivery devices. We are proud to have been awarded a platinum medal for our sustainability policy by EcoVadis in the same year. This award places us in the top 1% of companies in our sector assessed by EcoVadis for the second year running. This is encouraging, especially as we aim to reduce our carbon footprint by 30% by 2025 compared to 2019 and to send no waste to landfills.

 

 

 

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