Tom Ford Beauty launches innovation accelerator to tackle flexible plastic waste

Image: Sway

The Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Accelerator will support the commercial adoption of plant-based plastic alternatives produced by Sway, Zerocircle and Notpla. These three firms shared a $1.2m prize fund from Tom Ford Beauty earlier this year.

Notpla is a London-based packaging startup founded in 2014, best known for its seaweed sachets that have been trialled by the likes of Lucozade and Just Eat.

ZeroCircle is a seaweed cultivation and processing business providing seaweed-based pellets to make flexible films. It also offers seaweed fibre packaging as an alternative to paper and card, plus plastic-free coatings.

Sway, similarly, has been piloting seaweed-based, biodegradable films to house products such as shoes.

These types of solutions, Tom Ford Beauty said in a statement, have not penetrated the market at scale because they need access to “multifaceted networks, leading insights and brand collaborators”.

As such, the Accelerator will provide monthly seminars and workshops for the companies. It also provides them with access to companies that have pledged to be early adopters of plastic-free thin film packaging including Tom Ford Beauty’s parent firm The Estée Lauder Companies. Other companies to have made this pledge include J Crew and Stella McCartney.

US-based ocean health nonprofit Lonely Whale is leading the Accelerator as part of its ‘Unwrap the Future’ programme. This three-year workstream exists to vet and scale marine-safe solutions to thin-film plastics, which it estimates are responsible for almost half of the plastics entering oceans each year.

Impact investment firm Trousdale Ventures is also backing the Accelerator.

The Estée Lauder Companies’ chief sustainability officer Nancy Mahon said: “Over the course of our sustainability journey at The Estée Lauder Companies, we’ve learned that strategic partnerships and collaborations are essential to helping us reach our goals.

“We are honored to continue our partnership with Lonely Whale to help advance the integration of innovative, seaweed-based packaging materials across the fashion and beauty industries and beyond.”

The Estée Lauder Companies is notably a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s CE100 initiative – a cross-industry collaboration aimed at accelerating the transition to a circular economy.

Through this initiative, it has pledged to make sure that at least 75% of its packaging portfolio is recyclable, refillable, reusable, recycled or recoverable by the end of 2025.

Bio-based innovation

The news from Tom Ford Beauty comes shortly after British skincare brand Elemis revealed that it is working to transform plant waste from its product ingredients into bio-based films, which could be used to replace the flexible plastics currently used to package samples.

Elemis is collaborating with Xampla, a firm specializing in biodegradable materials, to develop the bio-based films. These will be produced using the firm’s existing processes for making Morro materials (its first materials on the consumer-facing market), but with plant waste from Elemis ingredient supply chains as the feedstock.

Elemis is aiming for all of its packaging to be recyclable, reusable or biodegradable by 2025. Read edie’s full story here.

Related interview: We speak with The Estée Lauder Companies’ VP for R&D about green chemistry for sustainable beauty

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