Meet the Mornington Peninsula teens tackling the beauty industry’s plastic problem

The beauty industry has a waste problem, contributing close to 12,000 tonnes a year in Australia, so when teenage sisters Daisy and Matilda Johnson from Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula started their sustainable skincare brand, they wanted to avoid contributing to the problem. Their solution? Refillables.

Launching last year, One Summer aims to cut down the amount of waste that ends up in landfill from non-recyclable beauty product packaging by offering refills for customers.

Matilda Violet Johnson (L) and Daisy Truth Johnson launched their refillable skincare brand with sustainability at the forefront of their business model.Credit:Simon Schluter

“Refillables are the way forward,” says older sister Daisy, 16. “As the younger generation that will be facing environmental issues, we wanted to create a brand that focused on sustainability.”

The skincare brand sells lower priced, plain plastic refills to sit inside the original packaging. Empty cartridges can either be recycled or returned in a prepaid pouch, which the sisters clean, refill and reuse.

“We don’t want anything to go into landfill. It’s second-hand – but not dirty,” says Daisy.

The vegan range includes cleansers, moisturisers, masks and scrubs with 100ml refills of each product starting from $30.

Danielle Chee, Adore Beauty’s head of brands and merchandising, has seen demand for refillable beauty products since the online retailer began stocking them in 2013 primarily in the fragrance category. By 2017, refillables extended to all of its categories and today the website sells about 100 refillable products across skincare, body, make-up, and fragrance, including pop star Rihanna’s Fenty Skin and supermodel Miranda Kerr’s Kora Organics.

About 700-1000 customers a month buy refillable products on Adore’s website with this number expected to grow as more brands look to add refillable products to their ranges.

“[Our customers are] seeing it as an eco-friendly way to support their daily routines with the products and formulas they already know and love,” says Chee.

However, Chee says the availability of refillable products is “varied and fragmented” across brands making it difficult for customers to select refillables across the full gamut of their routine.

Competitor beauty retailers Mecca and Sephora also stock refillable ranges.

While choosing refillable products no doubt helps in reducing our collective plastic footprint, experts warn of the shortcomings.

“Products can only be refilled a limited number of times before the containers break down,” says Marc Lichtenstein, chief financial officer at recycling company Close The Loop.

Also, not all cosmetics work in a refillable format.

Lichtenstein says recycling “needs to be planned at the design stage not at the end.”

Close the Loop supported MAC Cosmetics’ successful trade-in recycling program10 years ago that incentivised customers to return empty products. The ASX listed company, valued at $150 million, will soon launch a national beauty recycling scheme with Myer stores to collect used beauty products of all brands and find ways to repurpose them.

In the meantime, Matilda and Daisy are determined to grow their clientele of high school friends and mums in their local area, while advocating for more eco-friendly beauty practices.

“We hope there are more sustainable beauty options in the future,” says Daisy.

As for what’s next? A make-up line hasn’t been ruled out: “The door’s not shut on that.”

6 refillable beauty products

One Summer Skin Care Freshen Up Butter Cup Enzyme Gel Cleanser 100ml, $34.99  

Fenty Skin Instant Reset Overnight Recovery Gel-Cream Refill, $54

KORA Organics Turmeric Glow Moisturizer Refill Pod 50ml, $64.00

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Refill 74g, $73.04 

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick, $49.00

Hourglass Confession Ultra Slim High Intensity Refillable Lipstick, $58.00

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