Eliza’s Reflection

C o n s u p o l l u t i o n
[kon – su – puh – lew – shun]
(n.pollution from the
active consumption of humans
of products in the economy

At the beginning of the blogging journey, I asked the readers to join us (Eliza and Jocelyn) on a journey to transform ourselves from Consupollutants to Mindful Consumers. We started by discussing environmental pollution and consumption issues in food, then fashion, beauty products, domestic cleaning agents and then e-wastes.

The term consupollutants, a term we coined, is what we felt we should call ourselves because of how we contribute massively to environmental pollution because of our consumption patterns and active choices when we’re consuming. And as I personally researched into the topics and issues, I have been more exposed to the plight of the environment and us humans faces because of our decision-making process. Hence, Jocelyn and I wanted to create bite-sized blog posts to highlight the issue of a topic and then suggest ways or alternatives for us to be a more mindful consumer.

I have always been into sustainability and the eco-lifestyle, especially in the realm of fashion. However, researching these topics really broadened my knowledge. Yes, it is hard to be a mindful and rational consumer overnight, but I believe that it is important for us to know why we have to change our lifestyle and consumption behaviour. As individuals, we can always start small. If every one of us does our part, this can influence a whole bunch of others to also do the same.

For food, we should start by being less wasteful. Eat what you can eat, and do not be a glutton (A personal problem as I am a foodie…)! Being a busy undergrad student, takeouts are my best friend, and I’m sure she is yours too. Hence, remember to BYO! Bring your own tupperware and bottle everywhere you go so as to minimise plastic packaging wastes. Also start small by exposing yourself to vegan options (A very hard thing for me seeing as I love my KBBQ and Samgyupsal and beef shortplate…). Moreover, Support Local produce! These produce produced locally have a minimal carbon footprint.

For fashion, buy what you need and not want! Try not to succumb to the latest trends! Additionally, explore other alternatives like thrift-shopping, swapping and upcycling clothes. I personally love fashion, but I fell in love with conscious fashion. The thrill of finding gems while you thrift-shop and swap clothes is a rush I’ve grown accustomed to. My next personal mission is to learn how to sew so that I can upcycle and rework some of my clothes!

For beauty products, it is important for us to support brands that are environmentally conscious, brands that make the effort to eliminate plastic packaging as well as use materials that are not harmful to the environment.

All these are the small things that we can do, that I personally would (or have already done).

We only have one Earth, and ultimately one chance to do it right. We should try our best to protect the Earth for future generations.

Thank you for joining me in this journey!

~ Eliza Dawn

Pollution from E-Wastes : Planned Obsolescence

Modern capitalism started in the mid 18th century and in itself, capitalism is neutral (Wood, 2017). This means that capitalism is not born with the intention to harm the environment. However, the industrial revolution came along the way, revamping the way the manufacturing industry operates and leveraged on the existing system of modern capitalism. Industrialists soon took over the merchants to become the drivers of economic growth. This came with its own set of issues. In 1925, the Phoebus Cartel was founded in Geneva. It existed to control the sale and manufacture of incandescent light bulbs. Light bulbs were made to last for 100 years, this meant reduced revenue for manufacturers. Hence, they came up with an agreement to limit the lifespan of lightbulbs, known as planned obsolescence, which was implemented in many other products we are using today. Planned obsolescence refers to the artificial shortening of a product lifespan, regardless of the resources and energy put into producing that product (Bulow, 1986). This formed the current extractive industrial model of “Take, Make, Use and Throw” (Ellen MacArther Foundation, n.d.), which results in the waste problem many countries are facing today. To aggravate this issue, people around the world are sourcing for products with the best quality at the lowest costs in the pursuit of better standards of living. Have we ever stopped to ponder, how did these goods get so cheap? To lower the costs of production, manufacturers are resorting to harmful environmental practices such as illegal logging and unsustainable palm oil production, which in itself leads to other environmental issues like pollution.

Planned Obsolescence is the act of intentionally shortening the lifespan of a product with the aim of making customers replace it, whether physically or arbitrarily.

In the introduction, planned obsolescence was discussed. To recap, it refers to the act of intentionally shortening the lifespan of a product with the aim of making customers replace it, whether physically or arbitrarily. Manufacturers can design or plan to produce a printer which loses its functionality within a fixed period of time by using a programmed microchip embedded within it, making it cheaper to replace than to repair the printer. A phone with irreplaceable battery can force you to buy a new buy a phone even when everything else of the phone works fine. A light bulb made to last for more than 100 years, have to be replaced frequently now. These are all workings of planned obsolescence, forcing mankind to produce more waste so that the capitalist economy can continue to prosper. Do you feel short-changed? What can we as consumers do about it?

Valuable materials like circuit boards and plastic are separated from the old electronics, processed and resold to manufacturers as new input. While unusable parts of the old electronics, like laptop screens, are left lying on open ground. In countries with lax environmental regulation and enforcement, this quickly becomes a problem. Laptop screens contain toxic chemicals like mercury, that can seep into the groundwater or get washed into the nearby water bodies during rain. Pieces of evidence have shown that the local physical environment in Guiyu, China, one of the largest e-waste recycling location, is heavily polluted. The locals in Guiyu are suffering because of the E-waste generated by others all over the world. E-waste recycling is not the panacea for the E-waste problem, and having someone else pay for our desire for a new gadget is intolerable. Hence, it is time to rethink our consumption pattern.

Before you get your next smartphone, think again, do you really need it?
Also, can E-waste recycling really solve our E-waste problem when only 20% of it gets recycled (Vaute, 2018)?
Can Daisy the recycling robot invented by Apple Inc, be the solution to our E-waste problem (CNET, 2019)?

Even though corporations are alleged to be causing the E-waste problem, with aggressive marketing strategies, planning obsolescence on their phones, some companies in the telecommunication and electronics industry are initiating e-waste collection programmes as part of their corporate social responsibility program. Examples of such companies are StarHub (RENEW, n.d.) and HP (HP, n.d.).

Find out more about this topic here:

  1. Planned Obsolescence: Apple Is Not The Only Culprit. Adam Sarhan. Dec 22, 2017. Click here!
  2. Planned Obsolescence documentary.


Wood, E. M. (2017). The origin of capitalism: A longer view. London: Verso.

Bulow, J. (1986). An Economic Theory of Planned Obsolescence. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 101 (4), 729. doi:10.2307/1884176

Ellen MacArther Foundation (n.d), Concept: What is a circular economy? A framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design. Retrieved from: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/concept

Vaute, V. (2018). Recycling Is Not The Answer To The E-Waste Crisis. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/vianneyvaute/2018/10/29/recycling-is-not-the-answer-to-the-e-waste-crisis/#482549797381

CNET. (2019). Apple wants to share its Daisy robot tech for recycling iPhones. Retrieved from: https://www.cnet.com/videos/apple-wants-to-share-its-daisy-robot-tech-for-recycling-iphones/

RENEW. (n.d.). REcycling the Nation’s Electronic Waste. Retrieved from: https://www.starhub.com/about-us/corporate-sustainability/recycling-nations-electronic-waste.html

HP (n.d.). Tech Takes:\ Impact on E-waste. Retrieved from: https://store.hp.com/app/tech-takes/impact-of-e-waste

Pollution from E-Wastes

Hello! Welcome back to another post on E-Wastes. From the previous post, we have discussed the various types of E-waste. Now, this blog post will focus on how exactly does E-Waste pollute the earth. This can be discussed in two themes: how it is harmful to humans, as well as how it is harmful to the environment. Ultimately, the production and consumption of E-wastes contribute massively to Environmental Pollution.

How is it harmful to humans?

Health risks may result from direct contact with toxic materials that leach from e-waste, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Toxic minerals include lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants, or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). It is harmful when humans inhale the toxic fumes, and the environment with the accumulation of chemicals in soil, water, and food, which can ultimately affect the food that we eat. Studies have shown this global e-waste pollution has not only detrimental effects on the people that work with the e-waste but also the people that live around it. In fact, in developing countries, the risks are exceptionally high because some developed countries send their e-waste there. Because of this, a proper recycling process needs to be put in place to protect us and future generations, most especially those who are vulnerable to large dumps of e-wastes.

How is it harmful to the environment?

While above ground, modern electronics are safe to use and be around. However, most electronics contain some form of toxic materials, including beryllium, cadmium, mercury, and lead, which pose serious environmental risks to our soil, water, air, and wildlife. When e-waste gets buried at a landfill, it can dissolve in microscopic traces into sludge that permeates at the landfill. Eventually, these traces of toxic materials leach into the ground below the landfill. The more E-waste and metals at the landfill, the more of these trace toxic minerals get leached in the groundwater. The problem is that the amount of e-waste pollution is just massive, and all the trace amounts have ballooned over the years. That toxic water under the landfill doesn’t stop below the landfill. It continues to the groundwater and the sources to all the freshwater in the surrounding area. Not only is this bad for anyone using a natural well, but it hurts the nearby wildlife. That, in turn, causes the wildlife to get sick from lead, arsenic, cadmium, and other metal poisonings due to the high concentration of these minerals. Mentioned from above, this will also affect our food chain and the food that we eat, as we can get metal poisoning.

Heavy metals are the most persistent pollutants in the environment because of their resistance to decomposition in a natural condition (Ra et al., 2013). When heavy metal levels exceed from their permissible limits, they become toxic. Under certain environmental conditions, heavy metals might accumulate up to toxic concentration levels, and pose negative impacts not only in an environment but also on human health (He et al., 2017).

Pollutive Aspect?

  • Companies keep producing and manufacturing
  • Consumers keep buying! This is linked to the phenomenon ‘designed for the dump’ or Planned Obsolescence which we will talk about in our next post!


Gangwar, C., Choudhari, R., Chauhan, A., Kumar, A., Singh, A. and Tripathi, A. (2019). Assessment of air pollution caused by illegal e-waste burning to evaluate the human health risk. Environment International, 125, pp.191–199.

[Mitigation] Pollution from Domestic Cleaning Agents : An Alternative

No one can avoid exposure to toxic chemicals altogether, but it is possible to reduce it significantly.

How can we do this? As a first step, we should assess which cleaning products are really necessary. Next, we should also make sure to check the label on the back of the product to make sure the ingredients do not contain harmful chemicals or toxins that could potentially harm us and the environment. Make sure the ingredients of the cleaner are easily biodegradable and breakdown quickly in the wastewater treatment facilities. For this, it’s best to look for products that are 100% natural or all-natural, and certified by an independent institution like NEA, for Singapore’s case. Lastly, we tend to use more of the cleaning and or laundry products than strictly necessary, because using more product will ‘clean better’. However, this is not usually the case! We should stick to the directions of use on the label and thus this minimizes the amount of cleaning products ending up in wastewaters because the effect of cleaning will not be greater by using more cleaning liquid or laundry detergent. It is also important to check the labels of the products you use and follow the instructions to make sure you handle and store them in a safe way, also to minimise unnecessary exposure to the environment or the house.

Alternatively, we can make our own cleaning agents!

Do-It-Yourself Cleaning Agents

Worried about the potential VOCs and other chemical toxins inside store-bought domestic cleaning agents? Here are some recipes of cleaning agents you can make at home to clean safely and cheaply:

Basic sink cleanser — Combine ½ cup baking soda with six drops essential oil (such as lavender, rosemary, lemon, lime or orange). Rinse sink well with hot water. Sprinkle combination into the sink and pour ¼ cup vinegar over top. After the fizz settles, scrub with a damp sponge or cloth. Rinse again with hot water. (From The Naturally Clean Home, by Karyn Siegel-Maier.)

Oven cleanser — Put a heatproof dish filled with water in the oven. Turn on the heat to let the steam soften any baked-on grease. Once the oven is cool, apply a paste of equal parts salt, baking soda, and vinegar, and scrub. (From Super Natural Home, by Beth Greer.)

Bathroom mildew remover — Good ventilation helps prevent mildew and mould. When they do occur, make a spray with 2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon each of tea-tree and lavender oil. Shake first and spray on trouble spots. The oils break down the mildew so there’s no need to wipe it down. (From Green Interior Design, by Lori Dennis.)

Carpet shampoo — Mix 3 cups water, ¾ cup vegetable-based liquid soap, and 10 drops peppermint essential oil. Rub the foam into soiled areas with a damp sponge. Let dry thoroughly and then vacuum. (From The Naturally Clean Home.)

Laundry soap — Try “soap nuts” made from the dried fruit of the Chinese soapberry tree. Available in natural groceries and online, the reusable soap nuts come in a cotton sack that goes into the washing machine with clothes.

Dusting — Skip the furniture polishes. Instead, use a microfiber cloth. Made from synthetic fibres that are then split into hundreds of smaller microfibers, they capture dust more efficiently than regular rags. If necessary, a little olive oil makes a fine polishing agent.

All in all, we should be actively involved in our decision-making process and read all labels on cleaning supplies and household products before we buy them. Choose products that do not contain or have reduced amounts of VOCs, fragrances, irritants and flammable ingredients and try to avoid using air fresheners altogether. As a safer cleaning alternative, warm water and soap with a generous helping of lemon often will do the trick, especially at home. Baking soda is good for scrubbing. A mix of vinegar and water can clean glass. When using cleaning or household products, keep the area well ventilated by opening the windows and doors. Do note to also never use cleaning products in a small and enclosed space.

[Mitigation] Pollution from Domestic Cleaning Agents : International Countries’ Regulations

International Countries’ Regulations

United States of America

In the journal Science, De Gouw and others report that the amount of Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs emitted from household and industrial products is 2 to 3 times higher than official US estimates suggest. The result is surprising as only approximately 5% of raw oil is turned into chemicals for consumer products, with 95% ending up as fuel (MacDonald et al, 2015).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 2.1 million janitors work in the US (U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS, 2020). About 6% of janitors experience workplace injury from chemical exposure brought about by domestic cleaning agents. Moreover, anyone in the building can breathe in the VOCs from these cleaning products. At levels of typical use, the risk of adverse health impacts from domestic cleaning products is pretty low. Still, reducing potential hazards is an integral part of chemical management safety. Certain chemicals may irritate skin, eyes, or throat. Some commercial-grade products may be hazardous in concentrated forms. Cleaning products enter the environment during the course of regular use by getting rinsed down the drain or evaporating into volatile compounds. Residue can linger on surfaces and cleaning tools.

The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA has also issued regulations limiting the volatile organic compound (VOC) concentration in various institutional and consumer cleaning products. Products that may contain regulated VOC’s include (but are not limited to) bathroom and tile cleaners, disinfectants and sanitizers, furniture cleaners, laundry starch and detergents, fabric refresher (linen spray), hair styling products, shaving gels and air fresheners (room spray).

United Kingdom

In the EU, there are different regulations to ensure the safety of domestic cleaning agents for household use. For example, the CLP Regulation, it is a regulation on classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals, regulating the way that chemicals and products containing them are labelled and packaged. If the product contains hazardous chemicals, it must be labelled with a pictogram and an explanation of what it means. This helps consumers to handle the product safely and gives advice on what to do in case of an accident.



McDonald, B.C., et al. (2018). Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions. Science, [online] 359(6377), pp.760–764. Available at: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6377/760.

U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS (2020). [online] Available at: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes372011.htm.


Pollution from Domestic Cleaning Agents : The Big Picture

What are Domestic Cleaning Agents?

Domestic cleaning agents are effective at getting rid of the dirt at home, germs and other microscopic, harmful organisms. However, some of these domestic cleaning agents that are used to sanitize, whiten and wash clothing, surfaces, dishes and bedding are also harming our water and air, causing massive Environmental Pollution, especially indoor pollution, especially in our homes where we spend arguably our most time in.

The chemicals in many cleaners are common pollutants that contribute to smog, reduce the quality of drinking water and are toxic to animals.

Who are these ‘Chemical Culprits’?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia and chemicals grouped under the term “Volatile Organic Compounds” or VOCs as the worst environmental hazards in domestic cleaning agents (US EPA, 2018).

According to the Canadian Labour Environmental Alliance Society, dishwasher detergents are approximately 30 to 40 per cent phosphorus. Moreover, ammonia is a multipurpose household cleaner that is found in many cleaning products that do everything from sanitizing and removing allergens. VOCs are found in a wide range of cleaning products. They whiten your clothes, remove oil from dishes and disinfect as bathroom cleaners, amongst other uses. Nitrogen is found in glass and surface cleaning products and even in floor cleaners as well (US EPA, 2019).

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Phosphorous – P
Ammonia – NH3
Nitrogen – N

Common domestic cleaning agent supplies containing VOCs and other toxic substances can include, but are not limited to (American Lung Association, 2020):

  • Aerosol spray products, including health, beauty and cleaning products;
  • Air fresheners;
  • Chlorine bleach;
  • Detergent and dishwashing liquid;
  • Dry cleaning chemicals;
  • Rug and upholstery cleaners;
  • Furniture and floor polish; and
  • Oven cleaners

Household cleaners, paints and perfumes have also become substantial sources of urban air pollution as strict controls on vehicles have reduced road traffic emissions, some scientists say.

Researchers in the US looked at levels of synthetic VOCs in roadside air in Los Angeles and found that as much came from industrial and household products refined from petroleum as from vehicle exhaust pipes.

The compounds are an important contributor to air pollution because when they waft into the atmosphere, they react with other chemicals to produce harmful ozone or fine particulate matter known as PM2.5. Ground-level ozone can trigger breathing problems by making the airways constrict, while fine airborne particles drive heart and lung disease.

Globally, the greatest source of volatile organic compounds are plants and trees, but the natural background levels are exacerbated by vapours released from hairsprays and perfumes; cleaning products and pesticides; paints and substances such as formaldehyde, which is used in glues, plywood and other building materials. Yet more synthetic VOCs come from burning fuels such as gas and wood (Sample, 2018).

The next post will discuss in detail how toxins in domestic cleaning agents harm the environment.


US EPA (2018). Sustainable Marketplace: Greener Products and Services | US EPA. [online] US EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts [Accessed 5 Jan. 2019].

US EPA (2019). Nutrient Pollution | US EPA. [online] US EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution.

American Lung Association (2020). Cleaning Supplies and Household Chemicals | American Lung Association. [online] www.lung.org. Available at: https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants/cleaning-supplies-household-chem.

Sample, I. (2018). Cleaning products a big source of urban air pollution, say scientists. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/15/cleaning-products-urban-pollution-scientists [Accessed 9 Nov. 2020].

[Mitigation] Pollution from Beauty Products : Alternative Packaging

Pollution from Beauty Products : Packaging

Welcome back to another blog post regarding the pollution in the Beauty Industry! This time, we will touch on the efforts done to mitigate the problem, specifically how brands and corporations deal with packaging pollution. This is tied to our previous blog above titled, Pollution from Beauty Products: Packaging.

Because of all the problems arising from the unsustainability of the packaging used in the beauty industry, there is a dire need for alternatives – seeing as the beauty industry is recession-proof and that the industry is only going to earn more money in the coming years. With the ban on “rinse-off” microbeads in the US, it’s now important to focus on the container. With packaging accounting for approximately 40% of total plastic usage but only 14% being recycled, it is important for us to look at other alternatives to ensure the sustainability of products in the industry (Plastic Oceans, n.d.).

Beauty Brands in the Spotlight

This is where it is important for us to be rational and responsible consumers. For one, it is important for us to still properly recycle the products that we use. However, we also have to mindfully switch and embrace brands that are doing what they can to reduce their pollutive impact. There are a variety of different factors you can look into: You can look for products with recyclable/refillable packaging or alternatives like makeup removal towels. You can also buy from brands that have recycling programs. Here are some brands that we can appreciate for their eco-friendly alternative packaging:

#1: Kevin Murphy

Picture from: Kevin Murphy Website

Australian haircare brand Kevin Murphy evidently ‘closed the loop’ on its plastic consumption by partnering with Pack Tech, a Dutch packaging brand. Kevin Murphy products are entirely packaged in recycled plastic recovered from the oceans. Not only is it made from plastic wastes, but it is also recyclable. Making the switch to Ocean Waste Plastic (OWP) is Kevin Murphy’s way to take the first step in the beauty industry to move towards sustainability.

#2: MAC Cosmetics

Information from MAC Cosmetics Singapore Website

MAC Cosmetics have a recycling program called Back to MAC initiative whereby customers could trade-in 6 MAC lipstick tubes (finished, and to be recycled) and receive one free lipstick in return.
#3: Dove

Picture from: Unilever

In line with Dove’s parent company, Unilever, to become more sustainable, Dove has switched up all of its Dove, Dove Men+Care, and Baby Dove packaging in North America and Europe to 100% recycled plastic bottles at the end of 2019, with plans to expand globally by the end of 2020. This initiative stands to reduce “the use of virgin plastic by more than 20,500 tons per year.”The brand also announced that it is working on plastic-free Beauty Bar single packs and stainless-steel Dove deodorant sticks that will be reusable and refillable.
#4: Ethique Beauty

Picture from Amazon

Ethique Beauty uses recyclable paper packaging, not plastic, for all its products — from shampoos and conditioners to body washes. Since launching in 2012, the company has stopped more than 3.3 million plastic bottles from being made and disposed of into landfills. Additionally, 20% of their annual profit goes to charities focused on the environment.
#5: Āether Beauty

Picture from Aether Beauty

Āether Beauty created the first-ever zero-waste and 100% recyclable eyeshadow palette! After removing the eyeshadow pans, one can throw the palette into the recycling bin.
It is very clear that the beauty industry needs to reform, and the sooner brands like the ones above find success, the sooner we are able to save our oceans and the Earth.

Johnston, I. (2017). Microbeads ban: Government to outlaw microplastics in cosmetic products. The Independent. [online] 21 Jul. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/microbeads-ban-bill-uk-cosmetic-products-government-outlaws-microplastics-a7852346.html.

Plastic Oceans (n.d.). Facts . About Plastic . Help – Plastic Oceans Foundation. [online] Plastic Oceans International. Available at: https://www.plasticoceans.org/the-facts/ [Accessed 4 Nov. 2020].


Pollution from Beauty Products : Feminine Care

What are Feminine Care Products

Menstruation is one of the most natural and healthy parts of life.  In fact, in many cultures, the first period is often celebrated – as having your period for the first time signifies one’s journey to womanhood. In Croatia, a girl celebrating her first period would be treated to drinking her first red wine, meanwhile, in South Africa, a huge party will be thrown and the girl would have to stay inside the house for three days away from children and especially men, while her first period is ongoing (Bisaria, 2018). However, there is a prevalence of menstrual taboos and period shaming that has a massive impact on the products we use and how we dispose of them. This can affect our health, and end up in landfill, on beaches or polluting our oceans for decades.

Feminine care products include sanitary pads, pantyliners, tampons, period panties and menstrual cups. Tampons, in particular, takes longer to degrade than the lifespan of the women who wear it and the average woman will use over 11,000 disposable, one-time-use menstrual products in her reproductive lifetime (Winter, 2019). That is a lot of tampons.

So… what is the significance of this? Why am I talking about feminine care products in this Consupollution Blog?

Environmental Impact of Feminine Care Products

Infographic from Natracare

  1. Feminine care products such as pads, pantyliners and tampons, together with their packaging and individual wrapping generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. They all contain plastic. Pads in specific contain around 90% plastic (WEN, n.d.)!
  2. Approximately 20 billion feminine care products are thrown into the North American landfills annually (Luna Pads, n.d).
  3. According to The Eco Guide, a year’s worth of feminine care product can amount to up to a carbon footprint of 5.3 kg CO2 equivalents.
  4. Feminine care products can also be found in marine litter. In fact, the European Commission ranks feminine care products as the fifth most common found single-use plastics in the marine environment!
  5. The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm conducted  A Life Cycle Assessment of tampons and found that the largest impact on global warming was caused by the processing of LDPE (low-density polyethylene, a thermoplastic made from the monomer ethylene) used in tampon applicators and also in the plastic back-strip of sanitary napkins, requiring high amounts of fossil fuel-generated energy (HA, 2011).

Environmentally friendly alternatives

Hence, it is important for us to venture out and look for environmentally friendlier alternatives to wasteful menstrual products that only pollute the Earth. One such example would be to use reusable sanitary pads that have been getting popular recently because of its eco-sustainability. There’s also a wider array of environmentally-friendly options becoming available. Menstrual cups like the Diva Cup have enjoyed a rise in popularity in part for their economical benefits (one menstrual cup for around £20 will last up to 10 years), but also for the fact they are completely zero-waste. This is because menstrual cups are soft silicone devices that are easily inserted inside the female vagina to collect the menstrual blood. All that has to be done is to pull it out like you would a tampon, wash it, and re-insert. The non-porous silicone means it doesn’t harbour bacteria, making it super safe and completely hygienic.

The Next Step

“Choice is everything,” says Celia Pool, co-founder of DAME, a reusable tampon applicator. “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for women when it comes to menstrual products. There are different needs and requirements, even within one person’s cycle. You might want to wear your cup or pad during your lighter days, and your tampon during times when you are active. Or the other way round.”

Interestingly, currently, only about 5% of women are using reusable menstrual products. As with other single-use consumer products, the shift away from throw-away pads and tampons to reusable alternatives like cups or period-proof underwear won’t happen overnight. Hence, there is an urgent need to innovate and find sustainable and yet practical solutions to feminine hygiene challenges.

However, the problem with period stigma is that it often denies women to deal with the issues around menstrual health and hygiene. Open dialogue and conversation is the first step in changing the way women deal with menstruation and can create awareness around the need to make a switch.

For more information, take a look at this report done by Zero Waste Europe on Reusable and Toxic-Free Menstrual Products:

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Bisaria, A. (2018). 11 First Period Traditions From Around The World That Celebrate A Girl’s Journey Into Womanhood. [online] IndiaTimes. Available at: https://www.indiatimes.com/culture/11-first-period-traditions-from-around-the-world-that-celebrate-a-girl-s-journey-into-womanhood-338129.html [Accessed 4 Nov. 2020].

Winter, L. (2019). These are all the incredible ways period brands are reducing their impact on the oceans – and we salute them! [online] Glamour UK. Available at: https://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/period-product-waste [Accessed 4 Nov. 2020].

Natracare (2018). Turning The Tide On Plastic Period Waste. [online] Natracare. Available at: https://www.natracare.com/blog/turning-the-tide-on-plastic-period-waste/ [Accessed 4 Nov. 2020].

WEN (n.d.). Environmenstrual. [online] Wen. Available at: https://www.wen.org.uk/environmenstrual/.

Luna Pads (n.d.). Our Story. [online] Aisle. Available at: http://lunapads.com/learn/why-switch?geoip_country=US.

European Commission (2018). Reducing Marine Litter: action on single use plastics and fishing gear. [online] European Commission. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/pdf/single-use_plastics_impact_assessment.pdf [Accessed 4 Nov. 2020].

Ha, T. (2011). Greeniology 2020: greener living today, and in the future, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Vic.

Zero Waste Europe (2018). Reusable & toxic-free menstrual products. [online] Available at: http://zerowasteeurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Reusable-toxic-free-menstrual-products_August-2018.pdf [Accessed 4 Nov. 2020].

Pollution from Beauty Products : Skincare and the plight of Facial Masks

Have you ever received facemasks as souvenirs when a friend or family member comes back from a holiday to South Korea?

I have… every single time.

Facemasks, or more specifically, sheet masks, are extremely popular in Singapore because of the strong Korean Beauty Industry influence it has in Singapore with brands like Etude House and Innisfree. According to Reuters, the face mask market by 2025 will amount to over $11 billion, which is a 10 per cent increase from 2018 (Reuters, 2019). Sheet masks are single-use products – with the packaging and one sheet of mask inside per packet. This means that each time we use one, we are automatically generating waste.

Caroline Jacobs-Graf, Founder of A Little Find (a platform for eco-conscious brands), states: “Sheet masks are always problematic because they have been designed as a single-use item and need to be packed in an outer sleeve that can be difficult to recycle.”

Sheet masks are single-use products – with the packaging and one sheet of mask inside per packet. This means that each time we use one, we are automatically generating waste. While they do work wonders – hydrating and moisturising our face, especially after a long day of working or studying, they do not the same to the environment. As mentioned above, they generate a lot of waste. In one packet: there’s a pouch, the mask itself, as sometimes a plastic sheet lining to keep the mask in shape. Not all of the components are recyclable and biodegradable. That means more wastes end up in our landfills and sometimes, to the ocean.

                    How to put on a Sheet Mask 


More often than not, sheet masks come in a mix of plastic and aluminium packet – both of which are not biodegradable. Once you open the packet, there will be only one sheet of the mask, which is held to shape by a thin plastic film – which is also not biodegradable.

The Mask Itself

Next, the mask itself. Sometimes they’re made from one hundred per cent cotton, which some may think is easily compostable, and in turn, more eco-friendly. However, some may contain small amounts of microbeads that can end up polluting the ocean. In addition, cotton is a very wasteful and non-eco-friendly material as huge amounts of water and chemicals are needed in the production of cotton. Ashlee Piper, an eco-lifestyle expert, notes that a mask’s compostability is highly dependent on what’s in it. In her own research, she’s seen masks made of cotton, jute and/or bamboo, which on their own would be fine to compost. The only caveat is that if they’re soaked in non-organic, non-biodegradable ingredients, composting might not be an option (Brucculieri, 2019). Sheet masks can also be of a synthetic material like nylon, and it cannot be composted as well. Other non-compostable sheet mask materials include microfibre, a synthetic fabric made from petrochemicals and plastic.

What can we do

It is important to note that the everyday consumer probably doesn’t have the time or ability to figure out what each ingredient in their sheet masks is and whether it can be recycled, composted or neither. Hence, brands and the manufacturers should be the one taking the next step to easily provide information to consumers on the ‘life’ of the sheet mask and its components.

Additionally, we as consumers should opt for a more eco-friendly option to reduce the demand for non-eco-friendly sheet masks. One alternative would be clay masks that can come out of a glass bottle or even biodegradable masks. (See below on where to get biodegradable masks in Singapore).

Face masks take just 15 minutes to use yet many of them don’t break down for hundreds of years, or even make their way into the ocean. Let’s all be more mindful of our consumer choices!

Where can you get biodegradable masks in Singapore? 

  1. Innisfree
  2. The Body Shop


Reuters (2019). Skincare and the Beauty Industry. [online] Reuters. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/brandfeatures/venture-capital/article?id=56770.

Brucculieri, J. (2019). Are Your Beloved Sheet Masks Killing The Planet? [online] HuffPost. Available at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sheet-masks-not-environmentally-friendly_l_5c5a033ae4b09293b2092685 [Accessed 3 Nov. 2020].


Pollution from Beauty Products : Packaging

Have you ever sat through a youtube video or an Instagram post of a Youtube vlogger or social media influencer unboxing a beauty product? All the suspense and frilly decorations that lure us to click checkout on Sephora or Zalora…but let’s look beyond the beautiful product within and what do you see? Unnecessary plastic waste in the form of plastic envelopes, bubble wrap, cellophane, polystyrene, plastic bottles…and the list goes on. Many of these items aren’t recyclable, and most of them will only end up in our oceans.

From the previous post, we know that annually, the beauty industry earns approximately $500 billion dollars (Rai, 2019). With this booming amount, we know that millions and billions of beauty products are being sold each year. These beauty products which include makeup, skincare, body care and more requires elaborate and flexible packaging. More often than not, the packaging material used is plastic. Our favourite beauty products, from shampoo to lipsticks, are poisoning the ocean.

Plastic inside a dead whale found in Philippine shores


This is because what’s left of the product that we do not use, or the product residue, are inevitably washed down drains and the packaging is thrown in the trash, making its way out to sea at astounding rates, as evident from many images of marine life suffering from these consequences. Gentle marine animals like whales are directly being affected by plastic pollutions (Robinson, 2019), and sensitive coral reefs are increasing being bleached because of the same reason (Becatoros, 2017).
The recent occurrences of disturbing images of ocean devastation and marine life suffering have driven many to adopt metal straws and reusable bags… but why are we not ‘greening’ our beauty industry?
The beauty industry’s exact part of the pie of plastic pollution is unknown, but we can only imagine how big the slice is. When we dispose of compacts, containers, and lipstick tubes, we are essentially contributing to the pileup of unrecyclable plastics in landfills. According to Zero Waste Europe, the beauty industry reportedly creates approximately 120 billion units of packaging every year (Diaz, 2019), one of the fastest-growing sectors alongside healthcare, of the nearly one trillion dollar packaging industry (Smithers, n.d.).

Additionally, because of the growth potential of the beauty industry, brands now are increasingly competitive. Hence, they may look into making their packaging as ‘aesthetic’ and attractive as possible to attract potential customers. The beauty industry’s purpose is obviously making things (more specifically, us), prettier anyway – so what more its packaging?

Read more about the beauty industry’s efforts to mitigate this problem here.


Rai, V. (2019, December 28). Unseen 2019: The ugly side of beauty waste. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.livemint.com/mint-lounge/features/unseen-2019-the-ugly-side-of-beauty-waste-11577446070730.html

Robinson, M. (2019). Dead whale found with 40 kilograms of plastic bags in its stomach. [online] CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/18/asia/dead-whale-philippines-40kg-plastic-stomach-intl-scli/index.html [Accessed 2 Nov. 2020].

Becatoros, E. (2017). More than 90 percent of world’s coral reefs will die by 2050. The Independent. [online] 13 Mar. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/environment-90-percent-coral-reefs-die-2050-climate-change-bleaching-pollution-a7626911.html.

Diaz, T. (2019). Everything You Need To Know About Recycling Makeup. [online] www.refinery29.com. Available at: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/how-to-recycle-old-makeup-containers [Accessed 2 Nov. 2020].‌

Smithers (n.d.). Smithers forecasts global flexible packaging market to $269 billion by 2024. [online] Smithers. Available at: https://www.smithers.com/resources/2019/jun/global-packaging-market-to-reach-$269-b-by-2024 [Accessed 2 Nov. 2020].