Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2022

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


Edward Van Buren


This paper explores the history of plastic in the beauty and cosmetics industry, and how this toxic material is irreparably harming our ecosystems resulting from nonrecyclable packaging and a lack of microplastic management. Properly managing harmful plastics found in personal care and cosmetics products (PCCPs) is essential for minimizing toxic wastewater in raw sewage, landfills, and the ocean, as discussed in reports such as “Plastics in Cosmetics” by the UNEP. Furthermore, this paper presents an argument for why the personal care and cosmetics industry should be included in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which gives the EPA authority to regulate chemicals. Chapter 1 examines comprehensive data from sources such as reports on containers and packaging, and articles regarding the enormous amount of plastic waste generated by the cosmetics industry globally. Chapter 2 will delve into the history of this issue of plastic pollution and waste from the cosmetics industry, exploring bioplastics and mainly petroleum-based plastic’s role in the evolution of personal care and beauty products. Chapter 3 lays out the legal discipline regarding the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act in order to propose that microplastics require more stringent levels of management, and thus all PCCPs should fall under the regulation by the Toxic Substances Control Act. Chapter 4 utilizes several examples of companies who have publicly acknowledged the environmental harm from plastic packaging, demonstrating the sustainable contributions that plastic-free and recyclable packaging have on our natural resources. Finally, Chapter 5 draws from previous discussions on the cosmetic industry’s reliance on plastic to develop policy recommendations regarding the implications of the associated harmful waste.