At Sunday Riley HQ, we’re passionate about helping you feel great about the skin you’re in — and it’s not just about effective formulas (though we’ve got plenty of those). It’s also about making it easy for you to make conscious decisions about the impact of your beauty habits on the environment. After all, we only have this one life and one Earth. So we all must do our part (big or small) to preserve our resources.
In September 2022, the Sunday Riley brand officially became Plastic Neutral, meaning that the plastic used in our packaging is offset by plastic recovered from the environment.
We’ve long strived to hold ourselves accountable for environmental best practices (Sunday Riley is certified B Corp). Now we’ve recently taken it to the next level: In September 2022, the Sunday Riley brand officially became Plastic Neutral, meaning that the plastic used in our packaging is offset by plastic recovered from the environment. This is done through our partnership with CleanHub, an organization that works with brands to improve their sustainability efforts through the collection and environmentally responsible disposal of non-recyclable plastic.
CleanHub is unique because its recycling efforts begin on land, whereas others focus on recovering plastic once it’s already reached the ocean. “Ocean plastic pollution is solved on land, not in the sea,” says Lakshmi Menon, the Head of Impact at CleanHub. “That’s why we’re bringing waste collection systems to coastal regions where they don’t yet exist.”
As Menon tells the Sunday Edit, CleanHub primarily works in coastal regions that are most likely to be impacted by plastic pollution (including India, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Cambodia) and partners with grassroots waste management organizations like Green Worms, which mainly operates in Kerala, India, to make this a reality. Collecting non-recyclable plastic, which accounts for 80% of ocean waste, remains the priority as this specific type is either incinerated or ends up in landfills; CleanHub counters this through co-processing, a method that recycles reusable mineral materials and eliminates whatever isn’t salvageable through cement manufacturing.
Since launching in January 2020, the organization has recovered 2022 tons of plastic waste. “That’s the equivalent of about 13 adult whales,” says Menon. And there’s no stopping now. CleanHub’s mission remains the same: to prevent 50% of new plastic from making it to the ocean by 2030. It’s a lofty goal that will undoubtedly come true, given the organization’s global brand support. When writing this piece, Sunday Riley has already contributed to the collection of 34,089 lbs. of plastic and has set a goal of collecting 114,690 lbs. by September 2023. (You can check out our real-time progress via this live tracker!)
In light of International Women’s Day on March 8th, we’re also proud to mention that CleanHub strives to create sustainable and safe jobs for women in self-help groups in Kerala, India. Since the waste sorting process has low job market entry barriers, it’s a great way to provide independence for women from underprivileged backgrounds. All employees are trained by Green Worms and equipped with gear to make sure they can perform their roles safely.
We can’t wait to see how our partnership with CleanHub continues to make an impact. Meanwhile, we spoke more with Menon about her work at CleanHub and what makes her the most hopeful for the future.
Can you describe your role in furthering CleanHub’s mission?
Menon: “I lead CleanHub’s impact initiatives. My team member, Rizal [Ratulangi Jokoprasetyo], and I work with a network of local, often grassroots, waste management organizations in India, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Tanzania. We call them Collection Hubs. Our main focus is to create an environmental impact by reducing ocean plastic pollution. Our engagement reduces the open burning of waste, a common way of disposing trash in locations without waste management systems, which poses a huge threat to our climate. Another huge problem connected to the lack of waste management is the clogging of rainwater storm drains which leads to flooding and leakage of waste into the environment. We also work hard to increase awareness about the health hazards of waste and the need for better living conditions in local communities.
The other side of our work is to engage with our Collection Hubs to support natural social impact and provide dignified jobs for the waste workers of the local communities. Waste management is a young sector in developing nations. The government still needs to define and monitor the labor rules, wages, and working conditions for this sector. This leads to worker exploitation, harassment, and abusive behavior toward waste workers and their families.
CleanHub works with external social auditors and experts in worker policies. We conduct baseline audits to understand the existing gaps and then work closely with our Collection Hubs to make incremental improvements in meeting all compliances. Together, we’ve created over 200 safe jobs for waste workers in the global south.”
What has been CleanHub’s impact since its start?
Menon: “We’ve recovered more than 2,022 tons of plastic waste. That’s the equivalent of about 13 adult whales! Regarding social impact, we have also enabled dignified work with fair wages for more than 200 people and connected more than 164,000 households to waste management services.”
“Living sustainably is an extremely important, but at the same time, difficult ideal to live up to.” – Menon
What does it mean when a brand like Sunday Riley becomes a CleanHub partner?
Menon: “An estimated 11 million tons of plastic enter the oceans annually, and globally, only nine percent of plastic gets recycled. Our world is drowning in waste. By partnering with CleanHub, brands can take immediate action on one of the biggest environmental issues we face today: the plastic crisis. The first step to becoming a CleanHub partner is understanding the company’s plastic footprint. The brand then funds the recovery of as much plastic as they emit to neutralize its impact on the planet. This directly helps to reduce the amount of plastic that will reach oceans.”
CleanHub also supports Green Worms. So what does this partnership entail?
Menon: “Green Worms is a waste management organization founded on three key principles: Minimize waste generation, divert waste from landfills and oceans, and dignify people working with waste. They started their journey very humbly, with no prior knowledge or experience. Two young people in a remote village in Kerala set out to learn about waste management from its very grassroots level. Eventually, this led them to build a sustainable waste management initiative to do their bit to improve the world around them.
Today, Green Worms collects household waste in more than 50 municipalities across South India and, at the same time, provides income to more than 300 people. CleanHub partners with Green Worms in both Kerala state and the Andaman Islands. We support them in processing the non-recyclable plastic waste, which is collected from coastal villages and sent to authorized processing centers in the area.”
For those who struggle with taking steps to live sustainability in their day to day, what’s your advice?
Menon: “Living sustainably is an extremely important, but at the same time, difficult ideal to live up to. In my journey, I have tried to make conscious choices about what I buy, how I reuse products, and how I can dispose of them safely.
If anyone is thinking about starting a more sustainable life, the best thing to do is choose one aspect of your life where you want to focus. There are many sustainable choices in every aspect, like food, clothing, consumables, etc. The next thing is to educate yourself on these choices, so you will know what fits your lifestyle better. This way, we are not overwhelmed with all the changes at once.
People already making more sustainable choices are all struggling with the same challenges. I don’t think I have any advice. However, I would like to share a thought: How can this become a movement that takes more people along? I think it is great to be part of community initiatives and to share our sustainability journey with all so it becomes real and we can understand how each of us is overcoming these challenges. One of my goals this year is to look at how much of what I use is being shipped from some far-off place and to see if I can choose something that does not need to do that.”
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Are there any social media accounts you recommend people follow to become more educated about eco-friendly living?
Menon: “Well, of course, @cleanhub.io on Instagram and TikTok! We regularly post content about conscious living, sustainable brands, news on environmental topics, and educate our community about anything related to plastic and the health of our planet.
We also like the social media accounts from Only One (a CleanHub partner), Ecologi, Waste Free Planet, World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, @environment, Our World in Data, and our Collection Hubs’ accounts, like ecoBali and the No-Trash Triangle Initiative.”
What makes you hopeful for the future?
Menon: “This is simple for me to answer: the people I meet every day who are working to build solutions, improve lives, and improve our quality of life on earth and water. I also am increasingly seeing people who are living more sustainable lives. These efforts may look small and scattered, like white ants building an anthill. It is constant and mostly invisible work, but over a period of time, it will be large and strong.”