K Group Product Quality Manager Timo Kivi, what are microplastics?
– Microbeads have been used in cosmetics and detergents as friction and cleansing components, for example. Small, plastic particles less than 5 mm in size, however, are able to easily pass through wastewater treatment facilities into water bodies where they are an environmental risk due to their longevity. When the plastics end up in the water, it also causes serious harm to animals and can easily enter the human food chain.
Why did K Group decide to eliminate microplastics from the cosmetic products of its own brands?
– The serious harmful impacts of microplastics on the environment have been recently acknowledged and we at K Group are also concerned of the pollution of the Baltic Sea and large lakes. There is no current EU or domestic legislation on microplastics, but we wanted to take initiative on the matter on our own. According to the Finnish Environment Institute [link in Finnish], approximately ten per cent of the plastics floating in the world's oceans are microplastics, so all actions taken to reduce the amount of microplastics are important.
From what products were the microbeads removed?
– Since the beginning of the year, all of the cosmetic products in K Group’s own brands have been microplastic-free. Microbeads were removed in 2017 from Pirkka lip balms (natural and cranberry), Pirkka Perheshampoo shampoos (fruit, berry and citrus). Microplastics will also be removed in 2018 from all of the detergents in K Group’s own brands.
– Stores still have a few cosmetic products available for sale that have particles with product names referring to plastics. As a part of the evaluation, it was ensured that the particles in these products are not microplastics. Stores may still have small quantities of products for a limited time that were ordered prior to the microplastics being eliminated.
What must be considered when microbeads are eliminated from a product?
– Microbeads may greatly affect the appearance and features of the product, so eliminating them meant re-evaluating the entire composition of the product. For example, eliminating microplastics from detergents affects the colour and transparency of the products. Microplastic-free products must also conform to our strict quality requirements.
K Group participates in the Green Deal agreement made by the Finnish Commerce Federation and the Ministry of the Environment, which aims to reduce the use of plastic bags. Corporate Responsibility Vice President Matti Kalervo, what else does the K Group do to reduce plastic waste?
– It is our responsibility to ensure that the customer can shop with confidence in K-stores. Together with manufacturing and our business partners, we are actively developing completely new types of operational models to reduce plastic waste. We have listed our tangible goals and actions in our plastics policy. For example, we launched the first Finnish circular economy bag, Pirkka ESSI. Over 90 per cent of the materials used to produce it are made out of recycled materials.
> Also see: Five innovative methods for K Group to reduce plastic waste