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Reducing waste: French app lists unsold cosmetics at up to 50% off

Parapharmacy items with short sell-by dates can also be found, this comes as study reveals four tonnes of products are thrown away each day

A photo of a woman looking at cosmetic items in a pharmacy

The app KéaBot enables people to buy unsold, close-to-expiry date pharmacy cosmetic items for up to 50% less Pic: Nestor Rizhniak / Shutterstock

A French app is tackling waste in pharmacies by offering unsold cosmetics and other non-prescription items with shorter sell-by dates at up to 20-50% cheaper than normal.

The app, called KéaBot, was created in April 2022 by 32-year-old Toulouse-based pharmacist Arnaud Mallinger. 

He noticed how pharmacies and parapharmacies often have many unsold cosmetic products, after these are replaced with new ones due to an imminent sell-by date.  

The waste contributes to the four tonnes of cosmetic products that are thrown away every day in France, according to a 2021 study by IFOP.  Mr Mallinger told France 3: “This is the equivalent of 4,000 rugby balls [being thrown away every day].”

Newspaper Capital has reported that around €15,000-worth of medicines and cosmetics are thrown away every year by each pharmacy in France.

Mr Mallinger said that KéaBot focuses on “cosmetics, parapharmacy items, baby care, essential oils, and complementary food products”. 

It sources unsold-but-still-usable products, with each item checked and approved by the KéaBot pharmacist. Users can then shop using the app, paying the lower prices, before using the ‘click and collect’ service to pick up their order nearby.

The app is available to download for Android and iOS.

Mr Mallinger said: “This concept also allows us to attract a younger clientele, who maybe wouldn’t normally go to a pharmacy to buy cosmetics.”

Around 100 pharmacies in Toulouse have already signed up, and the app has been downloaded more than 3,000 times. “We are aiming for 500 [pharmacies to sign up] by March 2023,” said Mr Mallinger

The app also enables people to save money at a time when purchasing power is stretched. Another study, cited by KéaBot, found that 38% of people in France are reducing their use of hygiene products due to financial reasons.

KéaBot is not the only service in the area looking to give a ‘second life’ to unsold pharmacy items. Startup Le Comptoir des Pharmacies, which is also based in Toulouse, has been operating since 2016.

It specialises in listing unsold pharmacy items with short expiry dates, by optimising purchases between sites. A spokesperson said: “In 2020, we saved €35million on products from 8,000 pharmacies.”

And in May 2021, the Castres-based Laboratoires Pierre Fabre worked with another startup, called Phenix, to donate unsold hygiene items to charity, including the organisations the Restos du Cœur, the Banque Alimentaire, and the Croix Rouge. 

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