#World Environment Day: Is there a right way to recycle your beauty empties?

Yes, it takes a little more effort, but it's worth it.

Harper's Bazaar India

We know that plastic waste is extremely problematic. It’s why we have so many laws against using the dreaded (yet coveted) material. We also know that the beauty industry is one of the biggest to blame. Now, if you’re thinking “How much damage can my small serum tube really do,” you’ve landed on the right page. Do you want to hear a scary fact? According to research done by Zero Waste Week, the global cosmetics industry produces over 120 billion units of packaging leading to a loss of 18 million acres of forest per year. This includes cardboard, tubes, bottles, even caps. And if everyone thought the same way, imagine just how much trouble we are in. 

When people are done using their beauty products, they just mindlessly throw the packaging away without a thought of where it’s going to end up or how it will impact the already degrading condition of our environment. And here is where the problem lies. Most people don’t know that recycling these beauty empties is a viable option. Yes, it takes slightly more effort than merely tossing them in the trash, but, at the end of the day, it’s worth it.   

Considering today is World Environment Day, is there a better occasion to discuss how you can take your first steps to recycling and reusing empty beauty containers? We’ve listed a few things you can keep in mind and follow when you find yourself at the end of a beauty bottle (or tube, container, or tub). 

Recycle, refill and reuse  

Whether you see a recycling symbol on your product or not, some brands include in-house recycling programmes. For instance, brands like Kiehl's, The Body Shop, M.A.C Cosmetics, Herbal Essences, L'Occitane, Garnier, and Paula’s Choice (to name a few) have programmes where you can bring your empty containers to be recycled. Some of them also have a reward systems to incentivise consumers to recycle their empties. So, the next time you’re buying a beauty product, ask about the brand’s environmental policies.  

If not recycling policies, refillable products are all the rage right now. Brands like Laniege, Bobbi Brown, NARS Cosmetics, ASA Beauty, L'Occitane, Kerastase, and Guerlain have products that can be reused. The outer packaging of a product remains the same while the product itself can be replaced once it’s over. There is no environmental damage if you never throw an empty out. However, there is one major downside to refillable beauty products—the sachet in which the extra product is sold is generally made of plastic, which inevitably ends up in a landfill somewhere. Even then, reusing is better than buying all over again, right?

Repurpose your bottles  

Packaging in the beauty industry has only improved over the years. From the materials used to their design, they are more aesthetic than ever before. And since that is the case, why throw the empties away? Why not convert (what can be converted) into home decor? Of course, you’ll have to thoroughly clean out the bottle but it’s better than chucking the empty container out. 

Another way to reuse old product packages is by using them as empty containers for other products every time you are travelling. Or by using makeup containers to hold small items like earbuds, scrunchies, hair ties etc on your dresser or in your bathroom. Upcycling what you can is an effective waste management system.  

Know your materials  

When it comes to recycling, a good rule to remember is that not everything can be recycled (we’ll come to that in a bit). But know that the less material that is used to manufacture your package, the more likely it is to be recyclable. For instance—if your product is made of glass, certain kinds of plastics or cardboard (etc), you can rinse it out well and throw it in the recycling bin.  

Of course, plastic is trickier than most materials even though it’s most commonly used. It’s always better to recycle a larger plastic container than a small one. Generally, these can only be recycled a few times before they lose the qualities that make them reusable, eventually contributing to pollution. 

Know what can’t be recycled 

While we’ve talked about the various possibilities of recycling beauty empties, a very important point to elaborate on is what can’t be recycled and needs to be thrown away after use. Generally, anything that is under two inches thick and wide, contains mirrors, squeezable tubes, sheet masks etc. But that’s not all. Think all travel products, caps, lip balm and lip gloss tubes, lotion dispensers, lipstick cases, mascara tubes, foundation packaging, eyeliner pencils and concealer sticks, these are just to name a few 

Instead of throwing these in the recycling bin, throw them straight in the trash to avoid unnecessary waste of resources at recycling plants.

Feature image: Pexels

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