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How To Recycle Beauty Products The Right Way

by Lucy Thorpe

Jun 28, 2021

It’s no secret that the beauty industry has a problem with waste which may leave you wondering how to recycle beauty products. Packaging is a huge part of the appeal of beauty products but sometimes the prettiest products aren’t recyclable – it’s estimated that 95% of beauty packaging is thrown away after one use, and only 14% actually ends up in a recycling center.

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Plus, the products we know and love use lots of different materials in their packaging, which makes recycling even more difficult. Thankfully, brands and social enterprises are stepping up to reduce waste and make products easier to recycle – some brands are now using 100% recyclable materials in their packaging, such as Tata Harper’s skincare range. There are also recyclable alternatives to things like cotton buds, toothbrushes and tools.

Moving Towards a More Sustainable Beauty Industry

If you haven’t yet heard of TerraCycle, they’re one of the social enterprises that are focused on eliminating waste in the beauty industry. They’ve found that nearly everything can be recycled and reused and are working with your brands all around the world to change attitudes to packaging.

Even better news? They’re working with your favourite cruelty-free brands all over the world.

Cruelty-Free Brands Partnering with TerraCycle

Here’s a quick round up of the cruelty-free brands that are partnering with TerraCycle to reduce waste and offer recycling solutions:

How to Recycle Beauty Products

Here’s which of your beauty products can be recycled, and how to recycle their packaging after you’re done, away from TerraCycle’s initiatives:

  • Aerosols – they need to be completely empty and have their nozzle and lid removed but many recycling services will take these. Just don’t try and crush, pierce or flatten the can as this can be dangerous due to the pressure in the can.
  • Cardboard packaging – cardboard packaging can usually be recycled along with your usual collection, just remove any plastic coverings, foil prints or metal parts of the packaging and add into your recycling.
  • Cotton pads and cotton buds – cardboard-stemmed cotton buds and cotton pads can be composted with kitchen waste rather than recycled. Choose these over plastic cotton buds for a more sustainable product all round.
  • Electrical items – if they’re still working you may want to pass them on to a friend, family member or Goodwill. If it’s broken, you probably can recycle it but take it to a specialist recycling plant (or at least check with them). If you still love it, why not try and have it repaired – this can often be more cost-effective than repurchasing and is better for the planet.
  • Glass jars or bottles – give them a good rinse, leave the cap on and then put in your glass recycling. Make sure your remove any pumps, applicatorsUnfortunately, you can’t recycle nail polish bottles because of the nature of the product.
  • Makeup – cosmetics come with some of the trickiest and most varied packaging out there. The majority of this packaging can’t be recycled easily from home, but there are some initiatives at drugstores where you can drop in your old makeup packaging. They’ll then be sorted by polymer and made into plastic pellets that can be used by manufacturers in other products.

Alternatively, some brands – such as Lush - allow you to exchange product packaging for refills or new products. Compacts, palettes, mascaras, liners, lip products and plastic bottles or tubes can all be recycled in this way. Just clean them out using warm water, soap and a sponge or brush, then drop them off.

  • Makeup brushes – these can’t yet be recycled easily as they’re made from mixed materials. Instead, try and repurpose them for something else if possible and recycle at home. You can use them for nail art, painting and DIY. Make sure they’re clean first!
  • Plastic bottles, tubes and tubs – leave the labels and the lid on so that the recycling centre can identify the type of plastic and the product used, clean out the tube thoroughly with warm water and soap, then squash the bottles down before adding into your recycling.

The move towards more sustainability in beauty and personal care is amazing, and we love to see it. It’s now easier than ever to make ethical choices with your beauty routines. Looking for more information about cruelty-free beauty products? Check out our list of cruelty-free brands.

Which Brands Are Cruelty-Free?

Download our list of 600+ verified cruelty-free brands straight to your device. Bring it with you everywhere you go, and never worry about supporting animal testing again. Click here to download


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