Beauty

Yip, you should be recycling your beauty products

Yip, you should be recycling your beauty products

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Here are a few tricks to keep in mind when recycling your beauty products.

Here are a few tricks to keep in mind when recycling your beauty products.

Yip, you should be recycling your beauty products
A large proportion of personal care items can be recycled.  But often it’s tricky to know what can and what can’t be recycled, which is true for recycling in general and when veering away from the traditional packaging you see in the kitchen it can be overwhelming.

Luckily, it’s not just consumers who are slowly getting their heads around the idea of cosmetics recycling, as some beauty brands are trying their hand at bettering their plastic footprint and thinking of sustainable packaging in a meaningful way. Traditionally brands buy unused or ‘virgin’ glass and non-recycled plastic containers for their products. It’s simply cheaper and easier to get because using recycled materials can be tricky and expensive, and the quality of the packaging can affect product efficacy and shelf-life. It takes a massive commitment and a lot of work for a brand to make a positive impact and invest in it.

So, until we can take the idea of recycling for granted and assume that most packaging is sustainable, here are a few tricks to keep in mind when recycling your beauty products, making it just a bit easier for you:

Know your symbols and numbers  

The paper and cardboard boxes that products come in are pretty standard and can easily be recycled. When it comes to plastic, look for the Mobius loop – the classic triangle with arrow symbol that will often include a number. The number (one through to seven) identifies the type of plastic the item is made of. Numbers one and two are the most recyclable plastics, three denotes PVC, a particularly difficult plastic to recycle and almost always excluded. As for numbers four to seven it depends on the recycling company you use and their rules. If you spot a symbol that looks a bit like a yin-yang with arrows, it is an indication that the packaging is made from recycled materials. The same goes for a Mobius loop with a circle around it. There is a catch though: just because it is made from recycled materials does not mean it can be recycled, so always check your numbers.  

Find out what can and what can’t be recycled in your area

This should be pretty easy to do; just check what is included in your kerb-side bin collection by checking your local authority website.

Shifting from plastic to glass

Glass in the UK can increasingly be recycled with the rest of your items, rather than separating it by colour or away from your plastics. Your local authority website will tell you whether you can recycle glass within your regular bin collection, and there will always be local drop off points if that’s not possible. In general, shifting to brands which use less plastic and more glass immediately solves a lot of your recycling headaches. Neal’s Yard beauty products, which have the added benefit of being organic, come in attractive blue glass bottles that you may be tempted to repurpose in your home rather than put in the recycling bin (see the #bluebottlesgreenfuture hashtag for inspiration).

Be warned however, one item that cannot be recycled at home is nail polish, as the bottles are made from toughened glass and can’t be broken down at the same temperature as other glass products.

Always rinse it

Yes, it does matter if you rinse or not. Not only is it messy and the dirty packaging can attract pests and bugs, but it also affects the actual value of the recycled item making it less valuable when sold by the recycling company. It also means more unnecessary work for the people working at the recycling depot, so try keeping it clean.

If you can squeeze it…

It often indicates a multilayer or multi-material and can be challenging to recycle i.e., there is a coating or film on the inside of the product packaging that is made up of different types of plastic. Flexible pouch-like packaging (think sheet masks in pouches) and also toothpaste tubes are classified as multilayer and goes in the bin unless it explicitly states it can be recycled.

Pumps and droppers are a problem

Pumps and droppers are problematic because they are often made from a variety of materials. It’s a good idea to remove droppers and pumps from any bottle as the latter often contain a metal spring that you can’t see. You don’t have to remove caps and screw tops (even if they are made from a different material as the bottle or jar itself), but it is good practice to wash them before putting them back on.  

Don’t forget about aerosols

Dry shampoo, deodorant and hairspray cans are made of steel and aluminium, which are both recyclable. Simply make sure they’re empty and throw them in your regular recycling bin!

And lastly, let the beauty experts do the sorting

It’s particularly hard to recycle make-up packaging such as lipsticks, eye pallets and mascara. Luckily for us, TerraCycle has partnered with Garnier to create a free recycling programme for beauty packaging (including those pesky pipettes), and you can find your nearest drop-off location here. You can also take items purchased at L’Occitaine, Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, &Other Stories and Lush back to the shop to be recycled or the packaging re-used. Bonus- they’ll also give you a free gift (Lush’s choice of free face mask pots when you bring in used containers are particularly good), or discounts off of future purchases.

A large proportion of personal care items can be recycled.  But often it’s tricky to know what can and what can’t be recycled, which is true for recycling in general and when veering away from the traditional packaging you see in the kitchen it can be overwhelming.

Luckily, it’s not just consumers who are slowly getting their heads around the idea of cosmetics recycling, as some beauty brands are trying their hand at bettering their plastic footprint and thinking of sustainable packaging in a meaningful way. Traditionally brands buy unused or ‘virgin’ glass and non-recycled plastic containers for their products. It’s simply cheaper and easier to get because using recycled materials can be tricky and expensive, and the quality of the packaging can affect product efficacy and shelf-life. It takes a massive commitment and a lot of work for a brand to make a positive impact and invest in it.

So, until we can take the idea of recycling for granted and assume that most packaging is sustainable, here are a few tricks to keep in mind when recycling your beauty products, making it just a bit easier for you:

Know your symbols and numbers  

The paper and cardboard boxes that products come in are pretty standard and can easily be recycled. When it comes to plastic, look for the Mobius loop – the classic triangle with arrow symbol that will often include a number. The number (one through to seven) identifies the type of plastic the item is made of. Numbers one and two are the most recyclable plastics, three denotes PVC, a particularly difficult plastic to recycle and almost always excluded. As for numbers four to seven it depends on the recycling company you use and their rules. If you spot a symbol that looks a bit like a yin-yang with arrows, it is an indication that the packaging is made from recycled materials. The same goes for a Mobius loop with a circle around it. There is a catch though: just because it is made from recycled materials does not mean it can be recycled, so always check your numbers.  

Find out what can and what can’t be recycled in your area

This should be pretty easy to do; just check what is included in your kerb-side bin collection by checking your local authority website.

Shifting from plastic to glass

Glass in the UK can increasingly be recycled with the rest of your items, rather than separating it by colour or away from your plastics. Your local authority website will tell you whether you can recycle glass within your regular bin collection, and there will always be local drop off points if that’s not possible. In general, shifting to brands which use less plastic and more glass immediately solves a lot of your recycling headaches. Neal’s Yard beauty products, which have the added benefit of being organic, come in attractive blue glass bottles that you may be tempted to repurpose in your home rather than put in the recycling bin (see the #bluebottlesgreenfuture hashtag for inspiration).

Be warned however, one item that cannot be recycled at home is nail polish, as the bottles are made from toughened glass and can’t be broken down at the same temperature as other glass products.

Always rinse it

Yes, it does matter if you rinse or not. Not only is it messy and the dirty packaging can attract pests and bugs, but it also affects the actual value of the recycled item making it less valuable when sold by the recycling company. It also means more unnecessary work for the people working at the recycling depot, so try keeping it clean.

If you can squeeze it…

It often indicates a multilayer or multi-material and can be challenging to recycle i.e., there is a coating or film on the inside of the product packaging that is made up of different types of plastic. Flexible pouch-like packaging (think sheet masks in pouches) and also toothpaste tubes are classified as multilayer and goes in the bin unless it explicitly states it can be recycled.

Pumps and droppers are a problem

Pumps and droppers are problematic because they are often made from a variety of materials. It’s a good idea to remove droppers and pumps from any bottle as the latter often contain a metal spring that you can’t see. You don’t have to remove caps and screw tops (even if they are made from a different material as the bottle or jar itself), but it is good practice to wash them before putting them back on.  

Don’t forget about aerosols

Dry shampoo, deodorant and hairspray cans are made of steel and aluminium, which are both recyclable. Simply make sure they’re empty and throw them in your regular recycling bin!

And lastly, let the beauty experts do the sorting

It’s particularly hard to recycle make-up packaging such as lipsticks, eye pallets and mascara. Luckily for us, TerraCycle has partnered with Garnier to create a free recycling programme for beauty packaging (including those pesky pipettes), and you can find your nearest drop-off location here. You can also take items purchased at L’Occitaine, Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, &Other Stories and Lush back to the shop to be recycled or the packaging re-used. Bonus- they’ll also give you a free gift (Lush’s choice of free face mask pots when you bring in used containers are particularly good), or discounts off of future purchases.

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