HOW TO Recycle Beauty Packaging

Since the booming of the plastic industry, around the 1950's, an astonishing 9.2 billion tons of plastic have been produced. 6.9 billion tons have become waste and of those 6.3 billion tons were not recycled. It is hard to know exactly how much has ended up in the ocean but it is estimated that 14 million tons of plastic are dumped in coastal regions EACH YEAR. Let that sink in for a moment.

It is currently unclear how long it takes for plastic to completely biodegrade, experts estimate between 450 years to never. This means all plastic ever created is still around (minus the one that gets incinerated). 

Before we get to the point of recycling we need to RETHINK our consuming habits. I often buy more products that what I can use, a lot of them go bad before I can try them and end up going to waste. Not only I'm spending money in vain, I'm also polluting just for the sake of it. Do I need another nude lipstick? No, I already have 20. Do I need 10 different cleansers? No one does. I do love to try new things, we all do, but maybe I can use a few of the cleansers I have at home, most of them are brand new, before I buy a new one that will end up going to my backup pile and most probably be expired before I get a chance to use it. 

Similar to fast-fashion we also live in a fast-beauty culture, new products come out every day and influencers literally give us FOMO for not having the latest serum for our elbows or the new toe nail oil. In the beginning of this year I pledged to myself to REDUCE the amount of products I buy. I'm committed to only buying something new once I no longer have backups for that specific product and I am also not buying more than 2 backups on any category of products (except hand and body wash, I usually make a big purchase for the entire year for these items, mostly on the body shop xmas sale as products often get 50% discount). 

I'm also trying to REPURPOSE products as much as possible to avoid them going to waste. If a face wash doesn't work for me, I'll use it as handwash, same for creams and serums, I use those in my hands/feet. I'm currently using an old shampoo as brush cleanser but even with all these measures I am still generating a huge amount of rubbish so the last resource is to RECYCLE.

The beauty industry creates approximately 120 billion units of packaging per year and unfortunately most of it not recyclable. A lot of ''conscious consumers'' will throw any type of plastic packaging in the recycling bin in the hopes that it gets recycled. This phenomenon is called Wish-cycling the Recycle Coach describes it beautifully: 

"It’s happened to most of us: you’re about to dispose of something, maybe it’s a greasy pizza box, a CFL light bulb, or a plastic bag from your local supermarket, and you realize you’re not sure where it should go—garbage or recycling?
You don’t want to add more waste to the planet, so you toss your tricky item in your recycling container, hoping it’ll get recycled. Worst case, if you made a mistake, you assume the recycling facility will be able to fix it. Not true. Unfortunately, simply wishing for something to be recyclable doesn’t make it so."

So that fancy glitter shampoo bottle in your bathroom? Not fully recyclable. That nice airtight moisturiser container? Not recyclable either. A study conducted by Garnier showed that 56% of brits do not recycle their bathroom products due to inconvenience. So half of the packaging that could recycled it's not being disposed of properly.

There are, fortunately, beauty companies focused on sustainability and some have partnered with Terracycle™ to offer free recycling programs to help tackle this huge problem, I'll write a post on this soon, linking all recycling programs I'm aware of. 

I know there's low/no waste brands coming out every day but as a beauty lover myself I understand how these products are not always up to the standard we are used to so we close our eyes to the problem and wish-cycle. So I want to show you recycle a big part of your cosmetic waste. 

STEP 1 - After finishing all your products, thoroughly wash and disassemble all products. Whenever possible remove all lids, caps, pumps and labels. If I'm doing a load of dishes, I'll throw these in the machine to speed this up. 

STEP 2 - Dispose all clean single-material plastic in the recycling bin. (these are your types 1, 2, 4 and 5 - you can check this in the package).

STEP 3 - Unfortunately, in the UK and in most countries, pumps and mixed materials don't get recycled. These are the items you want to dispose of in the normal waste bin. 

If you want to go the extra step (please do) you can bring these to any shop that has a recycling program, personally I bring mine to any Neal's Yard Remedies Store close by. They have an amazing recycling program for all these hard to recycle items and will ensure that all pumps, atomisers, superfood packages and empty sample sachets don't end up in a landfill or worst, in the ocean. 

If there's any packaging that I am not sure whether it is recyclable or not, or things like tubes or deodorant, I bring it to a store that partners with Terracycle™, like the Body Shop, but I'll touch more on that in my next post.


Are you a recycler or a wish-cycler? As you can see it's so easy to recycle your beauty packaging, even without the extra step of bringing hard-to-recycle items to a store.
Just by properly disposing of all recyclable items you're already making a big difference and I'll be showing how to recycle all types of packaging with my empties posts.

Let me know your recycling adventures in the comments below. 

Stay safe,

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