Precycle Your Personal Care and Beauty Products

Currently, the cosmetics industry is not included in the Toxic Substances Control Act, which gives the EPA the authority to regulate chemicals.

“Precycling” refers to the simple act of reducing hard-to-recycle waste before it starts. Practical ways to precycle include choosing products that already have recycling solutions in place or are packaged in materials that are easy for you to recycle locally.

Since recycling personal care and beauty product packaging is slightly less straightforward than tossing an aluminum can or plastic bottle into the blue bin, opting for a precycling solution ahead of time helps to ensure your packaging will never find its way to the landfill.

To get you started, check out this list of personal care and beauty product brands that use recyclable packaging or provide take-back programs for empty containers. Some even offer freebies and other incentives for recycling, proving that reducing waste is always in style.

Precycle first: Products in recyclable packaging

Korres packaging is designed so that its individual parts can be easily separated and recycled. Unnecessary packaging, such as boxes, are eliminated when possible, and 99 percent of product packaging can be recycled, according to the company.

Aveda was the first beauty and personal care company to offer post-consumer PET packaging. Today, 85 percent of the brand’s plastic bottles and jars contain 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials. Recycled content in the Aveda Men line has reached 95 percent, saving more than 300 tons of virgin plastic per year. PET is also a highly recyclable plastic, meaning you can toss these bottles right back in the bin when you’re finished.

Sally B’s Skin Yummies is a small company with big goals when it comes to sustainability. In addition to producing nontoxic cosmetics and beauty products, the brand is intentional about choosing packaging that can be recycled. Sally B’s products are packaged in glass jars, BPA-free plastic and aluminum lids, all of which can be recycled at end-of-life.

Vapour Organic Beauty pinpoints waste reduction and sustainability as two of its core values. Vapour products are packaged in recyclable aluminum and glass, and any boxes used to package products are made from post-consumer paper waste.

365 Everyday Value, Whole Foods’ line of store brand personal care and hygiene products, is packaged in post-consumer recycled plastic, ranging from 50 to 100 percent recycled content. Look for the handy PCR seal at Whole Foods to help you select products packaged in recycled materials. And be sure to recycle your empties! All recycled plastic used is PET resin, a highly recoverable plastic.

Tarte sells most of its cosmetics in glass jars and recyclable plastic containers. Some products in the Tarte Cosmetics line, like the brand’s glamazon pure performance 12-hour lipstick, even incorporate biodegradable packaging.

Snag freebies for recycling

Kiehl’s doesn’t just accept its empty bottles for recycling. The company will even give you some freebies as an incentive! The program is simple: For every empty bottle you return to your local Kiehl’s store, you’ll receive one stamp on your Recycle and Be Rewarded! card. For three stamps, you’ll score a free lip balm, five will get you a travel collection product and 10 will earn you a full-sized product. Since the program began, Kiehl’s customers have returned more than 500,000 bottles for recycling.

Alima Pure also gives perks to customers for returning empty jars for recycling. Collect five empty jars from full-sized products, send them in to be recycled and receive a $5 coupon for a future purchase. Just be sure to pack your empties in recyclable materials! Items sent in bubble wrap, packing peanuts or other hard-to-recycle materials are not eligible for the rewards program.

M·A·C accepts returns of its primary packaging through the Back to M·A·C Program. When you return six containers to a M·A·C counter or M·A·C Cosmetics online, you’ll receive a free lipstick of your choosing as a “thank you” for helping out the planet.

More take-back recycling programs

Bac 2 Mac; cosmetic recycling

Image courtesy of #fashalia101

Burt’s Bees partnered up with Preserve last year to recycle its iconic lip balm packaging. Through Preserve’s Gimme 5 program, shoppers can easily recycle their #5 plastic lip balm tubes and caps at retail locations across the country. Find the Gimme 5 location nearest you or visit a participating Whole Foods Market store to get started.

Origins accepts empty cosmetic tubes, bottles, jars and lids – regardless of brand – through a first-of-its-kind recycling program. Since the Return to Origins program began in 2009, the company has collected 34,000 pounds of hard-to-recycle cosmetic packaging. Bring your empties to your nearest Origins retail store or department store counter to participate.

Terracycle specializes in making useful new products from hard-to-recycle waste, and personal care and beauty packaging is no exception. With its wide variety of brigade programs, you can easily recycle all types of personal care packaging – from makeup containers to deodorant tubes. For a recycling solution for packaging of any brand, check out the Garnier Personal Care and Beauty Brigade, Tom’s of Maine Natural Care Brigade and Colgate Oral Care Brigade – just to name a few.

Try refillables

Well-known cosmetic and beauty companies, including Stila, Bare Escentuals and Jane Iredale, offer refillable compacts for eye shadow, blush and foundation. When a product is used up, simply swap out the color pan and keep using the same compact to reduce waste without sacrificing style.

Some natural and bulk foods stores also offer personal care products like soap, shampoo and conditioner in bulk, meaning you can refill an old bottle or bring your own container for a packaging-free personal care solution. Discover a new bulk-buying option near you with these handy databases from the National Cooperative Grocers Association and Independent Natural Food Retailers Association.

Feature image courtesy of Joe Hsu

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