Getting rid of your cosmetics packaging: a guide to recycling your make-up

In the last decade, many of us have become more conscious about the impact we’re having on the environment. This has led to habits like recycling becoming far more common in the average household.

An eco-friendly approach is also reflected in consumer shopping habits. Increasingly, people are looking to buy from brands that use sustainable and recyclable materials to create their products and packaging. In the US, nearly 54% of consumers consider a product’s impact on the world when making a purchase.

With consumer demand for eco-friendly options increasing, brands from every sector are starting to make sustainability a key priority. Many products and packs are now made from recycled and recyclable materials, using processes that reduce the manufacturer’s carbon footprint.

Even within the cosmetics sector, an area notorious for its “wasteful” packaging, we’ve seen some excellent strides forward – but many of us are still struggling to dispose of our used makeup in an eco-friendly way. If you’d like to know how to rescue your old lipsticks and eyeshadow palettes from landfill, read on for some simple tips.

Tips for recycling and reusing your makeup packs

Check local recycling guidelines

Recycling guidelines vary depending on where you live. You should be able to find out what you’re able to recycle by checking the website for the local council, municipality, or government authority in your region.

For different regions, there will be third party resources you can use to figure out what to recycle, and where you can recycle it. One excellent site in the US is Earth911 – enter the type of waste and your zip code to find a recycling plant or scheme nearby.

Separate out different components

Depending on local restrictions, you may not be able to recycle certain types of pack components. For instance, squeezable tubes, makeup brushes, and soap pumps don’t tend to be recyclable. However, the cardboard container or the plastic bottle those components came with may be perfect for recycling.

Use TerraCycle

Even if your local area has fantastic recycling provisions, there will always be some items that simply can’t go to a normal recycling plant. The good news is, there are other types of recycling scheme that you can use for items that would otherwise go to landfill.

TerraCycle is a global recycling scheme that has a presence in 21 different countries. The company is partnered with municipalities, manufacturing plants, and brands around the world and is dedicated to recycling items that are traditionally thought of as impossible to recycle.

One of their schemes is the Zero Waste Box. The idea is that the consumer buys a selection of boxes within a certain waste stream (e.g. beauty products). The boxes are delivered and the consumer gradually fills them up with unrecyclable cosmetics waste – when the boxes are full, they can be shipped back to TerraCycle using pre-paid postage. The items inside will be specially broken down and recycled by TerraCycle.

Countries involved with TerraCycle include the US, Canada, the UK, France, Australia, China, and Japan.

Find brands that offer refills or in-store recycling schemes

An alternative to recycling your beauty packaging is buying from brands or stores that allow you to reuse containers by refilling the product.

Brands that offer refills on creams, cleansers, lipsticks, eyeshadows, and other beauty and skincare products include:

There are also plenty of brands that offer in-store recycling, where you can bring in your empty containers – often in exchange for products or store points.

Some brands, including Kiehl’s and Maybelline, are partnered with TerraCycle and in certain regions have recycling tubs in their stores where you can drop off your empties. The American department store Nordstrom has also partnered with TerraCycle to offer an in-store recycling scheme.

Other brands run their own recycling schemes. M.A.C runs the “Back to M.A.C” scheme in some locations, giving customers the opportunity to receive a free lipstick in exchange for six empty packaging containers being returned to the store. Lush also offers incentives for returning used containers.

Shop with brands creating sustainable and recyclable packs

When it comes to reducing cosmetics waste, the best thing you can do is shop with brands who specifically manufacture sustainably sourced and easy-to-recycle packaging. To achieve this, many brands are now partnering with experienced packaging manufacturers like GPA Global. Read on to find out more.

GPA Global and sustainable cosmetics packaging

If you’ve been following GPA Global since the early days you’ll know that sustainability is in our DNA. Having started life as Green Packaging Asia, we’ve held on tight to our green roots over the years, and today we’re one of the leading global providers of eco-friendly packaging solutions.

Sustainable materials

At GPA Global we love to push innovative new methods and materials. We use eco-friendly alternatives to plastic, such as sugarcane bagasse, bamboo, tin, and FSC-certified papers. We’ve also developed our own material, GreenBlister, a type of trapped blister packaging which is made from recycled and recyclable paperboard and plastic.

Fully recyclable packs

Creating a fully recyclable pack isn’t just about the base material – it’s also about the printing and embellishments. Some of the fully recyclable packs we’ve crafted in the past have featured soy inks, and have been created using recycled materials to create even less waste.

Reusable packs

We also reduce waste by creating packs with more than one use, or packs that are so beautifully constructed as to be a keepsake. This approach has been embraced by the team in our luxury department, where there is more capacity and budget to create truly exceptional packs.

One fantastic example is the pack we manufactured for the KITH x Estée Lauder Generational Beauty Kit. Our team crafted a clear, acrylic case to hold the makeup – with the fitment removed, it doubles as a stylish clutch purse.

International locations

As a global company, we’re able to manufacture and distribute from multiple locations, meaning we can reduce the polluting effects associated with international fulfilment and shipping.

A careful approach

When we create our sustainable packs, we’re careful to weigh up the materials and processes involved to ensure the best outcome for both the client and the environment. That means we don’t automatically opt for the material which, on paper, seems to be the eco-friendliest.

While some materials may be less polluting than plastics in the long-term, in the short-term the extensive manufacturing processes may lead to an increased carbon footprint.

To find out more about our green expertise, or to brief us about a packaging project, get in touch today. We have a skilled team working across the globe with expertise in almost every sector.

11 May 2021
Let's talk