Pore Over These Ways To Recycle Makeup

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3R Makeover: Recycle Makeup Containers

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Idhren

Blush and lipsticks may last a few years, but items like mascara only last a fraction of that time. Organic makeup that has less additives may last even less time than that! Sometimes makeup gets old because of its shelf life, and other times your style changes. The packaging alone for items such as cosmetics makes up as much as one-third of the stuff going to landfills, so it’s important to recycle your makeup containers and cosmetics. Let’s give our 3R habits a makeover using these tips.

Refill Reuse Recycle

One easy way to reduce waste is to buy available refills, especially for powders that come in compact cases. Many companies, for example, sell an entire pallet of refillable eyeshadow compact cases.

Going even further, did you know it’s possible to concoct your own makeup and use your old containers for homemade cosmetics? DIY makeup has a lot of fun potential!

Come up with new use for old makeup containers. Get creative and repurpose old cosmetics containers to carry or store small items or knickknacks. For more ideas, read our exploration of how to reuse old film canisters.

As for the makeup itself, ask yourself if someone else can reuse it. If your makeup is unwanted and unopened- perhaps close to its expiration date- consider donating it to a women’s shelter. Always forgetting something when you leave the house? Use old lipstick to leave yourself notes on the bathroom mirror.

Plastic Containers

Give a call to your local recycling center. It’s very common for recycling depots to accept rigid plastics if they are cleaned out. Look on the plastic container you have, whether it be on a lipstick tube or compact case, and see if it has the #5 on it. See our guide to plastic recycling numbers to clarify.

The company Preserve has an excellent program to recycle #5 plastics for use in their products. Preserve Gimme 5 allows you to drop off or mail in #5 plastics at select locations found through their website. It’s convenient to just stockpile these plastics and until you’re ready to drop them off. See our article on how to recycle lip balm containers for more information.

Mixed Materials

Metal lids and caps, or steel and aluminum cans might be easy to recycle too, if the container is only made from metal. When there’s a mix of plastic, metal, and mirrors, for example, these items are difficult to recycle and may just have to be thrown away if no other reuse is possible.

Across the pond, Lumson patented the “Eco-Lock system” that allows users to disassemble their containers for easier recycling. The pump is easily separated from all plastic components by unscrewing it from the glass bottle. Once the glass is separated from the plastic components, the bottle can be sent back to Ringana. Ringana sends it back to Lumson, where it is reused it to manufacture more packaging.

Recycling Programs Near You

These cosmetic companies offer recycling programs, either for drop-off at a retail location or mailing.

Back to M·A·C  Return 6 M·A·C primary packaging containers to a M·A·C counter or M·A·C Cosmetics online, and get a free M·A·C lipstick of your choice.

Return to Origins Recycle Program lets you bring cosmetic tubes, bottles or containers of any brand to one of their Origins retail stores and they will recycle them. This program is available in select countries outside the U.S. also, and to do date they’ve recycled nearly 20,000 pounds of cosmetic packaging!

Lip-Ink Recycle Program Send in 4 empty regular-sized Lip Ink vials and choose any Lip Ink Liquid Lip Color for free, or order extra items at regular price through the recycle program and get free shipping.

Check this out: Everything from nail polish bottles to eyeliner pencils and concealer tubes is also accepted when you participate in a Beauty Brigade through Terracycle. It is totally free to set up, so see their site for all the details.


TIP: Also be mindful of all the packaging used for makeup, such as cardboard boxes, different types of plastic, and vinyl cases. Add in things like cotton balls and sponges, and a lot of waste gets generated.

Remember to bring a reusable bag, and choose a product with the least amount of packaging, or made from post-consumer plastic or cardboard. That means avoiding excessive plastic film or shiny metallic coatings and ribbon if possible, because these items are not easily recycled.

Nontoxic Cosmetics

For a real eye-opener about toxins and the cosmetics industry, view the Story of Cosmetics. To learn more about safer cosmetics that are nontoxic, get involved with the Campaign for Safer Cosmetics.

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