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Here is How To Recycle Your Beauty Products

Times Are Changing—But You Have To Take Initiative

Fortunately, the beauty industry is starting to think about sustainability when it comes to packaging. Some examples: Tata Harper houses the majority of its products in chic glass bottles, which makes for easy reusing and recycling. (The line is also Ecocert certified, which means all aspects of packaging meet certain biodegradable and/or recyclable criteria.) Likewise, Kjaer Weis has a refillable (and elegant) metal alloy compact system, eliminating waste from packaging created only to be thrown away.

That being said, there is still no industry standard when it comes to producing recyclable packaging. Until we reach a point when all packaging is thoughtfully and sustainably made, it’s up to us to put in a little extra effort when the time comes to discard it. Take the initiative to do a few minutes of investigation before tossing your empties in the garbage. Trust us—the planet (and your conscience) will be much better off for it.

How do I do recycle at The Detox Market?

We’ve partnered with TerraCycle, an innovative company that recycles the hard-to-recycle. By giving beauty packaging—shampoo caps, hair gel tubes, skincare and lotion dispensers, foundation containers, and more—a second life, we divert millions of pounds of waste from our landfills and oceans. TerraCycle recycles over 97 percent of the waste it collects, and reuses or upcycles the rest. 

To toss your empties in an eco-friendly way, bring them to any of our retail stores. Plus, for every full-sized product you recycle with us, we reward you with 10 Detox Points! Get all of the details here.

How do I do recycle from home?

First, go online and research what can be recycled in your area. Earth 911 is a great starting point—it offers recycling guides and lists locations nearest you. Every city has its own rules about what kinds of materials it will and will not accept, which often vary from municipality to municipality. (Case in point: Not all communities recycle all types of plastic.) Your local recycling program can usually provide you with a list of acceptable materials, and most communities have a government official or recycling coordinator who can answer specific questions. Depending on where you live, your state’s Department of Environmental Protection or Department of Natural Resources—which you can find here—may also offer helpful resources.

Regardless of your location, there are some broad tips that apply to nearly everyone when it comes to recycling beauty packaging. Here, we break it down by material/container type:

  • Paper + Cardboard Boxes: Most of the time, you can safely assume that the boxes your products come in can be broken down and tossed in the recycling bin. If you want to be extra sure, look for the triangle with arrows, also called a Mobius loop—an internationally recognized symbol that designates recyclable materials.
  • Plastic Containers + Plastic Bottles: When it comes to plastic containers, like Graydon Skincare’s All Over Face + Body Lotion or HUM Nutrition’s supplements, you’ll see the Mobius loop with a number from one to seven inside of it, typically found on the bottom. The number denotes the type of plastic and how it should be recycled. The most recyclable containers are labeled one and two (both of the aforementioned examples have ones on the bottom), meaning they can definitely be tossed in the recycling bin. Just make sure to give them a good rinse first! If you see a three, throw it in the trash or repurpose it, since the material is too difficult to recycle. For numbers four through seven, it depends on your location—sometimes they’re available for curbside pickup, or you might have to take them somewhere specific. Not all plastic is labeled with a number, so if you’re not sure how to recycle something, reach out to the manufacturer directly!
  • Glass Containers: Glass containers can be endlessly recycled without losing quality or purity. This is what sets it apart from plastic, which has a limited lifespan. Glass can also be repurposed into makeup brush holders or flower vases. The possibilities are endless! Before recycling, just make sure you rinse out any remaining product residue to ensure the remnants of your face mask or moisturizer don’t attract pests to the recycling facility.
  • Aerosol Cans: Empty aerosol cans—think hairspray and dry shampoo—are typically made from steel and aluminum, materials that can be recycled if your local collection service accepts aerosol. Here’s the catch, though: Unless the cans are completely empty (you hear nothing but silence when pressing down the nozzle), they’re considered household hazardous waste (HHW) and need to be dropped off at your local HHW facility. Even if they are completely empty, call your local facility or check online to see if your community accepts aerosols for curbside pickup. You might need to take them to a specific location. (Some places consider the empty cans to be hazardous to workers because of the pressurized gases inside.) If your area doesn’t accept aerosols for pickup, make sure to recycle the lid separately before dropping your cans off.

What ISN’T recyclable?

  • Pumps + Droppers: The pumps and droppers that deposit your precious cleansers, oils and serums look deceptively simple, but often house multiple materials that aren’t visible to you, like metal springs. (Anything made up of multiple materials is challenging to recycle.) Throw these in the trash before recycling the container.
  • Multi-Material Components: As stated above, items made of several different materials should be tossed. This includes empty toothpaste tubes and even face mask pouches, which are typically made of a combination of aluminum and plastic. (Collapsible metal toothpaste tubes, like Davids Premium Natural Toothpaste, can be recycled!)

What about caps + lids + labels?

  • Caps + Lids: If your product came with a small cap, lid or screw-top attached, leave it on, even if it’s made from a different material than the container. They’re too small to be recycled alone, but can be recycled when they’re part of the whole package.
  • Labels: If they’re easy to peel off, go ahead and remove them—but don’t let a stubborn label stop you from recycling what would otherwise be a perfectly good candidate.

A little something extra

Wands For Wildlife repurposes what would have otherwise become trash: your old mascara wands! They use the compact bristles to brush tiny wild animals, removing eggs and larvae from their fur. Save the planet and save the animals—just make sure you wash the wands in warm, soapy water before mailing them off.

Easy ways to use less plastic 

In addition to becoming more conscious about recycling your beauty products, there are plenty of other ways you can reduce your impact on the environment. Here are some of our favorites: 

  • BYOB: Use a refillable water bottle! This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce your plastic waste—with the added bonus of saving money. (Don’t forget to bring your own thermos to coffee shops, too!) 
  • Glass Half Full: Pack your lunch in glass containers. Not only is this better for the planet, but it’s also healthier for you, since plastic containers contain chemicals that can leach into food. Also, leftovers taste way better when reheated in glass. 
  • Tote-ally Sustainable: Bring your own reusable tote bag to the grocery store or farmers market. Eco-friendly and shoulder-friendly—unlike the thin, rippable plastic bags we know all too well. 
  • The Final Straw: The verdict is in, and single-use plastic straws are out. In America, 500 million straws are used and thrown away each day—only to get filtered into landfills, polluting our oceans and contributing to waste. The fix? Go straw-free, or invest in reusable ones made out of stainless steel, bamboo or glass! 
  • A Green Shave: Make the switch to using a razor with replaceable blades, rather than a disposable one that gets tossed once its lifespan is up. The EPA has estimated that more than 2 billion disposable razors are thrown away each year—and because of the metal blade, most end up in landfills (even though the plastic part is technically recyclable). 
  • Money Moves: Another way we can tackle the industry’s carbon footprint at the root is to use our purchasing power for good. Make it a point to support brands that emphasize sustainable packaging, and take advantage of sampling programs whenever possible. When you buy products you love, you minimize waste from returns.

Is there anything else I should know? 

As you continue on your journey toward sustainability, remember that there are no such things as small actions. Whether you follow every tip in this piece, or just make it a point to repurpose your old face cream jars instead of relegating them to the trash can, remember that what you do matters. Being proactive about a cause is not only empowering, but it’s the only way change can occur. Whatever you do, do something. In the words of environmental leader Robert Swan, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” 

Talking about clean beauty is our love language.