Ready for some jaw-dropping facts? By 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. And it’s not just plastic straws and water bottles that are problematic — 129 billion (yes, with a b) units of packaging are used by the cosmetic industry every year. Crazy, right?
In an effort to minimize their impact on the environment, more and more brands are jumping on the no-waste beauty trend and using packaging that’s either made from recycled material and/or is recyclable. Unlike lots of other household waste, recycling is a bit trickier when it comes to personal care products.
Not only do most people simply toss such products in the trash once empty (no judgement, we've all done it), even if you do throw them in the recycling bin, they likely aren’t getting recycled. Only certain types of plastic are recyclable, and much of the packaging used in the beauty industry is made of plastic that isn’t. According to scientists who study waste, a staggering 91 percent of plastic ends up in landfills.
So while yes, making your beauty routine more environmentally-friendly is admittedly more challenging than just buying a metal straw, this new no-waste beauty trend is making it much easier. Here’s what you can do, plus some cool initiatives from various brands to check out.
Look for products made from recycled packaging and/or that can be recycled
Since plastic is still tricky, opting for anything in glass is always a surefire and safe bet. All of the Grace + Tonic products are housed exclusively in glass packaging, not to mention have legitimately clean formulas that are COSMOS-certified. Another good option: Loli uses food-grade containers that can be reused for food storage. Some brands are now going even one step further and using compostable materials. Ethique has 100-percent compostable packaging, and also uses minimal water in their products, helping to combat water waste, too.
Bigger brands like Unilever are getting involved in the no-waste beauty trend, too. The beauty behemoth recently launched Love Beauty and Planet, a mass-retailer selection of body and hair products focused on sustainability and eco-friendliness. Though plastic, the packaging is 100-percent recyclable, and the product labels are designed to be easily and completely removed, a move that better guarantees it won't end up in a landfill. (Leftover labels and glue can clog up recycling machinery, causing otherwise recyclable plastic to be trashed.)
Rethink how you get rid of your empties
Our favorite way? Through the Garnier and TerraCycle personal care and beauty recycling program. How it works: Throw any and all of your product empties (they should be as empty and clean as possible) into a box. Print out a pre-paid shipping label on the TerraCycle website, then drop the box at UPS. They do the hard work for you, recycling even those tough-to-recycle plastics, turning them into things such as benches, playgrounds, and more. Since 2011 the partnership has diverted over 11.7 million beauty empties from landfills — point being, this is one easy way to make a major impact. Lilah B. offers a similar program, and many brands (MAC, Kiehl’s, Lush) will even let you bring back empties to their stores in exchange for free product. Win-win!
Refill and reuse products
Opt for options like refillable compacts, and swap single-use beauty goods that go straight into the trash for reusable options. One major culprit? Face wipes. We know, they’re so convenient, but consider this: 7.6 billion pounds of wipes end up in landfills every year, making them the third most wasteful product in the world. Simply ditching those for something like the Makeup Eraser ($20; Sephora.com), can make a huge difference. And look out for Loop. The innovative new shopping platform (available only in NYC now, but with plans to expand), sends you your favorite products (from big name brands such as Dove, Ren, and Pantene) in reusable packaging. Once you run out, send the empty container back to them and they’ll refill it.
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