Even though buying beauty products that are good for the environment is the ultimate goal, it is still important to recycle any empty containers. 

TerraCycle’s resident beauty industry expert notes that fifty percent of consumers don’t even attempt to recycle their empty containers since it is regarded as “inconvenient.” 

The so-called “incommodity” results in the disposal of 2,7 billion plastic bottles of lavatory waste into landfills each year.

“Every year, the global cosmetics industry makes 120 billion pieces of packaging, like the cardboard that serums, perfumes, and moisturizers come in. This causes 18 million acres of forest to be cut down,” Herrera says. 

Empty beauty and skincare packaging is not always easy to recycle, but it is very essential for a sustainable future. Danielle Jezienicki, who is the vice president of sustainability at Grove Collaborative, says that avoiding “wish cycling” is very important.

However, beauty product packaging is particularly complicated and difficult to recycle (think: paper inserts, cardboard sleeves, mirrored glass, etc. 

How Does It Work?

Collect your unwanted beauty packaging in a postage box, join up with TerraCycle in your respective nation, download and print a mailing label for your box, and send it to your local recycling station for free.

For garbage donations of 10 pounds or more, each item is worth two TerraCycle points. You may redeem your points and convert them into a gift to one of TerraCycle’s designated organizations or to a non-profit, school, or charity of your own. 

In this way, you will not only will you reduce your environmental impact, but you will also contribute to organizations that are affecting actual, good change in the world.

Recycling Of Mono-Material

As a general rule, beauty product packaging is more likely to be recyclable if it contains less materials. When more material is utilized, the separation process of recycling can be time- and cost-intensive. 

Local programs may not accept cross-contaminated recyclables even if you attempt to sort them yourself.

If your product is made of just one kind of material, like glass, plastic, or cardboard, you can wash it and put it in the right recycling bin. 

And, contrary to what most people think, there’s no need to take labels off of things that can be recycled. In most MRFs, this is accomplished by a specific heating process.

Recycling Alternatives

They will recycle your empty containers if you bring them to Everyday Minerals, Aveda, Lush, Kiehl’s, Origins, MAC, or Zoya. Occasionally, limits apply.

Zoya, for example, only lets you recycle once a year, on Earth Day. Lush, on the other hand, will take back branded packaging. 

Additionally, TerraCycle has worked with firms such as L’Oreal, L’Occitane, and Garnier to offer recycling programs, so there are many options.

Some businesses have also adopted refillable packaging to decrease the amount of unnecessary packing. TerraCycle collaborates with Ulta on their waste-free packaging program, Loop, in the United States.

If there is still a lot of product left in the container, you could also think about giving it away. Additionally, several women’s shelters will happily accept your unused cosmetics. In addition, you will be doing someone a favor.

Okay, now for the difficult part. Most cosmetic packaging is made of glass and polypropylene, which is plastic for your resin identification number nerds. This means that most communities can recycle it. 

What Are Our Options?

While some companies, like MAC and Lush, provide incentives for recycling their products, it is unclear where the garbage goes and how efficient these programs are.

Check out TerraCycle if you want to make sure that your old makeup won’t end up in the trash. In 2001, Tom Szaky, a dropout from Princeton with a passion for sustainability, launched the firm. 

He was able to develop his nascent business into an innovative worldwide recycling corporation! TerraCycle, which operates in over 20 countries, gathers and repurposes nearly all types of garbage for free.

Now, TerraCycle and Garnier are working together to create a recycling program for cosmetics in the US. 

At the moment, the program accepts conditioner and shampoo bottles and caps, gel tubes, lotion dispensers, mascara tubes, lipstick cases, palettes, compacts, concealer tubes, foundation bottles, and eye pencils.

Check Municipal Restrictions For Recycling

To make sure you are following the rules, you should always follow the recycling laws in your area. Additionally, you can use resources such as Recycle Coach, How2Recycle, and Earth911 to determine which recyclables are accepted.

Material recycling facilities, or MRFs, do not take most cosmetics because they have strict rules about what they can and cannot take. 

Be careful with the universal recycling sign (a triangle), as it is not the only way to show that a container is recyclable. Instead, pay close attention to labels to determine if a product is recyclable.

“In reality, curbside recycling programs generally only accept plastic items with the numbers 1 or 2 written inside the arrows,” says Herrera. 

Because the United States operates a single-stream recycling scheme, your bathroom goods may be placed in the blue or green bin together with kitchen and home items (this means that plastics can be recycled with other plastics and glass with other glass).


Even if mascara and lipstick tubes are made of plastic, they are not recyclable. Typically, their containers are too small to be fully cleaned for recycling. These and other cosmetic pencils should be discarded.

It is recommended to check with your city or town to see what may be placed in your recycling container, as each community has different recycling rules. Call2Recycle.org provides information on the recycling policies in your area.

Throw away any goods that cannot be recycled, such as plastic cosmetics containers. Make sure that all lids and seals are tight when taking chemicals to a landfill to prevent chemicals from leaking.

Generally speaking, purchasing eco-friendly items is better for the environment. The same holds true for cosmetics. Thankfully, there are many alternatives out there. 

The more environmentally friendly a product is, the simpler it should be to dispose of it, as sustainability will be incorporated into the packaging. Keep this in mind the next time you go shopping.

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