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What Can I Do With My Beauty Product Packaging?

Seriously, have you ever wondered what to do with those difficult to recycle old lipsticks and empty eye shadow pallets? How about old toothbrushes, used toothpaste tubes and flossing boxes, not to mention other personal product packaging such as trigger heads and those pump taps for hand wash and other cleansers?

We recently took a hard look at the cosmetic industry and its implications for our health and that of the planet, but that's not the only dilemma with it. According to a European Union Green Paper on plastic waste, 80% of plastic polluting the ocean comes from poor waste management on the land. For those of us committed to recycling in order to divert plastic from fragile environments, these personal grooming products pose a real headache.

Read more: Plastic microbeads in beauty products are causing damage to environment

Beauty businesses are switching to more sustainable practices

The problem is that many of these items are made of blended materials that can't be easily recycled. Furthermore, recycling becomes virtually impossible if there's any leftover product in the tube or container. The good news is that certain beauty companies are making efforts to make it easier for us to recycle their packaging and products. By cleaning up their act and improving the sustainability of their packaging products, they can ensure we can recycle them in our municipal recycling schemes. Many brands claim that all of their products are packaged in sustainable or recycled materials, and easy to recycle at the end of life.

Lush, for instance, aim to make their products solid, thus negating not only the preservatives necessary in liquid products but also the massive amount of packaging, such as bottles, caps and pourers. And, according to US based As You Sow, Colgate-Palmolive have pledged to put recyclable packaging in three of its product categories whilst committing to developing a recyclable toothpaste tube. We can't wait for that!

Read more: Dangerous chemical pollution in our everyday lives: How to become empowered to reduce our chemical exposure

Some Companies reward your recycling efforts

Incentive schemes are also a popular means for companies to get you to recycle their packaging. Here in Australia, Kiehl's Recycle and Reward program encourages customers to return any non-sample size Kiehl's packaging to their boutiques or counters to receive special stamps which you save to receive a reward. And probably one of the better known incentive schemes is MAC's Back to Mac service that lets you swap six used packaging types, from lipstick tubes to blush compacts, for one new product! How cool is that?

You have to bear in mind though that these schemes don't exist purely to encourage you to to recycle: of course it's a way to ensure that you buy also more of their products, when perhaps we just ought to be thinking about buying less… And whilst these are all positive steps in the right direction, who seriously has time for all of that. Not surprisingly, many people feel like recycling is a chore when you're having to return to point of purchase to do the right thing!

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A One Stop Shop for Recycling

Enter TerraCycle, a company that puts themselves forward as a sort of one stop shop for recycling!! TerraCycle team up with brands such as L'Oreal Australia and Colgate to help everyday Australian's reduce their waste footprint by collecting your old lipsticks, eyeshadow palettes, shampoo bottles, toothbrushes and tubes, and other skin and hair care packaging. Some of their programs are free, and some are not. We suggest it as a great way to drive your workplace towards being a low carbon operation and definitely worth a look if you need to get rid of a lot of packaging and hard-to-recycle items in one hit, for instance when moving house, or spring cleaning.

Read more:DIY Coconut & Lemon Lip Balm

Of course, in the end, the best way to tackle this problem head on is to buy less packaged personal grooming goods, and to "precycle", or simply make your own. And if you simply can't, or won't, the other option is to buy better. Do your own research on your favourite brands and ensure that they are doing theirbit to at least assist youto do the right thing. Surely that's a fair price for them to pay to keep your loyalty!

Read this next: Make your own toiletries


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