How to Recycle Your Beauty Products
Chances are you have a recycling bin in your kitchen and probably a few in your office, but what about your bathroom? Beauty products, while not as easily recyclable as that can of La Croix you just finished, don’t have to be destined for the landfill. From aerosol cans to plastic tubes, here’s your complete guide on how to recycle every beauty product in your medicine cabinet. But first, remember these five things:
1. Make sure it’s empty. An item with up to 10% residual formula in it won’t get recycled.
2. Make sure it’s clean. Rinse out your empties, but don’t worry about drying them.
3. Disassembly may be required. Items with sprayers, droppers, and other pieces will have to be removed.
4. Check the size and color. Skincare minis, trial-size items, small tubes (like lip gloss and eye care), and anything under 3” likely won’t make it through the recycling facilities. Avoid black and dark colored items, which also get missed by the sorting machines.
5. Check with your local curbside recycling program to ensure they collect items that look like yours. Pro Tip: #1 plastics are always recyclable. Most facilities accept #2 and #5 plastics. The rest of the plastics likely aren’t recyclable through curbside programs.
6. If your recycling program doesn't accept items that look like ours, save your empties and recycle through our Recycle Responsibly Program instead. We'll make sure they don't end up in the landfill and offset the emissions, too.
Plastic JarsJars are some of the easiest items to recycle. Since the cap and jar often are made of the same plastic (like ours are), simply rinse out, replace the cap, and toss it in your recycling bin. If there’s an inner liner (that thin white disk), throw away that piece in the trash.
Versed recyclable plastic jars:
Plastic and Aluminum Tubes
Tubes don’t have a great track record with many municipal facilities, so double with yours before doing the following. Cut into your tubes to scoop out every last drop, but don’t cut them into two separate pieces. Smaller pieces make items less likely to get recycled. Once clean, remove the caps before tossing your tubes in the recycling bin.*
Versed recyclable plastic tubes:
Bigger bottles—think cleanser, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and body lotion (the plastic is usually flexible)—are easier to recycle because of their size and because they’re typically made with #1 plastic. Still double check the plastic numbers and follow the steps above, but pay extra attention to smaller, rigid bottles. Many of these bottles (like serums) are not made with recyclable plastic. Once and if recyclability is confirmed, separate out pumps, sprayers, droppers, and any other pieces, then rinse and recycle the base bottle. Caps for the larger, flexible plastic items may be recyclable—double check with your facility—but when in doubt, throw them out. “Wishcycling” items does more harm than good to the entire recycling stream.
Airless pumps can be bottles or jars, but the pumps are on the inside. You can’t see them the way you can see the pump in a cleanser or toner. They require disassembly to be recycled through curbside programs. Here’s how you do it:
- Take off the cap and pull off the applicator over-piece. This piece should pop off easily.
- The piece underneath takes a bit more elbow grease to remove, use your thumbs and push up to release it.
- Then, flip over the base and spot the hole or holes on the bottom of your bottle or jar. Grab a paper clip (or anything that will fit in the hole), straighten it out, insert it into the hole, and push the remaining piece out of the base.
- Now take the bottle or jar, replace the cap, and recycle those two pieces as a whole—one hollow unit.*
*This is assuming the cap and base are the same recyclable material. If they’re not, toss the cap in the trash.
Glass can be endlessly recycled, just make sure you’re removing any liners in the tops of lids (usually white and glossy) and disposing of lids, caps, and applicators separately if they’re not glass. Lastly, confirm that your curbside recycling program accepts all three colors or glass (clear, brown, and blue)—some only collect clear. That means other colors are off-limits.
When you’ve reached the end of your styling sprays (meaning you don’t hear any liquid inside when you shake them), hold down the nozzle until only air dispenses from the nozzle. Aerosols must be 100% empty to be recyclable. Remove any detachable parts, like the lid, and recycle them separately. And as with all these forms, check with your local curbside recycling program to see if they collect empty aerosol cans.
Other Personal Care Items
While items like toothbrushes and razors aren’t recyclable through curbside programs, the brands you use may have their own recycling programs or partnerships in place to help. Colgate and Gillette, for example, work with the recycling partner TerraCycle. Check with the brands you use to see if they have collection programs you can take advantage of.
Recycling beauty products is far from simple. If you have any questions, just ask. We’re always here to help. Chat us, email us, or text us at 1-863-837-4222.