To mark #WorldOceansDay, today on Byrdie UK, we're sharing all the ways we can be kinder to the ocean—and the wider planet—with our beauty choices. As well as investigating the beauty industry's plastic problem, we'll be exploring the art of conscious beauty consumption, zero-waste routines, plastic-free products and teaching you (once and for all) how to recycle your beauty packaging.
The issue of beauty packaging is no joke, but what's even more alarming is our lax approach to recycling. We've all thrown a shampoo bottle or two in the general bin out of laziness, and we've all ditched a lipstick tube, unsure as to whether they are recyclable at all.
"While we are recycling more and more as a nation, it's important that we remember to recycle items from all around the house," explains Craig Stephens. "In fact, whilst almost 90% of people in the UK claim to regularly recycle from the kitchen, only 52% say they regularly recycle from the bathroom," he says.
Meet the Expert
Craig Stephens is a waste management and communications professional. He is the campaign manager for Recycle Now, the national recycling campaign for England.
If we all pulled our weight a little more, it's remarkable what a difference we could make. Not only would less plastic end up in our landfills and oceans, but we'd also reduce our global energy consumption. In fact, according to Recycle Now, recycling one plastic hair mist bottle would save enough energy to power a juicer for two minutes every day, and one recycled shower gel bottle would save enough energy to toast nearly three rounds of bread.
Of course, it isn't just as easy as popping more things in the assigned bin. Firstly, you need to know which products can be recycled, as well as exactly what you need to do with them to make them suitable for recycling. We've found all that info and more for you below.
Contrary to popular belief, you can actually recycle aerosol cans (just check if your collection service accepts them). They tend to be made from tinplated steel or aluminum—both of which are completely recyclable—but it's vital that you ensure the can in question is completely empty. Don't try to pierce, crush or flatten the can either, and remove any easily removable parts such as the lid or nozzle. The rest will be removed in the recycling process.
Just like your jam jars, recycling plants will accept your glass-bottled beauty products. As remnants of skincare formulas can contaminate the rest of the recyclables, make sure you give them a good rinse first. If the product inside is pretty oily, you might need to use soap or washing up liquid to get rid of any residue. Pop it in your recycling with the lid still attached to reduce the risk of it getting lost. And just FYI: You can't recycle nail polish bottles.
You could always go one step further and invest in Tata Harper's skincare range—it comes housed in 100% recycled glass.
Plastic Tubes and Bottles
Plastic skincare tubes and shampoo bottles are some of the most common beauty containers we have lying around the house, so making sure they get recycled properly is important.
Firstly, leave the labels on—these will help the recycling team identify what the bottle used to house, just in case it could have contaminated the plastic. Screw the lids back on, too, as this will ensure they get recycled. Also, remember to give the tubes a good clean. And finally, squash the bottles down to save space.
To get the final dregs out of a shampoo bottle, near-to-boiling water works pretty well.
When it comes to electrical items, first work out if the item is still in working order, as often charity shops will accept used hair tools. If it's completely broken, then it's likely you'll be able to recycle it, but you might need to take it to a specific center—just check your local recycling plant's capacity first.
While they're not accepted in your recycling, items such as cotton pads and cardboard-stemmed cotton buds can be composted with the rest of your kitchen waste.
Makeup items such as lipstick tubes, eye shadow pans, and mascara wands are where things get a little tricker, as it's unlikely you'll find a recycling plant that will accept them. What you can do, however, is check if the brand has its own recycling scheme. MAC does with its Back to MAC scheme. If you take six empty MAC containers into one of its stores, they'll recycle them for you. You'll also get to pick out a free lipstick as a thank-you. Win-win.