How to recycle your beauty products

Image: &Other Stories

Should you (a) wash out bottles or (b) wipe out bottles? The answer might surprise you!

When it comes to recycling our unwanted clothes most of us are really good at bringing them to a local clothes bank or charity shop. But what do we do with our empty deodorant cans or foundation bottles? Are we recycling them properly?

If cosmetic products have a recycling symbol on the packaging, then putting our empties into the recycling bin would seem like the obvious thing to do but that itself can be just as harmful to the environment as not recycling the products at all.

Even though most of us recycle, there are still issues around recycling contamination meaning that while we are trying our best to recycle properly unfortunately some of us are still putting the wrong things in the green bin. If you contaminate your recycling bin, you can ruin the material that could potentially be recycled again. Also, some skincare or makeup products cannot be washed down the sink as the ingredients in the products could have a major impact on aquatic life or the water supply over time. So what can we do?

Here are some tips on how to recycle your beauty products properly:


Returning your packaging to stores has never been easier. Brands like Lush, Origins (initiative is available at Arnotts in Dublin), & Other Stories and MAC have recycling programmes to help customers recycle their beauty products. For example MAC have a scheme called Back To MAC which allows you to bring back six empty containers to exchange for a free lipstick!


Keep containers. When cleaned our properly they can be used for storage or decoration.


If you buy plastic-free products, you won’t feel guilty when it’s time to get rid of them. Brands like Modern Botany, Lush and Burt’s Bees use metal tins to store their products. Glass bottles can also be cleaned, recycled or upcycled.


Instead, take a paper towel and wipe it clean. If you rinse out the product often toxic chemicals can go into the surface water and potentially contaminate the water supply over time. Also, make sure that the bottles are completely dry before placing them in the recycling bin.


Lipsticks and nail varnishes made with lead or acrylates should always be considered hazardous waste and never be thrown away in the regular bin or recycled because they must be disposed of through a hazardous waste program. To find out where your nearest hazardous waste centre is, contact your local County Council office or visit their website.


Eco-friendly recycling company, TerraCycle, have partnered with Garnier to create a free recycling programme for all brands of beauty product packaging. Participating is free – simply attach your free shipping label to the box and order a pick-up via UPS or you can also drop-off your parcel at your closest UPS drop-off point. For more information visit the Terracycle website here.

Similarly, in terms of electrical beauty applicances like hairdryers and cleansing brushes, be sure to bring the devices to a local recycling centre where they can dispose of the applicances correctly.


Always choose packaging that is easily recyclable, eg pump action sprays are better than aerosols. However, aerosol cans can go in the green bin as they are genereally made from steel or aluminium but make sure the can is completely empty and removed any external parts.

With makeup palettes that contain mirrors or magnets, be sure to detach these features as they aren’t recyclable. Same goes for mascara tubes, often the wands aren’t suitable for the green bin so remove them beforehand.


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