20 pledges for 2020: How to recycle non-recyclable beauty products

Truly ethical and sustainable beauty brands aren't easy to find. Can Jessica Jones go a whole year without using anything else?

From body scrub to hand cream, choose toiletries with ethically sourced ingredients
From body scrub to hand cream, choose toiletries with ethically sourced ingredients

Zero waste products might be the future of clean beauty but they have yet to reach the mainstream. The lack of accessibility and convenience when purchasing zero waste items means that it is significantly easier to just buy non-recyclable products. 

When switching to sustainable beauty I found that I had many products which I needed to use up before searching for better alternatives. These were mostly half used makeup items in non-recyclable packaging, often with different parts and materials such as a mascara wand or a foundation pump, which makes it impossible to recycle them in local council bins.  

Introducing TerraCycle

TerraCycle is a recycling scheme for waste that cannot easily be recycled. Founded by Tom Szaky in 2001, who was then a student, the concept is simple: free recycling programmes are funded by worldwide brands, manufacturers and retailers in order to allow us to collect and recycle our hard-to-recycle waste. All you have to do is pick the programmes you want to use, collect waste in your home, school, office or organisation, download a free shipping label and finally, send your waste in to be recycled. Points are earned and can be exchanged for rewards for your school or a non-profit. 

Tom Szaky, founder of TerraCycle

Since it was established, TerraCycle has rapidly become a global leader in recycling and to date, over 202 million people in 21 countries have collected billions of pieces of waste, raising more than 44 million dollars for charities all over the world.  

TerraCycle is not just for makeup and personal care products; there are programmes designed for almost every kind of waste from bread bags and empty medicine packets to childrens’ toys and disposable gloves. The ones I was most interested in were the Garnier personal care and beauty recycling programme and the Maybelline makeup recycling programme. 

Although the names suggest that only Garnier and Maybelline products can be recycled, they actually accept waste from all brands. The Garnier programme allows waste to be sent in however the Maybelline programme works slightly differently, yet is still free and easy. All you have to do is find your closest store through their maps and drop off your empty (clean) packaging to be recycled. 

Once your empty waste has been received it is sorted by material type, shredded and pressed into plastic pellets, which can then be reused for various new plastic products. Recycling waste earns points that are redeemed as financial donations so the more waste that is recycled, the more that is donated to various charities such as Mind. Beauty brands such as Weleda, Baylis & Harding and Colgate also have their own individual recycling schemes.  

TerraCycle is a revolutionary way of recycling, reusing and upcycling waste to prevent it being incinerated, which produces huge amounts of pollution, or landfilled, which generates the high levels of methane gas and CO2 that contribute to global warming. Waste is redirected from a linear system with a finite end to a circular one, which keeps it flowing in our economy. 

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