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Are you Beauty Recycling?

Hello and happy September, I hope you’re well. I’ve not posted for such a long time but thought this week would be a good time as 20-26th September is recycling week, and I’m quite partial to talking about recycling, especially beauty recycling 😉

Back in 2019 according to the Soil Association’s Organic Beauty and Wellbeing Market Report for 2019, we were recycling 90% of packaging in the kitchen but only 50% of bathroom waste. The report also said 4.5million people don’t recycle bathroom products because it’s inconvenient. It is definitely harder to recycle beauty products as there are more mixed materials and different components.

I wonder if that statistic has changed over the last two years..

Before COVID lots of new recycling opportunities were starting to appear – I wrote this piece in the summer of 2019 and was adding to it as new beauty recycling schemes opened. Then the pandemic hit and lots of schemes had to close and that awkward packaging became harder to deal with again. Curbside recycling became harder too as councils stopped collecting for a while.

While our recycling may have been restricted over the pandemic, awareness of the climate crisis did seem to grow. Hopefully making people want to recycle more. However the want is not always enough, recycling is and seems to always have been confusing.

Recycling beauty products is especially hard due to the small parts and mixed components. Councils will not take this as it is of no monetary value to them, in fact it would cost them more money to do it. This is where private companies like Terracycle and Reworked come in. They offer a paid service to collect and repurpose hard to recycle post-consumer and post-industrial waste. Terracycle offer many free schemes that are paid for by beauty companies – the most widely available at the moment is the Maybelline scheme where you can recycle most of your make-up; I have one in my local Superdrug.

Boots work with Reworked, and have many recycling points throughout their stores.

If you’re not near a high street Look Fantastic have a great scheme via post, as do Handle Recycling.

Conscious Beauty Union hosted a brilliant webinar earlier in the year discussing the ins and outs of beauty recycling with wonderful insight from Stephen Clarke from Terracycle we also had Jo Chidley from Beauty Kitchen telling us about the bright future of refilling and Ameenah Begum from Cos Watercolours sharing her amazing water colour paint made from expired make-up. We really had a great informative conversation that answered a lot of our beauty recycling questions. The replay is available here (it does cost £5 but has so much information)

The beauty industry is responsible for an enormous amount of packaging. According to Zero Waste week via Ban the microbead, annually the beauty industry produces more than 120 BILLION units of packaging globally. We need to tackle this on so many levels – yes recycling for sure, but also minimising what we actually use. That is the very first thing we should be doing when trying to create a more sustainable beauty routine – some more tips here 🙂

Refilling is another way we can definitely reduce our packaging waste. Jo Chidley is an expert in this having launched her Return-Refill-Repeat programme with Beauty Kitchen. She spoke about it a lot in our webinar and Steve also spoke about his involvement with Loop which is a zero waste shopping platform available through Tesco in the UK.

Plastic is very often demonised but are the other alternatives really more viable. Bioplastics can be hard to recycle and as Jo pointed out the increase in demand for forest-based products (as an alternative to plastic) cannot be met sustainably by current systems. Beauty Kitchen are doing some great work with Canopy with regards to this. Refilling therefore, is a great option. Skincare and personal care products are currently easier to do, but as the systems get better and more widely available, hopefully there will be more make-up options too.

It is brilliant that there are more and more recycling options now, goodness knows we need it. I hope the above helps and please do comment below about any other beauty recycling schemes you know about it.

I’m going to finish with this quote from Steve Clarke though as I find it such a key message. Recycling is SO important, but minimising what we use, and using everything up before buying new needs to be top of the agenda too.

“Recycling on its own, whilst still vitally important, is not enough to get the planet out of the dire straits we are currently in. What we have to do is change the way we consume”

Stephen Clarke, Head of Communications TerraCycle