Why Recycling Cosmetics Packaging Is a Great Idea

Demand for cosmetics is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste, highlights how consumers can demand that their favorite brands reduce waste from cosmetic products and packaging.

Cosmetics are part of a multi-billion-dollar global industry expected to reach $675 billion by 2020. As with most industries today, one of its fastest growing influences on consumer purchasing behaviour are claims for sustainability.

Sustainable sourcing of raw materials in cosmetics is gaining popularity, and many cosmetics manufacturers have launched “take-back” recycling initiatives, engaging customers with a solution for its difficult-to-recycle products and packaging. The trend we are seeing is clear: recyclability and perceived sustainability are en vogue.

Though all technically recyclable, “difficult-to-recycle” waste streams are not typically profitable to recycle in our current infrastructure. Cosmetics are often packaged in containers that are hard to clean, and the packaging is often comprised of mixed materials (e.g. a pump-action bottle made with different plastic resins and a metal spring).

With high collection, separation, and processing costs, cheap, linear disposal methods like landfilling and incineration are typically considered the most economically viable options. Even so, consumer demand for greater responsibility and more circular waste solutions is resonating across industries, cosmetics included.

At TerraCycle, they have developed a great deal of first-hand experience in the sustainability of consumer products. A regenerative system in which collected waste materials are used as a resource to create new products is what recycling is actually about.

For example, years ago TerraCycle partnered with Garnier to create the Personal Care and Beauty Recycling Program, a free program that accepts everything from shampoo and conditioner bottles, eye cream tubs and hair spray pumps for recycling.

To enhance their recycling initiative’s impact, they decided that the program itself would have been brand agnostic: all personal care and beauty waste is accepted for recycling, regardless of brand. Waste collected through the program is recycled into plastic pellets to make new recycled products, even more ambitious creations like community gardens or playground.

Not only is Garnier putting forth the resources to collect and recycle all brands of cosmetics packaging, it creates a reward system much greater than a free gift: the opportunity to give back to the community.

TerraCycle also just launched the Beauty Products Recycling Program with L’Oreal in Australia, where 21.1 million tons of waste end up in landfills each year. Consumers are empowered by the ability to easily (and at no cost to them) send their discarded beauty products for recycling, without the caveat that it must be from one brand.

Participants in the program do not have to buy products to benefit, and can even earn points redeemable for a charitable donation or upcycled products.

TerraCycle is just one of the companies that are lending a helping hand to ensure that cosmetic products are recycled properly. There are clearly solutions for difficult-to-recycle waste streams when companies provide the resources necessary to make them possible, and we are confident that more and more of them will join the “take-back” recycling initiatives in the near future!




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