Recycling and the Life of a Lipstick Tube

Photo credit: eBay Green

Back in October, we dove into the subject of eco-beauty, offering a series of tips and tricks on how to keep you toxin-free and healthy despite your need for nail polish and love of lipstick.A lesser-talked-about aspect of green beauty comes not in what products you buy, but what you do with them when you are done with them. According to Origins, everyday packaging accounts for about one-third of all landfill waste - and that includes all those slick, snappy little containers sitting in your makeup drawer or medicine cabinet.

This week, we take a look at the world of cosmetics disposal. So go ahead, clean out that nasty makeup bag - with an eye to the recycling bin, of course.

Know Your Plastics

Did you know that since the 1950s, one billion tons of plastic have been discarded - materials that very well may persist (ie NOT biodegrade) for hundreds or even thousands of years? In the 1990s, in an effort to boost recycling efforts, the Plastic Bottle Institute of the Society of the Plastics Industry devised a now-familiar scheme to mark plastic bottles by plastic type.

  1. PET (PETE), polyethylene terephthalate, is commonly found in 2-liter soft drink bottles, water bottles, cooking oil bottles, peanut butter jars.

  2. HDPE, high-density polyethylene, is commonly found in detergent bottles and milk jugs.

  3. PVC, polyvinyl chloride, is commonly found in plastic pipes, outdoor furniture, siding, floor tiles, and shower curtains.

  4. LDPE, low-density polyethylene, is commonly found in dry-cleaning bags, produce bags, trash can liners, and food storage containers.

  5. PP, polypropylene, is commonly found in bottle caps, drinking straws, yogurt containers.

  6. PS, polystyrene, is commonly found in "packing peanuts", cups, plastic tableware, meat trays, take-away food clamshell containers.

  7. There are also other types of plastics commonly found in certain kinds of food containers, Tupperware, and Nalgene bottles.

Cosmetic containers are usually made from plastic #5, or polypropylene. Similar in chemical make-up to plastic #3, this plastic resin is commonly found in everyday products like yogurt cups and bottle caps, but it is often left out of curbside recycling programs.

So what's a girl to do? First, check your bottles and containers, and then call your local recycler to see which types of plastic they accept. If the outlook is grim, fear not and read on, Green Team-ers!

Extra credit: Claim Your Freebies!

Photo credit: eBay Green

A handful of smart, savvy makeup manufacturers are launching take-back programs that not only sort and recycle containers for you—but offer sweet deals to their customers as added incentive (hello, free lipstick!). A few of our favorites include:

Back to MAC: One of the first companies to dabble in recycling programs, MAC Cosmetics accepts returns of its primary packing as part of their commitment to environmental responsibility. Collect and return six containers, and they'll throw in a free lipstick - of any color or shade your heart desires.

Aveda Recycle Caps: Recognizing that the majority of plastic bottle caps do not get recycled today, Aveda goes the extra mile and accepts not only caps from their own bottles and tubes, but flip top caps on food products like ketchup and salad dressing, laundry detergent, and even plastic water bottle lids.

Return to Origins: Like Aveda's program, Origins takeback program is brand agnostic -consumers can bring any empty bottle, jar or cosmetic tube into any of Origins stores or department store counters nationwide. Then, the company says, "all returned packaging is sent back to central location where products are recycled or used for energy recovery." Pretty great, huh?

These trail-blazing companies are the first of what we hope will become many to give new life to old cosmetics containers, but they can't do it alone. With more and more options for responsible disposal available to us every day, it's on our shoulders to make sure all those little plastic containers and bottles make their way to the right place!

Read more about cosmetics:
Annie Leonard Looks at Cosmetics Industry: Simple, Serious, Scary (with Video)
How to Go Green: Recycling
Organic and Natural Cosmetics Ingredients Aren't Necessarily More Eco-Friendly

Tags: Cosmetics | Recycling

Best of TreeHugger 2014

WHAT'S HOT ON FACEBOOK