As a fellow beauty product junkie, I’ll admit I’ve created more than my fair share of waste over the years—which is unfair to our planet. From makeup to hair care to every kind of lotion and potion lining store shelves (and filling online carts), the beauty industry alone is responsible for over 120 billion units of waste every year, with about 70% coming from packaging alone. That’s one too many shampoo bottles and tubes of lipstick to justify, but as everyday items, how are we supposed to help protect our world while living in it?
Before you say to recycle, it’s important to understand that the empty products in your bathroom trashcan are often unique and can make recycling a bit complicated. The cosmetics industry typically uses mixed materials in packaging, including paper, plastic, glass, and metals. While some of these components are recyclable, it’s up to the consumer or the recycling facility to deconstruct and adequately sort the items to ensure they don’t end up in a landfill or our oceans—which is too costly for the facility and hardly a long-term solution overall.
One of the most efficient ways to improve our waste problem is to create less waste, period. Some beauty and wellness brands are pivoting to more sustainable models by using recycled materials for their products, packaging, and marketing materials, offering refillable options, and providing a way for consumers to discard items when necessary. By buying low- or zero-waste beauty products and throwing away as little as possible, each of us can do our small-but-important part to prioritize the health of our planet.