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  • Sarah Page

How to Reduce Plastic Waste in Your Beauty Routine

Updated: Jan 5

Plastic takes around 1,000 years to decompose

array of beauty products
photo courtesy of @ferrisbeauty on Instagram

in a landfill. Recycling beauty product

containers can be complex because they’re made from mixed materials and may contain plastic pumps with metal springs. Because of this many beauty product containers end up in landfills. Beauty products also use recycled materials less frequently than other products do. The most sustainable material for containers is paper. Metal and aluminum are good options too, and glass is infinitely recyclable but not widely recycled in the US. In 2017 alone, 348 billion metric tons of plastic were produced worldwide and 40% of global plastic waste goes into landfills.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle that order (priority-wise). It’s always preferable to reduce the amount of plastic you use, along with other waste that’s not biodegradable or recyclable in your neighborhood.

Re-using is the next-best thing to reducing because you’re getting extra use out of your consumption and thereby generating less waste. Then comes recycling, but recycling beauty product containers can be complex because they’re frequently made from mixed materials and may contain plastic pumps with metal springs and other materials that are not easy to separate or recycle. Ordering online often adds unnecessary waste from plastic and other non-biodegradable packaging materials.

Ideas for Reducing

Some ways to reduce plastic waste from your beauty routine include: using products that come in biodegradable containers and packaging, avoiding single-use plastics, and buying

products with good safety ratings in the

Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. Earth Love Cosmetics’ Sweet Cheeks and Treatment Cleanser come in biodegradable cardboard containers with biostone labels, and increasingly brands are using biodegradable cardboard for deodorants and balms. You can always use bars too for cleansing and moisturizing your face, body, and hair. Quality makeup can be purchased in cardboard or bamboo containers. Avoid single-use plastics, like sheet masks and samples. Sample only products you think you might want to buy, and buy full-size items of your tried-and-trues. Prioritizing products with good safety ratings in the Skin Deep Database will ensure you use products with ingredients that won’t add toxic waste to the earth (or your face).

Ideas for Re-using

If you buy a product that comes in a nice glass jar you can re-use it to store leftovers or spices in your kitchen, as a candle holder, or to store small items. Re-use small containers of shampoo and conditioner for travel, refilling with your usual at-home brands. Some products are designed for re-use. Earth Love Cosmetics sells facial and body oils as well as toner in glass bottles with plastic pumps, and sells refills in glass bottles with metal caps so you can re-use the pumps. You can find makeup, such as eyeshadow, in refillable palettes. Some innovative brands are using up-cycled ingredients in their products, which is a way to re-use ingredients from one purpose for another, such as putting spices leftover from making chai in soap.

Help with Recycling

Prioritize products that come in materials that are easily recyclable where you live. For example, I use a natural, nontoxic cream deodorant that comes in a glass jar with metal cap and is recyclable in San Francisco. You can also recycle your full-size beauty products with Credo Beauty and Terracycle for rewards points -- including personal products you didn’t purchase from Credo!

Now that you’re armed with the know-how please do your part to reduce, reuse and recycle the container waste in your beauty routine and help keep plastic and junk out of our oceans and landfills!

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