How to reduce, reuse, recycle your beauty packaging, properly!

As beauty professionals, we are super-beauty-consumers and the waste we produce can be an issue. It can be hard to know the right thing to do. We hosted a brilliant webinar last month, discussing many ways we can make our practice more sustainable.


recycle beauty

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We know that the beauty industry is one of the biggest industries in the world. Despite the pandemic by 2026 the global beauty industry is predicted to be worth 438.38 billion dollars. That’s an awful lot of product which also equals an awful lot of waste. According to  Plastic Free Beauty Day,  the global beauty industry produces over 142 billion units of beauty packaging each year.

Of that, it is suggested that 95% of it is thrown out after just one use, and only 14% of plastic makes it to a recycling centre and only 9% of that is actually recycled. There will be varying versions of this statistic, but I think we all know that this packaging is a problem.

With statistics like this being shared – our emphasis should of course be on reducing our packaging waste first and foremost by reducing what we use, reusing and refilling before we recycle. However as we all know so well, beauty practitioners are super-beauty-consumers – and there are certain additional expectations and practicalities to consider with regards to our practice. We need certain products in our kits, many of which cannot be reused or refilled. Therefore we need to recycle.

Unfortunately though there are enormous amounts of misinformation about what can and can’t be recycled, the likelihood it will be recycled and what needs to be done prior to return or recycling the packaging.

And that is just packaging, what about the actual product inside that is often wasted. As beauty professionals we need lots of different product, but it does have a shelf life.

Our mission at CBU is to help us all develop a more sustainable practice by finding solutions to issues like these, so were so happy to host a webinar last month on Global Recycling Day to give us some clarity on how to improve our practice.

We were joined by Ameenah Begum of Cos Watercolour, Jo Chidley from Beauty Kitchen and Steve Clarke from Terracycle. It really was an such an insightful session which answered so many questions. We’d highly recommend a watch, here are some key insights for starters.

Recycling beauty packaging

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 the majority of your make-up packaging.

The million dollar question – do we need to clean them out before dropping them off? Technically no says Steve, but if you can remove as much product as you can and the labels then it  is  much appreciated.

Reworked have a scheme with Boots. Do check out our more in-depth recycling article here. Another new scheme we’ve come across is Handle which recycles old beauty packaging into handles for razors and toothbrushes. Look Fantastic have also introduced a scheme.

recycling beauty product

With regards to the product inside, this is Ameenah’s speciality. When she found out about the almost £2 million cosmetic waste problem in Europe, she took action and found a way to recycle old make-up into watercolour paint. She has now created a business doing just that.

Wasting product is something we try and talk a lot about at CBU, we’re passionate about encouraging our members to limit their waste by using product up before buying more. This helps us to be more sustainable from a business point of view too. Natural and organic products do tend to have a shorter shelf life, we’ve got an interesting article here on maintaining a natural and organic make-up kit. We’ve also got a great kit audit which is a wonderful tool to help organise your kit and keep on top of what product you have. 

Of course we understand some does go to waste (and of course it does with us too), so we are so pleased to have found Ameenah’s initiative. You can send old expired product to her at Cos Colours, PO Box 1074, Portsmouth, PO1 9UL. She will also reuse the packaging sometimes to recreate the make-up as gorgeous pallettes of coloured paint instead.


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 and she gave us some brilliant information on the subject. 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 than make-up, but as the systems get better and more widely available, hopefully there will be more options for us as beauty professionals.


By the very nature of our trade we do create waste, however there are more and more ways that we can reduce it and work in a more environmentally sustainable manner.

If you’d like learn more from our brilliant panel, you can purchase the webinar here for £5 or learn more about our membership levels here.

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