Recycling Your Beauty Routine – A Guide

Recycling is confusing at the best of times. To recycle your beauty routine can be even harder. Here are some of our tips to ensure it's done effectively. By green makeup pioneer, Lou Dartford.


Image of empty makeup containers with a teal overlay

Table of Contents

The Truth About Packaging

Packaging is a tricky business, it can be very hard to tick all the right boxes.

It is easy for us to judge a brand when we don’t really know the reasoning or indeed struggles behind a brand’s packaging choices.


  • Plastic isn’t always the villain – recycled plastic can have a lower carbon footprint than glass and it is lighter to transport.
  • Glass however can be recycled infinitely.
  • Aluminium comes with its issues too, the mining of bauxite is causing ecological destruction.
  • Bioplastics sound like a great solution, however, they more often than not will end up in landfill, as the regional kerbsides don’t collect and can’t deal with these kinds of plastics.
  • Biodegradable is a tricky word – a dictionary definition is “to decay and become absorbed by the environment” but this still could take years…
  • Compostable can also be confusing as often it isn’t your garden compost that will do it, but industrial composting.

It can be really frustrating when packaging is emblazoned with ‘fully recyclable’ but no advice on how to do so.

They may not be lying, most things are indeed recyclable, but it is whether there are the facilities to do so. So many plastic wrappers, for example, can be recycled in theory –  but most local councils cannot cope with this type of plastic – which when put into the recycling can contaminate the rest of the collection.

We’ve all done it before – just chucking it in and hoping for the best, but actually, it isn’t the best thing to do, as it can mess up the recycling process. 

If you are not sure how to recycle a product,
we encourage you to contact the brand to find out.


On the whole, consumers are getting better at recycling. 

According to the Soil Association’s Organic Beauty and Wellbeing Market Report for 2019, we recycle 90% of packaging in the Kitchen but only 50% in the bathroom.

Apparently, 4.5million people don’t recycle bathroom products because it’s inconvenient. It is harder to recycle beauty products as there are more mixed materials and different components.

Brands Doing Their Bit

Luckily there are lots of brands trying to make it easier to recycle your beauty routine by creating specific recycling schemes, and also just simply explaining how to recycle the individual products, such as BYBI who have a breakdown on each product’s description. They’ve also just changed all their postal packaging to grasspaper which uses 80% less energy than wood pulp and a lot less water tooBYBI have introduced REBYBI in which you can return any of their glass packaging along with lids and dropper for them to be reused.

The Beauty Kitchen – have launched their return, refill, repeat scheme after completely repackaging the whole of their range! Return your empty glass or aluminium Beauty Kitchen bottles to them (for free) and they will wash and re-use them. This uses less energy than recycling. Packaging can also be returned to any UK based Holland and Barrett store and receive points on your loyalty card too.

The Body Shop has stopped making wipes, a bold move we think, and now have a recycling scheme in-store… in partnership with TerraCycle, you can take your Body Shop empties into selected stores – which actually Dame Anita Roddick first introduced in 1993. They’ve also got a great initiative and are using Community Trade recycled plastic from Bengalaru in India for some of their packaging. Very interesting article here with the CEO of TerraCycle. You’ll get a discount on purchase when returning packaging.

L’Occitane has a scheme with TerraCycle where you can drop certain empties into selected stores. This involves skincare empties but also lots of make-up – mascara tubes, empty palettes and lipsticks for example and it can be other brands too. A discount on purchase is also offered. A really great way to recycle your beauty routine, we take a lot of our stuff here. Make sure you clean the packaging as best you can.

Garnier have a great scheme too with Terracycle – this is done via collection points so you need to go online to find your nearest one. They are accepting lots of beauty packaging that usually has to be thrown away..

Weleda have also launched a scheme with Terracycle. You can recycle any of their soft touch plastic tubes (Weleda only) – find your local Weleda advisor or sign up yourself via the Terracycle website. Weleda’s chosen charity for this is the Global Penguin Society conservation charity. The rest of Weleda’s packaging (which they are continually trying to improve) can be recycled via local kerbside collections. 

Neal’s Yard Remedies have recently launched a new scheme too. On their website, they have a great breakdown of how to recycle/dispose of all of their packaging. For the things that aren’t currently recycled easily, they are offering a collection in store. You can return empty wipe packets, pumps, atomisers, sachets and pouches (of their superfoods for example) from their brand, but also others too. 10% of purchase is offered when returning empties.

Burt’s Bees with Terracycle this is a great one to recycle your beauty routine as it takes mascara wands. However it can be a little tricky finding a scheme close to you as there are currently no spaces for new collectors, postage is an option. They also have a second scheme for actual wipes/towelettes used – as opposed to the packaging which is covered in the below scheme.

We’ve done a little round-up of how and where to recycle your beauty bits….it’s work in progress so will keep tweaking as we learn more… Also if things can be upcycled then that is even better. 

We always rinse containers before taking to the relevant place (make sure they’re dry).

L'Occitane Terracycle Graphic
Garnier Recycling Programme Graphic


  • Glass bottles and jars– most kerbside and local collection points. 
  • Plastic bottle and jars– most kerbside and local collection points.
  • Flexible plastic tubes– this really varies on your local council. The Garnier, L’Occitane and Weleda(only Weleda products) schemes will except these.
  • Lids and caps– these are actually better left on plastic bottles as otherwise they can get lost and won’t get recycled – and put with your kerbside collection.
  • Aluminium bottles and tubes  – most kerbside and local collection points also L’Occitane will take aluminium packaging.
  • Pumps and atomisers– these are often mixed material so can’t put in household recycling – Garnier’s and Neal’s Yard Remedies’ schemes both accept these.
  • Droppers from oils– these again are mixed components, in theory the glass can go in with the glass recycling but the droppers are currently not recycled. Unless it’s a BYBI product which you can return to them.
  • Sheet/single mask wrappers– Garnier’s scheme accepts these along with the plastic films on the sheet masks – the actual mask should be put in the bin unless compostable.
  • Face wipe packets– Garnier and Neal’s Yard Remedies scheme.
  • Sample sachets– Neal’s Yard Remedies will accept these from any brand.


  • Anything in glass put in with your kerbside recycling along with the lids but wash and separate first.
  • Flexible plastic tubes– Garnier and L’Occitane
  • Eyeshadow/blusher palettes and cases can be taken to L’Occitane– make sure they are emptied of product. The empty aluminium pans of refills can be taken in too.
  • Bronzing products– Guerlain will take any brand.
  • Lids to eye/lip pencils can be taken to L’Occitane, Content.
  • Mascara–the finished tubes can be taken to L’Occitane and Content but they can’t take the wands. Burt’s Bees Terracycle scheme will take the wands. Wash the brushes and use again for brushing through eyebrows etc. Some animal sanctuaries will take them for brushing the animal’s fur.
  • Lipstick – L’Occitane and Content will accept these along with lip balms etc – remove as much product as you can. Other products in ‘stick’ form such as concealers/foundations/highlighters etc can also be recycled.
  • Lip gloss– flexible plastic tubes can be taken to L’Occitane or a Garnier collection point, Content. The hard tubes are accepted too, as long as they are clean of product and no wands.

Another thing to perhaps think about is those products you haven’t used. I give any unwanted make-up to a brilliant charity called Foundation 4 Change who have an annual sale. Beauty Banks and The Hygiene Bank are both charities that you can send any unused products to.

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