While the figures for plastic recycling continue to be low and ominous at about 9%, we Americans are actually doing quite a lot of recycling – just not of plastic. In 2018, 292.4 million tons of waste was produced. Of this, about 23% was recycled. That’s not bad, but it’s not exactly good, either.
When you think of recyclable, sustainable beauty products, you probably imagine them coming in recyclable plastic containers. Recycling plastic is a popular topic, so a lot of us immediately think of plastic when we hear talk about recyclable containers. However, many other materials – paper, glass and metal included – can be recycled.
Recycling in America.
The rate of recycling has slowly been growing from 1960 to now. Whereas in 1960 less than 0.05% of plastic was being recycled, now we’re recycling about 9%. The rate of recycling for glass has gone up from 2% to 25% in this time period.
That’s not great, since glass is an endlessly recyclable resource. It can be recycled again and again without any drop in quality, and recycled glass can be substituted for up to 95% of raw material. However, one problem with recycling glass is that it can’t be recycled if it’s broken, since the shards can be hazardous to the people who handle your recycling.
In 1960s America, we were recycling about 17% of our paper and cardboard. Now we’re up to 68%. That’s great! To further help things along, try and use recycled paper where possible. If you purchase notebooks and diaries, try to find ones made of recycled paper. Sadly, there’s a downside here, too. Recycled paper isn’t very durable, and is often reinforced to use in packaging. When this is done, the carbon footprint of the paper increases, and recycled paper becomes more-or-less level with virgin paper.
However, here’s a more cheering statistic: In 2018 alone, our waste management practices helped save over 193 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. That’s comparable to the emissions produced by 42 million cars in one year! So if you’ve been sending items out for recycling, give yourself a pat on the back.
Understanding the ins and outs of recycling and how to be truly eco-friendly can be difficult, because when it comes to sustainability, a lot of things are muddled. So many different processes and resources are involved in every step that it’s almost impossible to say with certainty that a thing or practice is 100% eco-friendly. So just do your best, and try and find sustainable beauty products that are better. They don’t have to be perfect, just better.
Plastic, Plastic Everywhere.
The vast majority of beauty companies use plastic in their packaging, because it’s waterproof and lightweight. Both these attributes are desirable, and its flexibility makes it the only possible option for squeeze bottles that house liquefied products such as face wash and lotion.
Many products, furthermore, come in non-recyclable plastic. What makes plastic recyclable or not is chiefly the way it’s made. There are multiple types of plastics, and some are not designed to be recycled. Black plastic, for instance, is difficult for lasers to see, while flimsy plastic wrapping gets caught up in moving parts and interferes with the process. Whether or not plastic is recycled also depends on demand – if there isn’t any demand for a particular type of recycled plastic, the government can’t continue to recycle it, because there’s nothing to do with the resulting product.
Another problem with plastic is that containers often have caps or lids that use a different type of plastic. So while the container itself might be recyclable, the cap may not. If you don’t separate the two before tossing them into your recycling bin, it creates extra work for the people at the local recycling facility.
All of this contributes to the low, low rate of plastic recycling in America.
How to Recycle.
Ideally, when shopping for beauty products, you should avoid purchasing anything that comes in plastic. There are many brands that use alternatives such as glass, metal, paper and bamboo. However, if that isn’t an option, make sure you get something that comes in recyclable or biodegradable packaging.
The process of recycling would begin with a visit to your county’s website, where you should be able to find a list of the items they recycle, and steps that detail how to prepare items for recycling. Usually, they need you to rinse out and dry the container overnight, to make sure it contains no contaminants. You also need to separate parts that may be made of a different type of plastic – for instance, the lid or bottle cap. In the morning, you can put out the clean, dry bottle or container into your recycling bin.
When using an organization such as TerraCycle®, you’d follow the same initial steps, but instead of putting your recyclables in the bin, you’d bundle them up and send them to the company in question. If dropping off your recyclables at a store, try and make the trip when you’re already heading in that direction. You’ll use less gas, and get more done in one go.
Practicing the Other Rs.
While we all know about reduce and reuse, there’s another R we can add on to the list – which is ‘refill’.
Reduce and reuse are simple. Reduce your use of plastic – so try and order from eco-friendly companies that avoid using plastic, whether in packaging, or in the form of micro-beads. Reusing is also simple. Try and reuse any plastic containers that you can’t recycle, so you get more use out of it and can avoid purchasing something else to fulfil the same purpose.
Now, let’s talk about refilling. Many sustainable beauty products come in refillable containers, and the idea is that once the product is finished, you can order a refill online and just refill and reuse the container. This way you can get years of use out of a plastic container. Kjaer Weis is one of the brands we’ve highlighted in the past that do this.
Five Brands That Take Recycling Seriously.
There are many more than five brands that have recyclable products, and which partner with recycling programs. However, here are five brands we love, because we feel they are in line with our own goals, which are elevating people’s lives without hurting the environment in any way.
DEW MTY have formulated a serum bar that replaces your serums, oils, moisturizers and lotions. Not only does this bar pack a punch in your skincare regime, but it boasts a zero-waste life, lasting 120 times until it's all used up, and comes in compostable packaging. DEW MTY's founder leans on her science degree for their effective formulation, which contains sustainably sourced ingredients, and is completely waterless.
Deceim (The Abnormal Beauty Company)
The brand has sponsored a free recycling program through TerraCycle, that is also available in stores. Deceim is the umbrella company that carries brands NIOD, The Ordinary, Hylamide, Chemistry Brand and HIF. They are a sustainable brand committed to the reduction and removal of virgin plastic waste from their products.
Seed Phytonutrients have partnered with Ecologic to give their customers an innovative, revolutionary shower-friendly bottle made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, and a post-consumer recycled plastic inner-lining. These bottles are able to be recycled again and again, giving them a longer life. You are also able to request a free envelope so you can send the other moving parts, like the pumps, to Terracycle® for recycling.
UpCircle Beauty are a plastic-free skincare company. Using recyclable cardboard for the outer packaging, and only using aluminium and glass for their products, all of their packaging is able to be put straight into the recycling bins.
Athr Beauty are the first in the industry to create a fully-recyclable make-up product. Their eyeshadow palettes are made from 100% FSC paper and aluminium. All you have to do is pop the aluminium trays out of the paper casings and recycle each piece in their allocated bin.
While it’s difficult stepping out of your comfort zone and experimenting with a new brand, we strongly recommend switching to a brand that sells sustainable beauty products (or at least products that come in recyclable containers), because the impact a single household can make is enormous.
Fait avec Coeur Gives Two Thumbs-Up to Recycling!
We are on a mission to elevate people’s lives while creating a lasting, positive impact on the planet, and our products have been created with this in mind. The silk used in many of our products is completely reusable and can be up-cycled into other items at the end of its life. The fabric itself is produced sustainably, and is fully biodegradable.
While we encourage you to recycle as much of your plastic as you can, we believe a better solution is to not use plastic at all, if possible. So many of the products in our collection – including the Hyaluronic Acid Intense Soothing Serum and the Radiance Enhancing Moisturizer – come in glass, which is endlessly recyclable, as stated previously.