This is an image to learn abut recycling of beauty empties

How to Recycle your Beauty and Personal care Empties

With the world moving towards more sustainable means of living, it would only be fair for us to play our part as conscious and responsible citizens of the world. The beauty industry is a fast-growing industry. That means with beauty business flourishing so is its adverse effects on the environment increasing. This does not mean we need to stop using beauty products, it simply means we need to transition to more sustainable ways of consumption.

Most people fail to reuse or recycle their empty toiletries and used makeup products mainly due to a lack of awareness. Let us learn all about the more eco-friendly and more wallet-friendly approach to make a bigger difference by making small contributions.

Which beauty empties are suitable for recycling?

Beauty products often contain different materials used for packaging. How can we differentiate those that can be recycled from those that cannot? Here, we have curated a list for you:

Recyclable Materials:

a) Glass bottles - all foundation, glass bottles can be recycled if washed and cleaned properly unless the chemicals are harmful. 

b) Plastic Bottles – like shampoos, conditioners, gel tubes are completely recyclable unless there is a little product still left in. In that case, it should be thoroughly washed and then recycled.

c) Metal Bottles – It is the most valuable recyclable material, especially aluminum.

d) Cotton pads and cotton buds – These can be recycled with your biodegradable good waste. These can be composed if your cotton pads, cotton balls or sheet masks are made with 100 percent cotton.

e) Aerosols – hairspray or deodorant bottles can be recycled as these are generally quoted with tin-plated steel or aluminum.

This is an image showing beauty empties that can be recycled.

Non-Recyclable Materials:

Mixed materials cannot be recycled. These are items that contain two or more materials in their components. For instance, pump dispensers are made of plastic and metal spring. Hence it is essential to disassemble it in order to prevent it from landing up in a landfill.

a) Make-up wipes - unless labeled as biodegradable, makeup wipes are not recyclable. Consider buying reusable makeup pads or cotton pads instead.

b) Perfume and Fragrance bottles- perfume bottles can be partially be recycled, the nozzle and plastic hose with pliers can be discarded and trashed regularly. The glass bottle is recyclable.

c) Small items – all items under 170 grams such a lipstick cases, mascara containers, concealer tubes are too small and it does not flow well through a curbside recycling program.

d) Nail varnish bottles - due to the hazardous toxins found in nail varnish, the glass bottles are not recyclable, even when thoroughly rinsed.

e) Make-up brushes - neither animal hair nor vegan brushes are currently recyclable.

This is an image showing beauty empties that cannot be recycled.

How beauty empties are recycled?

Each product and material can be recycled in multiple ways. We have summarised the quick steps involved in recycling the most commonly used materials in the beauty industry for packaging products.

Before we start, we must always rinse off any excess in the bottle regardless of the product and clean it dry. If we overlook this step the contamination levels might rise too high to recycle and might get rejected. You do not need to scrub it to sparkle but by simply rinsing it off you will ensure that the product will get recycled.

a) Foundation bottles - These are generally made of glass. Understand what kind of glass can be recycled as not all types of glass melt at the same temperature. Pyrex and drinking glasses for example, melt at a higher temperature than other bottles. If they enter the glass recycling process, they cause problems with recycling. The pump however cannot be recycled so don’t forget to separate it out before you put your foundation bottle in for recycling.

b) Bronzers, Eyeshadows, Compacts and other Makeup palettes – Most of these are made in plastic and hence can be recycled. It is important to separate the other non-recyclable components such as the mirrors attached or magnets used to open the flap.

c) Lipstick tubes – Lipsticks contain petrochemicals and lead acetates that are extremely harmful. They cannot be recycled.

d) Mascara bottles – These tubes are often made of recyclable materials however their wands must be thrown away in normal trash.

e) Dry Shampoo, Hair spray and Deodorant bottles- Usually these are either made of steel and aluminum or plastic that is recyclable. These Aerosol bottles too are accepted. Do not try to crush or pierce them to remove the excess product. Get rid of the smaller loose parts such as the nozzles and plastic lids in their appropriate recycling boxes. You must confirm with your local authorities if they do accept the same.


How can you recycle and re-use unwanted/Expired Makeup products?

All beauty products have a shelf life. The amount of time it can be left on the shelf for people to purchase. Most products have a PAO, Period After Opening timeline. This indicates the amount of time you can actually use the product once you open it. You will find a number given before the ‘M’ symbol that indicates the number of months it can be used after opening it. Using expired products can cause a lot of damage such as irritation on the skin, eye infections or breakouts. Hence, it is imperative to dispose of them at the right time.

These are some great ways to reuse/ recycle expired or unwanted makeup products.

a) Cleansers – A lot of times we buy cleansers that don’t suit our skin type or give us a reaction. Before you throw them away, think about the other ways of using them. Cleansers make a great product to clean your make-up brushes. You can also use them to wash your collars or sleeves that have makeup stains or foundation marks on them.

This is an image showing expired cleanser that can be reused and repurposed

b) Mascara Wands - Wash the spoolie attached to your mascara with soap and water and you can reuse it to brush your eyebrows before shaping, exfoliating your lips gently before moisturising, taming small hair strands by adding hairspray on the wand and combing your hair to set it and nourishing your eyelashes by dipping it in Vitamin E mixtures.

This is an image showing expired mascara wand that can be reused and repurposed
c) Moisturiser – It’s a great maintenance product for leather bags, shoes or belts to keep them shiny and lusty.

This is an image showing expired face moisturiser  that can be reused and repurposed
d) Eyeshadows, Blush or Highlighter – You can utilise used or expired or cracked powders by simply adding it to clear polish. Give it a good mix and seal it with a topcoat.

This is an image showing expired eye make up that can be reused and repurposed
e) Toners – If you have an old toner that contains alcohol lying around, you can use it to clean any glass surface or mirror. If it does not contain alcohol you can use it to clean your shoes or furniture. You can use it to maintain your makeup products by soaking a cotton bud in and wiping the rim and edges of your foundation, make-up palettes, etc.

This is an image showing expired toner that can be reused and repurposed

How to switch to a more sustainable beauty routine?

Now that you understand the importance of recycling our make-up products and the different ways to do so, you must be wondering how can one make a difference? What is the first step one should take? How can one play a part? Well, its very simple! These are a few tips you can follow to switch to a more sustainable beauty routine.

a) Use products that support eco-friendly packaging. Buy products from companies that have incorporated a more sustainable approach. For instance, removed all cellophane and cardboard wedges from their products.

b) Avoid using face wipes. They take years to break down and are made from a combination of things such as polyester, polypropylene, cotton, wood pulp, and rayon fibers which are not biodegradable. An alternative would be to use eco-friendly wipes, cleansing balms, water or oil-based cleansers, micellar water with cotton pads of cloth.

c) Buy products that can be used in more than one way. For instance, a lip and cheek tint or a highlighter/ contour powder that can also be used as an eyeshadow. Using a few products means lesser damage to the environment in a more cost-effective manner.

d) Learn about the environmentally friendly schemes brands are incorporating. A lot of brands take back used bottles or used containers in return for an incentive to their customers. This is a win-win situation for all the parties involved.

This is an image showing how to switch to a more sustainable beauty routine

Important things to remember when recycling your Beauty empties.

a) Always remember to empty out the residual products and wash it before recycling.

b) Disassemble all the parts and segregate them into the correct recycling bins, else they are at risk of finding a spot in the landfill.

c) Recycle whenever it is possible. It is noted that most people limit their recycling to the kitchen. Research shows only a marginal portion of consumers regularly recycle their beauty or hygiene products.

d) Keep the tiny components such as caps on, if they are to be recycled in the same batch as the main product. These are too small to go through the recycling system if put in separately.

e) Try to remove the labels if possible.

f) Examine the label to understand which components can be recycled and the appropriate way to do so.


Beauty is beautiful. It makes us feel great. So, while we beautify ourselves, we must remember not to damage our planet. We should consider the adverse effects of our actions. A few conscious decisions we make today can take us a long way in saving our future. Let’s get sustainable in our approach and make this world a better place, leaving us beautiful inside out.

- By Howrah Lookmanji

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