Are Small Beauty Containers Recyclable?

8 Mins read

Have you ever wondered if your small beauty containers are recyclable?

In this blog post, I’m going to tell you what makes some beauty and cosmetics containers recyclable and others not.

Are small beauty containers recyclable?

While many beauty product containers are not recyclable, you can recycle them (and save the planet) if you clean them out first.

First, empty out the container as best as you can. Rinse it with hot water and let it dry.

Then, remove any excess packaging (like stickers or labels) that may get stuck in the recycling machine at your local plant, then toss your clean container into your blue bin!

If a container is too small to be recycled curbside, reach out to your favorite beauty brands and see if they have any recycling programs in place.

Brands like MAC Cosmetics and Origins will take back empty containers of their products for recycling purposes.

You’re also safe returning used cosmetics packaging to Sephora; they’ve partnered with the beauty brand Kiehl’s since 2009 on a program called Recycle & Be Rewarded, which accepts used containers from any cosmetic brand and offers customers points toward free Kiehl’s products for doing so.

How to recycle small beauty containers

Small, single-use packaging from face creams and lotions are the real bin cloggers.

But if you’re already recycling larger items like shampoo bottles, you can toss small containers into the mix too!

Here’s how to recycle small beauty containers:

1. Clean out all contents

Use lukewarm water and dish soap to wash out every last bit of product. Be sure to thoroughly rinse the container as well, so that no residue remains inside.

2. Remove labels and caps

If possible, remove all paper or plastic stickers from the container. You can leave metal caps or tops on; they’ll be sorted out in the recycling facility.

3. Recycle with your curbside pickup or at a recycling facility location

You can also drop them off at any location that accepts No. 2 plastics (look for this number on the bottom of your containers).

If your city doesn’t have a curbside recycling program, look for a local facility that accepts No. 2 plastics and take your clean, scrubbed items there (or see if they have a mailing address where you can send them).

How to clean beauty containers before recycling them

  • Rinse the container with water, making sure to get all of the product out.
  • Remove all labels and then remove any liners (like a deodorant stick’s liner).
  • Clean your container with hot, soapy water and a sponge or cloth rag to make sure there aren’t any leftover residues.

Are small cosmetic jars recyclable?

Cosmetic jars are recyclable. Before you place your cosmetic containers in the recycling bin, make sure to remove caps and labels and give them a good clean.

Check with your local recycling program to see whether small cosmetic jars are accepted—some programs only accept larger cosmetic packaging.

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Cosmetic jars are usually made of #1 plastic (PETE), which is easy to recycle, or #5 plastic (PP), which is also recyclable.

If they aren’t accepted by your recycling program, bring them back to a beauty store that accepts container returns, such as MAC Cosmetics or Aveda.

You can also find local programs that accept empty cosmetic containers through TerraCycle or The Body Shop Return Program

Can you recycle hair conditioner caps?

Your local recycling program will likely accept plastic caps, but there are a few caveats to keep in mind.

First, some types of plastics can’t be recycled: They’ll just end up at the landfill like garbage.

For example, polystyrene (also known as plastic #6) is a common material for plastic beverage and food containers—and it’s not recyclable, unfortunately.

You’ll also want to make sure all your recycling is clean before you put it out on the curb or drop it off somewhere.

It’s easy to wash a cap or bottle with soap and water before tossing them into your recycling bin, but if you don’t take that step, they could contaminate other materials that are okay to recycle and make them unusable too.

Should you take the pump out of your lotion bottle before recycling it?

Can you recycle your lotion bottle with the pump attached?

Yes, but if you can easily remove the pump, it’s better to do that. It’s not necessary to take off the label.

Why should I take the pump off my lotion bottle before recycling it?

Pumps are usually made of plastic #7 and plastic #7 isn’t recyclable in many locations. Some centers accept it, but most don’t.

Even those that do would prefer if the pumps were removed so that they can be recycled separately.

How is this different from other types of plastic packaging?

Many types of plastic packaging, including shampoo bottles and body wash containers, have pumps made out of recyclable material like plastic #1 or #2 (HDPE or PET).

Plastic #7 is not as common outside of cosmetic packaging so most cities don’t have a place to recycle them.

Should you remove the applicator from a mascara tube before recycling it?

You should take the cap and brush off of your mascara tube before recycling it.

The same goes for any other type of beauty product that has a built-in applicator, such as a lip gloss or concealer.

If you have disposable cotton pads or Q-tips, be sure to remove them from their packaging and throw them in with your regular garbage—they’re not welcome at the recycling plant!

Remember: if an item contains more than one material (i.e., plastic, metal, rubber), you should deconstruct it where possible and dispose of each component separately.

So whether you’re looking to minimize waste or just want to keep that sharp metal wand away from your eyeball (ouch!), removing all non-plastic elements before dropping your empty beauty container into the trash is a must.

Can you recycle your old makeup bag or to go cosmetic pouch?

If your makeup bag or to-go pouch is made of fabric, you have a few options:

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Upcycle it into a small purse or clutch

If it’s pretty and you can work a needle and thread (or even if you can’t), try upcycling your old makeup bag by sewing in a zipper closure to make it into something with the makings of a purse, without compromising the original craftsmanship or special details.

Or, keep the design intact and simply use it as an adorable clutch.

Repurpose it for another purpose

Use your old makeup bag to hold your phone charger, earbuds, and other small items that seem to float around in your purse like loose change until they end up lost at the bottom of some abyss.

You could also reuse it as a travel toiletries bag by just running some water through the inside (and letting it thoroughly dry) so that no residue from any beauty products remains inside.

Is the foil on top of your lipstick tube recyclable?

You can recycle the paper and foil on top. Cardboard from lipstick tubes is recyclable.

However, that doesn’t mean the lid will be recycled at every recycling facility.

For example, in the city of Austin, Texas, where I live, cardboard and paper are separated into their own recyclables bins for pickup.

Foil is placed in a separate bin for aluminum cans and plastics recycling pickup.

Before you toss your tube into the recycling bin, make sure to remove any excess makeup or gunk from it; this will help prevent making a mess when they go through the sorting machines and get sent off to be made into toilet paper rolls and boxes of cereal at a later date!

Can you recycle eyeshadow cases and blush cases?

If you’re like us, your makeup collection comprises a wide variety of brands and shades—and before you know it, you have quite the full bathroom counter.

But as your eyeshadow and blush cases pile up, you may wonder: can I recycle these?

Are small beauty containers recyclable? While the answer is yes, there are a few things to consider first.

The first step is to check if the case contains a mirror. If it does (as most makeup compacts do), make sure it’s removed before tossing the container into your recycling bin.

Then figure out what kind of material the mirror is made of: plastic or glass? Find out what’s in your area so that you can get it right!

Can you recycle makeup wipes and removers?

Makeup wipes and removers can be recycled but it’s important to check with your local recycling facility.

Makeup wipes are made from polyester, polypropylene, and polyethylene.

Polyester is a plastic that is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin.

PET is one of the most recyclable plastics out there. Where does PET go after it has been recycled?

The textile industry uses it for clothing and other fabric products, such as carpets and comforters.

Can you recycle nail polish bottles and caps?

The good news is that both nail polish bottles and caps are recyclable, but they must be recycled separately.

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Nail polish bottles are made of glass and should be recycled along with other glass containers.

Just make sure to remove the remaining nail polish residue and rinse out the bottle before placing it in a recycling bin.

If you’re wondering how to get all that leftover polish off, try soaking your empty bottles in a bowl of warm water for about an hour and then scrubbing with a sponge or brush.

You can also add soap to help soften the dried remnants of your favorite shade.

For the plastic caps, there’s no need to remove them from the bottle before tossing them in the recycling bin—you just need to separate them from other types of plastics.

The easiest way to do this is by filling used plastic shopping bags with only plastic lids from products like nail polish and then tying them shut before putting them into your blue-bin recycling program.

Can you recycle primer containers?

Primer bottle recycling can be tricky, but it isn’t impossible.

Take a look at the label on your primer bottle to see if it says that it’s recyclable.

If so, check with your local recycling program to see if they accept this type of plastic (it will be labeled #5).

If the answer is yes, you should be able to rinse out the bottle and put it in your recycling bin.

If you’re still unsure about whether or not you can recycle a primer bottle, reach out to your local recycling program and ask them for help; they’ll be able to point you in the right direction based on their specific guidelines.

Do beauty company recycling programs work?

Many major beauty companies now have recycling programs, including L’Oréal, Estée Lauder, MAC, and Aveda.

The most widely known program is run by L’Oréal through TerraCycle.

It works like this: you sign up on their website to create an account with your address.

Then you collect your empty makeup containers and send them to TerraCycle once they’re filled.

You can pack the products in any box and use any shipping method to send them to TerraCycle.

There are three ways you can pay for the shipping costs:

1) pay when you make a purchase online at participating retailers (including Ulta Beauty & Sephora),

2) pay out-of-pocket with a pre-paid label or

3) drop off the package at a UPS location without paying anything (find the closest one here). Once they receive your package, TerraCycle will recycle it for free!

What beauty brands have recycling programs?

Many beauty brands have recycling programs that let you drop off your bottles, tubes, jars, and more (in some cases, even products from other brands) and get a small discount on future purchases.

The details vary from program to program—some allow you to return containers in-store only; others allow customers to mail their empties back.

Below is a list of the top beauty brands with recycling programs:

  • Aveda
  • Lush
  • Burt’s Bees
  • Origins
  • Kiehl’s
  • MAC Cosmetics
  • Smashbox
  • Sephora
  • REN
  • Elemis
  • L’Oreal
  • Bare Minerals