How to Recycle Empty Beauty Products

8 Mins read

In this article, we will talk about how to recycle empty beauty products. We are all busy trying to live our lives and look good in the process.

Beauty doesn’t have to come with a price tag, as you can also be green by recycling your empties in a safe and simple way.

How to Recycle Empty Beauty Products

1. Take a look at the packaging to find out if it can be recycled

Before you toss a beauty product in the recycling bin, take a look at its packaging to see if it can be recycled.

You should be able to find instructions on how and where to recycle the container.

If you’re not sure, check out this list from for information about what your container is made of and if it can be recycled.

You’ll typically see a little triangular recycling symbol on containers that are recyclable.

The number inside the triangle indicates which type of plastic the container is made of 1 (PETE or PET), 2 (HDPE), 3 (V or PVC), 4 (LDPE) 5 (PP or polypropylene), or 6 (PS or polystyrene).

Some manufacturers use a combination of plastics that make it difficult to recycle; if so they’ll provide additional information detailing why they’re unable to recycle it.

If you live in an area that doesn’t accept plastic containers in their curbside program, ask your local government officials why not and suggest that they begin recycling these items!

2. Look for a plastic number on the packaging.

Recycling empty beauty products is easy if you know where to look.

To figure out whether your product can be recycled, simply look for a small number inside the recycling symbol on the packaging.

These numbers, typically ranging from one to seven, indicate what kind of plastic the container is made from and how it can be recycled.

The most common kinds of plastic found in beauty packaging are polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

The first step in determining whether your product’s plastic is recyclable depends on where you live.

Sites like Earth911 provide a helpful search tool that allows you to enter your zip code and find out which types of plastics are accepted by your local recycling center.

Once you’ve determined whether your product’s plastic-type is recyclable, do some research to make sure no other steps need to be taken before putting it in the bin!

3. Find out if your town accepts that type of plastic

First, turn the product’s packaging over and look for a plastic number.

If you don’t see one, you’re out of luck.

The recycling symbol is not the same thing.

Many municipalities don’t accept cosmetics or other beauty products that aren’t made from certain types of plastic, including polypropylene (look for a 5), high-density polyethylene (2), or low-density polyethylene (4).

Next, find out if your town accepts that type of plastic in its curbside recycling program.

You can do this by checking your municipality’s website to see which plastics it does and does not accept.

If it doesn’t accept what you have, ask if it offers a curbside pickup for items that can’t be accepted in local recycling bins—this program isn’t offered everywhere, but many cities do offer some way to dispose of these materials responsibly.

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4. Rinse out containers

Rinse out containers and remove any parts that can’t be recycled.

If you have a pump or lid that can be removed, make sure you do so before recycling the container.

By not rinsing them out, you risk contaminating the batch of plastic with oils and other chemicals from beauty products.

Search for local recycling drop-off locations.

For example, TerraCycle has a Zero Waste Box Program where you can purchase kits to send in your used beauty product containers.

This company also partners with various organizations to create programs specific to certain brands or types of products (like Burt’s Bees).

These programs are usually free to participate in and TerraCycle provides shipping labels so all you have to do is fill up a box and drop it off at your nearest UPS location.

You can find your closest drop-off location here.

5. Check to see if your city offers a curbside pickup

If your city has curbside recycling pickup, make a point to check your local program’s rules on what items can be collected, such as aerosol cans or prescription bottles.

Some cities have special requirements for these types of items, such as placing them in different bins or putting them at the curb on a certain day of the week.

6. Visit to find a local recycling drop-off location

If you are unable to find a local recycling program via the websites above, you may also visit to find a local recycling drop-off location. is a comprehensive, searchable database that allows users to type in their zip code and find information about various recycling programs in their area.

Once you arrive on the site, you may look for drop-off locations by typing your zip code into the search box or by searching for specific items such as “makeup” or “lotion bottles” or “shampoo bottle caps” and so on.

As with Terracycle, You may also see if they have a mail-in recycling program; simply follow their instructions regarding what information you need to provide to find a location that accepts your item(s) and how many of them you can send in at one time.

How Do You Know if a Beauty Product Is Recyclable?

It’s as easy as reading the label! Look to see if the packaging has a number on it.

The most common recyclable plastics in beauty products are #1 and #2, which include plastic water bottles, shampoo bottles, cleaning agents, bleach and detergent containers, liquid hand soap, and dish soap containers.

If you can’t find a number on your packaging, contact the company and ask whether or not it is recyclable.

Next up: figuring out if your town accepts that type of plastic in its curbside recycling program.

Most municipalities accept #1 PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene) plastic because they are considered to be of high quality by recyclers.

You can do this by visiting your town’s website or calling their waste department directly.

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How to Package Your Empty Beauty Items for Recycling

Remove any parts that can’t be recycled, such as pumps or applicators from plastic bottles, and caps from glass containers.

Rinse out the containers with water to remove any product residue.

Put all items in a clear plastic bag—this makes it easy for your local recycling facility to identify what’s inside so they can pull out the recyclables. Seal the bag and use a marker to label it with the words “clean beauty items.”

Drop off at a local recycling center like TerraCycle (which accepts items from multiple brands including MAC Cosmetics, Clinique, Jo Malone London, and more) or The Body Shop (which only accepts its own brand’s packaging).

Can You Recycle Travel-sized Beauty Items?

Yes, you can recycle travel-sized beauty items! However, make sure to rinse them out first.

Remove any parts that can’t be recycled, like pumps and caps.

You may also need to break down the packaging in order to fit it into your recycling bin.

Some municipalities have restrictions on how much you can put into your recycling bin or bag at one time.

What’s the Best Way to Remove Product Residue From My Containers Before Recycling?

You should always remove any pumps, caps, and applicators before recycling.

Rinse out the containers, leaving them to dry thoroughly on a towel or a rack.

Be careful not to let any liquids get on the packaging (the part with all of the instructions, ingredients, etc.) as this can often make it non-recyclable.

How Do You Know if an Empty Product Can Be Recycled in My Area?

  • Visit your city’s website
  • Call your local city hall
  • Contact your local recycling company
  • Go to and click on the “Recycle Search” tab.

Where Can You Recycle Empty Beauty Products?

You can bring empty beauty products to a recycling drop-off location in your community.

Check your local municipality’s website to find out where the nearest drop-off location is, what items they accept, and whether you need to sort your recyclables.


Visit and search for the type of beauty product you have (for example, “hair care” or “eye shadow”), then enter your zip code to find a nearby recycle drop-off location.

Bring products to a Terracycle drop-off location

To locate a Terracycle collection point near you, visit Terracycle’s website and click on “Find a Collection Location.”

Mail empties in bags or boxes directly to TerraCycle

Visit their website for detailed mailing instructions.

What Can You Recycle With Terracycle?

Terracycle is a popular recycling program that specializes in hard-to-recycle items.

Whatever it is, Terracycle can probably recycle it: both single-use and multi-use, beauty products and household cleaners, even empty pressurized aerosol cans!

For a full list of what you can send in for recycling through Terracycle programs, check out their website.

Terracycle accepts items from most major brands (and many minor ones) and works with them to recycle their packaging.

Some companies even offer their own drop-off locations or mail-back programs to make it easier for consumers to recycle their used up packaging.

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If you are unsure if an item has been recycled before or where you should drop it off, check your local town waste facility’s website!

Can You Recycle Drugstore Brand Beauty Products?

Well, the good news is that most drugstore beauty brands are recyclable.

The even better news is that some of them actually have recycling programs in place.

If you’re looking to recycle products from brands like Garnier, Neutrogena, St. Ives, and more, check out these recycling programs:

  • Garnier will accept empty containers (bottles and tubes) made of all types of plastics, regardless if it was purchased from the brand or not.
  • Neutrogena and Aveeno have teamed up with TerraCycle to create a free mail-in program for their plastic products, including shampoo bottles and feminine hygiene products.
  • L’Oreal has partnered with Terracycle to offer a mail-in program for some beauty and personal care packaging including mascara tubes, nail polish bottles, and deodorant containers.

If you don’t want to go through all the hassle of washing out your containers before mailing them off or dropping them off at collection sites around town, there’s another option:

You can take your empties back to the store where you bought them.

Why Should You Recycle Empty Beauty Bottles and Containers?

Recycling empty beauty containers also has a positive impact on the environment and your local community. Here are some of the most important benefits:

  • Reduce waste
  • Reduce landfill
  • Reduce pollution
  • Save energy
  • Save resources
  • Encourage manufacturers to recycle

Can You Recycle Multiple Beauty Products From the Same Brand at One Drop-off Point?

If you have products from the same brand and want to recycle them at the same place, then you can.

For example, if you have an empty foundation bottle, an empty lipstick tube, and an empty mascara tube from Clinique, then you can drop all three items off at their designated return location in your area.

If they’re different brands or come from retailers with other recycling programs, then they likely won’t be accepted in one place.

Can You Recycle a Beauty Product in a Different City From Where You Purchased It?

Yes, but you may need to do some research. If you’re traveling to a different city or state and have an extra beauty product non-returnable in your hotel room, reach out to the local waste management company for more information.

If the company from which you purchased your item offers a recycling initiative, like Kiehl’s (which accepts any brand of empties), it will likely take back its product regardless of where you are.

And remember: As always, consult your beauty products’ packaging for specific directions on how to recycle them!

Final Thoughts

Recycling empty beauty product packaging can seem like a daunting task, but it is actually easier than you think.

By removing the items that are specifically marked as non-recyclable you will make the process easy and inexpensive.

Hopefully, we have provided enough information to get you on your way to recycle those empty bottles once and for all!