Everything you need to know about makeup recycling and refills

Everything you need to know about makeup recycling and refills

26th March 2024 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

Makeup recycling is much easier than you think. Here’s everything you need to know about recycling skincare and makeup in the UK 


Many of us are trying to live more sustainably. Whether that’s opting for paper straws or reducing plastic, but one small change we can make that benefits the environment and doesn’t impact on our lives too much is recycling makeup and skincare.

For a long time, beauty brands didn’t necessarily prioritise environmental concerns when designing packaging. Yet an increasing number are now switching to recycled materials and offering more options when it comes to recycling. From paper packaging, to fully recyclable pots and even refills.

This is great for the planet but if you’re of a certain age – like us! – and you’ve had it drilled into you that makeup and skincare packaging can’t be recycled, this new trend may be confusing.

To be fair, even if you’ve grown up in this more environmentally conscious society, it can be overwhelming knowing what can, and can’t be recycled, and how to manage it all.

To make it easier, experts at WeThrift have shared their tips on how to start recycling your unwanted or empty product containers. We’ve also got a recycle logo quiz in case you wanted to put your knowledge to the test.

FURTHER READING: Does makeup go off? How to tell when it’s time to throw your old beauty products away


Makeup recycling

To get started with makeup recycling, as well as recycling skincare, haircare and even electricals you need to understand what can and can’t be recycled. The best place to look is on the packaging itself.

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Makeup recycling logos what they meanmamabella | mamabella

As a general rule (although there are, of course, exceptions):

  • If the material is paper, cardboard, or glass these can be recycled in your usual recycling bin (after cleaning it out.)
  • Pumps and some bottle caps can’t be recycled so make sure they are removed and binned before recycling.
  • If the product has a label, remove it before recycling.
  • Makeup brushes, palettes that contain mirrors or magnets, and mascara brushes can’t be recycled.
  • Although typically made from glass, nail varnish bottles are also unrecyclable due to the toxins used in nail formulas.

FURTHER READING: Recycle logo quiz: Do you know what the recycling logos on beauty and makeup packaging mean?


Can the packaging be reused?

Before recycling, or throwing your packaging out, can it be reused for something else?

Almost any skincare packaging can be reused, as can powder pots, lip gloss tubes etc. “They’re great as as storage for homemade face masks” said WeThrift, or for taking your favourite products on holiday. “A spray bottle can even be used to mist and water your plants.”

Clean out your product

Once you have a better idea about what can and can’t be recycled, the first thing you need to do is take the packaging apart to separate each material before throwing out what can’t be recycled, and washing out any residue left in the packaging that is recyclable.

Set it aside to dry on a towel.

Put the easily recyclable materials in your recycling bin, and then look for a local drop-off point for the rest.


Makeup recycling near you

M&S Beauty Takeback recycling schemeM&S

“Many high street retailers are taking part in their own recycling schemes, to prompt their customers to become more environmentally friendly,” said WeThrift.

Maybelline have makeup recycling locations all over the UK. A quick search will lead you to many stores nearby that provide this service.

M&S Beauty Takeback Scheme: M&S customers can return any form of plastic or aluminium beauty packaging – from bottles and tubes to caps, pumps, and tubs – from any retailer, by dropping their used product into dedicated boxes located within each store’s beauty section. It doesn’t need to be M&S products.

Maybelline: Maybelline recently partnered with Tesco, Superdrug, Boots and Sainsbury’s to launch makeup recycling boxes with TerraCycle, a leading recycling company. Once the recycling station boxes are full, the packaging is separated by polymer type, cleaned, and turned into plastic pellets that can be used by manufacturers to make new products. You can find your nearest recycling bin on the Maybelline website.

Boots: Boots offers its Recycle at Boots scheme that makes it easy to recycle any empty beauty, health and wellness products in 700 Boots stores across the UK. Even if you didn’t buy them from Boots. You’ll also get 500 Advantage Card points when you spend £10 or more.

John Lewis: John Lewis lets your recycle a broad range of beauty packaging in their stores as part of its BeautyCycle programme. If you’re a My John Lewis member, you’ll get £5 off when you spend £20 or more on beauty that day too. Just bring in five or more clean, empty beauty product containers to any of our beauty counters.

Kiehl’s: You can return used bottles and tubs to any Kiehl’s Boutique Stores (not department stores) and be rewarded for your efforts. Once you’re enrolled in its Rewards loyalty programme, you get 15 points for every full-size Kiehl’s empty you return. Once you reach 10 empties, you’ll reach 150 points, which will unlock a £10 voucher for you to use in store.


Makeup and skincare refills

Charlotte Tilbury magic night creamCharlotte Tilbury

In addition to offering makeup recycling incentives, a growing number of brands are now offering refills. This allows you to keep the packaging and refill it with your favourite products. You can often get the refill for cheaper than the original too so you end up saving money and the environment.

Some key brands that offer refills include:

  • Charlotte Tilbury is offering an increasing range of products that can now be refilled. This includes its Magic Cream, Magic Water Cream and Magic Eye Cream. You can even refill powders, bronzers and more.
  • BYOMA’s full range of skincare products is packaged in fully recyclable, 100% monomaterial plastic, which makes recycling them easy, or you can buy refills to reuse this packaging again and again.
  • MOAM Organics are all 100% natural, non-toxic, vegan, biodegradable, refillable and made in the UK. Each of the skin, hair and body products are made with essential oils that promote a different feeling of wellbeing depending on the scent.
  • SANS- is the natural, refillable, plastic-free deodorant. SANS-’ capsules are made from aluminium and are infinitely recyclable and refillable. The stick refills come in zero-plastic, fully recyclable cardboard packaging.
  • Salt of the Earth is another refillable natural deodorant brand that sells deo sprays and roll-ons which can be refilled time and again, and which cut down plastic packaging by 60%.
  • Wild is a third natural deodorant brand that recently moved into other toiletries and all of them are refillable. You can read what we think about Wild in our Wild deodorant review
  • Faith in Nature sells bigger bottles of its haircare, skincare and even laundry products and a large number of them all refillable.
  • Isoclean sells a range of makeup, brushes and surface cleansers and cleaners and you can buy many in refill pouches.

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