As Hair.com editors (and self-proclaimed product hoarders), we’ve been lucky to test many products over the years. Even though we try as many shampoos and hair masks as we can possibly squeeze into our routines, we’re often left with tons of products. As much as we’d like to say that we recycle every single beauty product we go through, that’s not exactly the truth.
With Earth Day here, however, we’ve been putting a lot of thought into ways that we can reduce our ecological footprints. If you’re also wondering how to make your beauty routine more eco-friendly, here’s everything you need to know about recycling beauty products the right way.
What can you not recycle?
Beauty products are made from various materials, including plastic, glass, and cardboard—and when it comes to recycling certain products (or how you recycle them), each city has its own rules and restrictions. You can visit your town’s website or find a recycling location nearby to determine your area’s policies.
How do you dispose of expired hair products?
With so many amazing products to try nowadays, some will inevitably fall to the wayside, getting pushed to the backs of our shelves until they expire. While it’s easy to feel guilty about these items going to waste (especially if we haven’t touched them in years), recycling their packaging can help lessen some of their environmental impact.
Empty any leftover formulas into the trash bin and then rinse the rest of the packing clean. Then, follow the tips below to determine how to dispose of the packaging properly.
Tips for Recycling Beauty Products
Check the Label
Not sure if your products are recyclable? Turn the bottle around and look towards the bottom of the packaging. You'll see the universal recycling symbol, a triangle with arrows, if you can recycle your product. There may also be a number from one to seven on some products in the center of the symbol. This number indicates what type of plastic it’s made of and if it can be recycled curbside with the rest of your items.
Different types of plastics are made with different molecules that can’t be recycled together, so it’s important to figure out what you’re working with so that they can be separated accordingly.
Know Your Packaging—and How to Recycle It
Recycling plastic products such as empty shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in conditioners isn’t as complicated as you think. In fact, you can easily throw most of them into the bin with the rest of your plastic products, including water bottles and take-out food containers. If you’re unsure if your product is recyclable or not, always refer to the number inside the recycling symbol!
If you have a whole slew of glass product empties you don’t know what to do with, you’re in luck! Glass is one of the easiest materials to recycle—simply toss clean your products into the correct bins, and you’re good to go!
Have old hairspray and dry shampoo containers you want to get rid of? Give your products a thorough cleanse to eliminate any lingering product and group them with your other aluminum and metal products.
Rinse Your Packaging
The truth is, if you leave a drop of leftover shampoo at the bottom of your container, you’ll most likely still be able to recycle it with ease. However, too much product in the bottle can affect how the recycling machine processes it and risks interfering with other recyclable materials like cardboard or paper. Before you throw your bottle into the bin, it’s best to rinse the container with hot water and dry it thoroughly.
Double Check What To Do With Caps
Think twice before throwing your caps and pumps into the recycling bin! It’s important to note: Caps and pumps are too small to be recycled on their own, so they must be attached to the product they came with to be appropriately recycled. Other times, the caps must be removed and thrown in the trash can instead of the recycling bin. The product manufacturer will be able to tell you how to dispose of all of the pieces.
Sample-size beauty products are too small to recycle and unfortunately end up in the garbage. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to let your travel-size empties go to waste! Instead of tossing them in the trash, try refilling them for the next time you travel.
Look for Recycled Packaging
Curbing your hair care waste can be as easy as shopping smart. When browsing for a new must-have item, skim the labels or the bottom of bottles to ensure that your local recycling program will accept the material. If you can, try to select products made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) packaging. Not only does it create a demand for recyclable materials, but it also gives said collected recyclables a place to go when you’re finished loving them.
Since sustainability has become such a hot-button topic in the beauty community, big brands like Biolage have made great strides to ensure their products are more friendly toward Mother Earth. Biolage bottles are made of 95 percent PCR, with a goal of 100 percent by the end of 2022, while their tubes are currently made of 28 percent PCR, transitioning to 50 to 70 percent by 2023. What’s more, their best-selling Color Last formulas are produced in a carbon-neutral factory that obtains 58 percent of its power from renewable energy and has reduced water consumption by 37 percent since 2005.
How do you reuse beauty packaging?
In addition to recycling beauty containers, repurposing them into something new is a handy way to keep them out of the environment even longer! Below are a few of our favorite innovative ways to put empties to good use.
- Turn a large hair mask jar, such as L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Metal Detox Mask, into a mini pot for kitchen plants, or fill it with cotton rounds and your favorite skincare toner to create pre-soaked pads.
- After thoroughly cleaning out a bottle of hairspray or mist (ones with removable nozzles like Biolage Professional Smooth Proof Smoothing Shine Milk work best), fill it with water. When needed, spritz it onto a beauty sponge to re-dampen it while you apply BB creams or foundation.
- Remove the tops of shampoo or conditioner bottles and use them as a makeshift flower vase. The shape and size of the Biolage Professional Color Last Shampoo is especially perfect for this!
- Have an old squeeze bottle like Kérastase Soin Acide Chroma Hair Gloss laying around? Thoroughly cleanse the inside with soap and water, then fill it with your go-to cooking oil, like olive oil. The squeeze tip lets you release a clean, precise amount onto salads or into your frying pan without the mess.
Looking for more professional-grade products to add into your routine? Find everything you need, all in one place at Hair.com.