Why beauty waste is one of the trickiest waste streams to recycle

Beauty packaging is one of the trickiest types of packaging to recycle. This is because it’s often made of a mix of complex materials.

To create a beauty product, different types of materials might be used, for example, a plastic mirror compact might have a glass mirror and foam inserts. With lotions, there might be one type of plastic for the bottle, a combination of plastic and metal for caps and spring-loaded pumps for functional use. 

The more complex and different the materials, the harder it is to recycle and the less chance it will be accepted in kerbside recycling. This is because the cost of labour required to manually identify, separate, clean and sort the components is too high. Additionally, these complex materials often require unique recycling technology that is expensive. Smaller items, like mascara and lipsticks, are also too small to be processed by industrial recycling machines. 

Billions of beauty products are sold each year. With so much of it unable to be recycled, this accounts for a lot of product packaging piling up in landfills.

In order to process the materials into something new, we separate them based on composition. We use a wide variety of sorting technologies, including manual sortation, size separation, sink/float, optical, air density, gravity, magnetic, and more, to sort the items you send us. The materials are washed after they are sorted. Once sorted, they are then processed based on their material type. 

Each material requires a different process to be recycled. For metals, the first step of processing is to shred the material. Ferrous metals, like steel or iron, are removed through magnetisation. Non-ferrous metals, like aluminum, are removed through eddy current separation. The shreds are then smelted into metal sheeting, ingots, or bar stock. 

Unlike plastic and metal, glass is crushed, not shredded. It is separated from any other remaining plastic or metal through screening or air separation. Then, the glass is melted. 

To address the problem of waste in the beauty industry, TerraCycle partners with brands in Australia and New Zealand to provide free recycling solutions for beauty products

Additionally, our All-In-One or Beauty Products and Packaging Zero Waste Box makes it easy to recycle items that aren’t accepted by your local kerbside service, since you can throw all of your “unrecyclables” in one box. This is a paid for item that covers the cost of postage and recycling of your items. 

If you’re looking to save your empties from landfills, stay tuned this coming month. We’ll delve deep into the problem of beauty waste, and highlight the actions we can all take to reduce our impact on the planet.

Head to our website to discover our full range of free beauty recycling programs. Whether you’re looking to recycle skin care, hair care, makeup empties or all of the above, we’ve got a recycling program for you!

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