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How to recycle beauty products: the need-to-know guide

In honour of Global Recycling Day, here's the lowdown…

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Orin Carlin
Orin CarlinContent Writer
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These days, many of us are instinctively eco-conscious – from never being caught short without our reusable water bottle and agonising over air miles to understanding the perils of fast fashion and pursuing the perfect sustainable trainer.

A relative newcomer to our social calendar – and yet an important one at that – Global Recycling Day (March 18) was created five years ago to highlight the part that recycling plays in both "preserving our precious primary resources" and "securing the future of our planet".

According to Zero Waste Week, a whopping 120 billion units of packaging are produced globally by the cosmetics industry, and yet us Brits are not great at recycling our beauty stashes.

Research obtained by Garnier found that 56% of British people do not currently recycle bathroom waste because it is inconvenient.

READ: 8 plastic-free beauty products you NEED to make your makeup bag more eco-friendly

MORE: Vegan Beauty: everything you need to know  

It's important to note that the onus is not solely on the consumer – brands ought to provide comprehensive guidance on how to recycle their products.

Beauty products © Photo: Getty Images

The truth is that it is a minefield – even materials that you might instinctively think of as recyclable – glass, for example – may not be. The British Beauty Council’s 'Courage to Change' report references instances whereby products are categorically unrecyclable because of their colour, composition and design, "chosen to entice or convenience consumers".

Where possible, it is generally best that you dismantle a product (removing parts like pumps or lids which often cannot be recycled) beforehand.

Plastic bottles

Shampoo, conditioner and shower gel containers vary from brand to brand, but many plastic bottles are recyclable. Look out for the Mobius loop symbol (a triangle composed of three arrows) on the packaging to confirm. Rinse and dry your bottles and recycle in your usual collection.  


Dry shampoos and deodorants are often recyclable, just ensure they are completely empty and remove detachable parts like caps or lids beforehand. 

Hair dryers and straighteners

Good news – large retailers have been required to accept electricals in store for recycling since January 2021. Check out Recycle Your Electricals for more information, but if your product is marked with the crossed out wheelie bin symbol, this indicates that it can be sent to a separation facility for recovery and recycling.

Where to recycle beauty products


Beauty Product© Photo: Getty Images


Plenty of brands these days are taking account by offering free in-store recycling services. The British Beauty Council has a super handy interactive map that tells you the location of your closest recycling point, but in London alone, there are stores by Mac, L'Occitane, Boots, Holland & Barrett and Superdrug on the list. 

What can you do with non-recyclable products?

If your bathroom cabinet is well overdue a declutter, you may like to consider getting your hands on one of TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Boxes. You simply order your preferred size of box, then fill it with caps, jars, tubes and bottles to your heart’s content. You send it back to them, and they safely recycle your empties.

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