How to Sustainably Dispose of Old Makeup and Cosmetics

How to Sustainably Dispose of Old Makeup and Cosmetics

Most makeup and cosmetic products come in some sort of plastic packaging. Worse yet, they’re often wrapped in more plastic. But once we’re done with these products, what do we do with them?

You’re probably used to throwing them in a trash can and not giving it a second thought. But nothing is ever really gone. Just because it’s out of our sight and mind, doesn’t mean that it just disappears. It usually ends up in a landfill or in a body of water or in an animal’s habitat.

The point is, it’s waste and it causes a lot of problems.

For some, you might be transitioning to a cleaner, more eco-friendly makeup routine. But as I always say, using what you have is the most sustainable option. Use up what makeup you have and slowly, as needed, replace those products with sustainable ones. 

Read: Zero waste Makeup Brands

But the problem still remains: How can I dispose of my old makeup products sustainably?

Lucky for you, you clicked on the right post. I’m going to show you a few ways you can dispose of them in a more safe, and responsible way.

*This post contains affiliate links meaning I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase using these links. I only recommend products I love and trust. See our full disclosure here

how to sustainably dispose of old makeup

How to Sustainably Dispose of Old Makeup and Cosmetics:

First, it’s important that your product packaging is clean. Don’t leave any leftover makeup. That means washing out bottles and scraping out pallets. Make sure they’re sparkling clean or a lot of times, recycling plants will just toss them into the trash because they can’t be bothered to clean them themselves. (This goes for anything you want to recycle too!)

If you have leftover liquid makeup, try not to rinse and dump them down the sink, toilet, etc. This can damage water supplies. Try to wipe them clean by using a reusable cloth or disposable cloth and toss it into the trash. Not ideal, but still better than it going down the drain. 

1. Recycling options

If the packaging is glass and you clean it thoroughly, you’re good to just toss it into your recycling bin! If it’s a foundation bottle or something that has a plastic pump or lid, be sure to detach it as it might not be recyclable. 

Plastic packaging on cosmetics will almost always be classified as plastic #5 which is recyclable in almost all communities. 

Brands like Burt’s Bees already use recycled plastic and so they’re easily recyclable again. You can always go on a brand’s website or google what their packaging is made of and whether or not they’re recyclable. Some brands like Lush will even take packaging back to be cleaned and reused.

One of my favorite brands, Elate Cosmetics offers refill options, so just be sure to google the brand and they might have all the answers you need!

TerraCycle is a recycling company founded by Tom Szaky, who has a passion for sustainability. They operate in over 20 countries to recycle almost any waste. Some recycle kits may cost more to ship so it’s a good practice to save up your cosmetics and other items and ship them all at once. They even have a few drop-off locations in Canada specifically for makeup!

For those in the US, TerraCycle has partnered with Garnier and made a recycling program specifically for any and all cosmetic and skincare/haircare products. 

2. Upcycle product packaging

Clean cosmetic packaging is the perfect home for some DIY makeup! I love making my own makeup (You can find some easy recipes here!) and old cosmetic packaging is perfect to use!

Just clean out the packaging thoroughly and fill with your DIY recipe! You can also save leftover eyeshadow, blush, and lipstick pigment to add to your new makeup! That way no part of the makeup gets wasted!

3. Donate your gently used makeup

If you have makeup that maybe isn’t quite the right shade or you’re just not a fan, consider donating the item before tossing it.

I only recommend doing this with gently used/mostly full cosmetics. See if a friend is willing to take it off your hands. Better yet, you can check locally if there is a women’s shelter that would be willing to accept it.

I’ve done this a few times with a shelter that houses abused women. It’s such a small act but the women there love it and I’ve been told it helps them feel more beautiful and more like themselves.  


Zero Waste Makeup on Etsy

Black-owned sustainable businesses

A lot of people won’t take the time and the extra steps to ensure that they’re disposing of their makeup properly. That’s where you’re different, my friend. 

And it’s not hard work either! All it takes is a little research and a little effort. But once you’re used to it, it’ll become second nature!

Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to learn a few steps on how to sustainably dispose of old makeup and cosmetics! We’re on our way to a greener future!

Please don’t forget to share this post and follow me on Instagram for daily low waste living inspiration!

how to sustainably dispose of old makeup


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