Have you ever noticed how many words us beauty people have for using up our products? There's "hit pan," which is code for cleaning out a shade in a makeup palette. There's also "empties," a cutesy way of saying you've used your products until the last drop. But the important part, at least where Mother Earth is concerned, is what comes next – and it may not be what you think.
As we reported early this year, throwing empty products in your blue recycling bin with the best of intentions unfortunately isn't enough to ensure that your used packaging will have a second life. Only nine percent of all plastic waste ever produced has actually recycled. This is due in part to the complex nature of product packaging, which makes it difficult to sort for users and impossible to sort for waste management machines. Lotion pumps, for example, are typically made with a metal spring and plastic tubes. Even if you rinse it out and toss it in the bin, the multifaceted materials mean it'll end up in a landfill. Or in the ocean. Or on Trash Mountain.
Sue Kauffman, a public relations manager at international recycling organization TerraCycle, sums up the sad truth about all those pretty bottles and tubes: "The more complex or costly the packaging, the harder it is to collect, separate, and recycle."
In an industry that still uses a huge amount of plastic, it's time to find sustainable solutions. To help, Nordstrom, a major beauty retailer, has pledged to gather and recycle 100 tons of beauty packaging by 2025. To make that happen, Nordstrom has partnered with TerraCycle to create BeautyCycle, an in-store depository that will ensure your empties actually get recycled.
"Nordstrom leads with the fundamental belief that we have a responsibility to leave the world better than we found it," says Gemma Lionello, Nordstrom's general merchandise manager for accessories and beauty and an executive vice president. "Customers increasingly feel the same and look to us to be a responsible company that plays an active role in protecting the environment."
Starting October 1, customers can bring their products into any Nordstrom department store (wear your face mask while you're there) and drop into a BeautyCycle bin. Nordstrom then sends the bins onward to TerraCycle, which weighs and sorts the material, then melts them down to usable raw material that will eventually become something new.
Regardless of whether you bought the beauty product at Nordstrom, customers can bring their empty makeup, hair-care, or skin-care items to a BeautyCycle box. The list of acceptable products includes shampoo and conditioner bottles, hair gel tubes and caps, hairspray bottles and triggers, hair paste plastic jars and caps, lip balm and gloss tubes, face soap dispensers and tubes, lotion bottles, tubes, dispensers, and jars, mascara tubes, eyeliner pencils, and more.
Of course, it's not every day that you use a product up completely, so it's best to save up your goods until its worth the trip to the department store. "I recommend designating an area or container in your bathroom to keep your empties until you’re ready to bring them in to be recycled," says Lionello.
According to Kauffman, one of the best ways to be a sustainable ally is to "plan for the end-of-life" of the plastic you use. Start that process here by finding the Nordstrom nearest you.
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