How to Dispose of Cosmetic Waste, Phase Two: The Cleaning

We get so many questions about cosmetic waste, not only for our own packaging, but for all cosmetic packaging in general. Since this is a lengthy topic and the recycling industry is constantly evolving consider the date of this post! We will make sure to publish updated blog posts related to this topic as we learn more, so that we can continue to share this information with you!

Getting Started

If you didn’t read the part one of this series, you can find the first post, Phase One: The Cleanout, here.

Tips for Cleaning Cosmetic Waste

  • Identifying Expired Products: When going through your cleanout process, make sure to pull out any expired product. Some products have an expiration date listed on them! All products will have a batch code. If there is no identifiable expiration date, there probably isn’t one present. However, there are a few indicators to look out for to identify expired products.

    • Smell: If the product smells much differently than when you purchased it, it should most likely be disposed of. If it’s a natural product, these fragrances tend not to last as long. So, the disappearance of fragrance isn’t necessarily an indicator the product is bad. However, if the scent of the product is more like a bad odor it is time to dispose of it.

    • Color Change: Again, with natural product, sometimes products will experience a slight color change. That doesn’t necessarily always mean that the product has passed it’s window of use, but if it’s an extreme color change or you see a change in the color of the packaging (ie yellowing), I would recommend disposing of the product. Especially if it is a color change paired with a bad smell.

    • Separation: This occurs when a product is unstable and should no longer be used. This includes two liquids separating. This can also be solids precipitating out of a liquid.

  • Leftover Product: Always take care to clean out your cosmetic containers, as they will have a higher chance of getting properly recycled. Even if a container does get cleaned out and successfully goes through the recycling process, the chemicals in the personal care products can make their way to waste water streams. If a product has expired and needs to be disposed of, squeeze the product onto a paper towel to be put into the garbage instead of putting it down the drain when cleaning the packaging.

  • Labels: Remove them. Though they aren’t always the reason that something won’t get recycled, just remove them. There are many articles out there that say you can leave the label on, and in some cases that is true. However, because generally it’s difficult to identify the type of label on the container and whether it should or should not be removed, just take it off. Some labels contain inks that can contaminate materials used in the recycling process. Other labels can cause the bottles themselves to be missorted and therefore those bottles become waste. The Association of Plastic Recyclers offers a design guide for labels, in which you’ll see how difficult it would be for a consumer to tell if a label is okay to leave on or not to be recycled. So, to be sure, just remove it.

  • Disassemble Before Cleaning: Start by taking the packaging apart as much as it can be! Disassemble as many of the components as possible. Some packaging is deceptive, like a dropper! A dropped is made up of three different materials- glass, plastic and silicone. It’s important to separate these materials for recycling.

Check the Symbols

Period After Opening (PAO)

First note, this symbol is not required to sell cosmetic products in the United States. This symbol is required to sell cosmetic products in Europe. Therefore, this symbol may not be on your cosmetic product if you purchased the product in the United States. This symbol, known as the period after opening symbol, or PAO symbol, is present to identify to consumers that they should use the product within the indicated period of time after opening that cosmetic product. This is not the expiration date, as it is never a date. It is a period of time. The expiration date, if provided, will be marked with an "EXP." 

Now, onto Phase 3:The Clear Out! This is where we get into how to recycle your cosmetic packaging! Not just your Moondust Hair Wash bottles, but all your beauty packaging.

Image Source: http://flanellemag.com/mermaid-melancholia-by-justin-fonteneau-for-flanelle-magazine/