How to recycle cosmetics containers (and pretty much everything else, too)


My husband Adam and I have many differences, but the one I am most proud of is that I am not a hoarder. Adam keeps everything. Everything. He keeps it for the same reason everyone who keeps everything keeps everything, namely that he might need it some day! And occasionally this mythical “someday” does arrive and he triumphantly rummages around in his piles of crap and emerges victorious with a two foot length of wire that would have cost $1 to buy, but now he doesn’t have to buy it because he has been storing it for eight years just waiting for this VERY moment to shriek triumphantly “I told you so!”

I, on the other hand, am a religious purger. I go through drawers every six month, sorting and organizing the flotsam and jetsam that seems to accumulate when you’re not looking. I recycle batteries and pens that don’t write, I file papers and amalgamate twist ties. I always have a box or a bag at the bottom of my closet for those mornings when I try on a shirt and realize that I have tried on approximately eighteen times in the last few months and always decided against because it only looks good in theory. Into the donation bag it goes!

The one area I haven’t been good at purging, and have actually inched into Adam territory in, is cosmetics. I’m not a huge makeup person, but I am a human person and have my moments of weakness when faced with multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns that promise me that this concealer, ONLY this brand new hyper-science skin perfecting pore refining pretty lady concealer is THE ONE for me. After using it I will glow and sparkle and look as flawless as those strangely wrinkle-less ladies in the magazines.

And then when it doesn’t work, and that concealer is just as good as any other concealer (which is to say, it reduces under-eye circles, diminishes slightly visible laugh lines,  and similarly tones down other evidences of human life) I am left with a half-empty tube and no desire to continue slathering it on my person every morning.

Up to this point, I was unable to progress past that point – the half-empty tube of concealer or toothpaste or sunscreen lurking at the back of my makeup drawer –  because I couldn’t bear to throw it out. Much of the packaging used to house makeup and skin care products isn’t recyclable in municipal programs, especially when it’s coated in makeup residue. So because I didn’t like it, and couldn’t throw it out, I just…kept it. All of it.

At one point it got sort of ridiculous and I made myself vow that I wouldn’t buy a new product unless I had used up all of its predecessor first – a sensible goal, and one that I continue with to this day, but can be frustrating if something has too much fragrance or doesn’t match your skin tone and you just plain don’t like.

Enter my saviour, and my new boyfriend: Terracycle.

This is hands-down the best thing in the recycling world. Terracycle exists purely to recycle things that haven’t been recyclable to this point – weird, bizarre things like chip bags or chocolate bar wrappers, Tassimo pods and cigarette butts. Terracycle has developed innovative ways to break these products down and recycle them responsibly, diverting millions of pounds of waste from the landfill.

Not only that, but for every unit of waste you send them (so for each Tassimo pod, or each cigarette butt) you receive a point. These points convert into actual dollars which you can use to buy the products made by waste items (like a lunch box , or cutting boards), or donate to a charity. to date Terracycle has donated over six million dollars to charity.

The best part? They make it SO EASY. You sign up for one of their brigades, and start collecting. When you have enough to send back, you simply print off a pre-paid shipping label, call UPS and boom. DONE. You don’t even ever have to leave your house, or spend one penny. Seriously guys this is a no-brainer.

Since I found about Terracycle I have joined many of their brigades, and even started collecting waste at the Farmer’s Market booth I used to run with the teens I worked with. Today I finally mustered up the gumption to go through all of the cosmetics I had been hoarding. What do they take? I’m glad you asked.

Personal Care & Beauty Brigade accepted waste:

  1. Hair care packaging such as shampoo bottles and caps, conditioner bottles and caps, hair gel tubes and caps, hair spray bottles and triggers, and hair paste plastic jars and caps
  2. Skin care packaging such as lip balm tubes, face soap dispensers and tubes, face lotion bottles, tubes and plastic jars, body wash containers, soap tubes and dispensers, body lotion dispensers and bottles, shaving foam tubes (no cans), and hand lotion bottles and tubes
  3. Cosmetics packaging such as lipstick cases, lip gloss tubes, mascara tubes, eye shadow cases, bronzer cases, foundation packaging and bottles, powder cases, eyeliner cases, eyeliner pencils, eye shadow tubes, concealer tubes, concealer sticks, and lip liner pencils

Seriously, throwing out your cosmetics packaging is bananas. Just as bananas as becoming a hoarder like your husband.

So, go to or and sign up immediately! Then convince your best friend to sign up, and then if you are a teacher or the designated enviro-nag in your workplace set up a collection location there, too. And then put this on Facebook and Pin It and tweet it and plaster it all over all of your other inane social networks and then Terracycle can be your boyfriend, too.

6 thoughts on “How to recycle cosmetics containers (and pretty much everything else, too)

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