Let’s Talk about Personal Care Product Sustainability

Earth Day was this week and this year the observance has taken on more urgency. With this news, many conscientious consumers are determined to do more to help the environment. Although many people are religious about recycling their plastic water bottles, tin cans, and other kitchen items, there is another huge offender lurking in another room: personal care products. I’ve been guilty of this myself. I have a stack of empty plastic bottles in my shower, plastic toothbrushes by the sink, and a pile of disposable razors. However, I soon won’t. I’ve been researching how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle in all facets of my daily life, and this is my next step.

Bath and beauty products are neck and neck in the competition for most wasteful packaging. Your shower is filled with plastic bottles of soap, scrub, shampoo, conditioner, hair treatments, body wash, and more. A typical beauty routine includes using primer, foundation, lipstick, eyeliner, and finishing spray. Oral health involves plastic toothbrushes, dental floss, and bottles of mouthwash. Body care includes disposable razors and razor heads. That’s a lot of plastic being tossed in the garbage every month.

Zero Waste Beauty Products

The most vigilant among us may choose to strive for zero waste in their personal care products. This requires the biggest commitment. Some people opt to make their own products or source products that come in better packaging. However, even small changes matter. Pick hair brushes that are wood. Upcycle your old leggings, yoga pants and stockings into zero waste hair ties. Buy biodegradable dental floss. Choose a safety razor with replaceable blades. Pick reusable organic cotton rounds rather than single-use cotton balls.

Don’t overlook zero waste sunscreens. Hawaii recently enacted a law banning sunscreens that contain chemicals that damage coral reefs. The bill will be effective on January 1, 2021, which means retailers need to make new products. Thankfully, some companies already focus on sustainable products. Raw Element makes sunscreens that are packaged in a tin rather than plastic, and the sunscreen is free of any harmful ingredients. All Good makes an SPF 50 sunscreen that is packaged in a reusable metal tin. The product is made from just five ingredients.

A lot of progress can be made by being more aware of what you’re throwing away.

Recycling Personal Care Products for Free

Speaking of trash, most personal care products are not recyclable with your local garbage collection program. This is mostly because the products often contain several different types of plastics. However, several companies will help you recycle your bath and beauty products for free. TerraCycle is a recycling company that teams up with companies to provide free recycling programs for hard-to-recycle materials. For example, TerraCycle and Garnier have a free recycling program for hair care, skin care, and cosmetic product packaging. You can simply create an account on their website and they will send you a special box for free. You place the waste in the package and send it back, using a free shipping label you can print at home. TerraCycle takes the products and reconstitutes them as plastic pellets for reuse. They even teamed up with Gilette to accept disposable razors and razor packaging.

TerraCycle’s program accepts the following products:

Hair care packaging such as shampoo caps, conditioner caps, hair gel tubes and caps, hair spray triggers, and hair paste caps. Skin care packaging such as lip balm tubes and caps, soap dispensers and tubes, body wash caps, lotion dispensers and caps. Cosmetics packaging such as lipstick cases, lip gloss tubes, mascara tubes, eye shadow cases, bronzer cases, foundation packaging, powder cases, eyeliner cases, eyeliner pencils, eyeshadow tubes, concealer tubes, concealer sticks, and lip liner pencils.

Package-Free Products

Most of the environmental impact associated with personal care products comes from the packaging. Lush has been a market leader in sustainable beauty. Over fifty percent of Lush’s products are package-free – or in the brand’s terms, completely naked. The company knows not everyone will just switch to homemade beauty products and bars of solid soap. Lush has you covered with a full line of products including shampoos, moisturizers, deodorant, conditions, solid gels, shower bombs, facial masks and much more. Their products are also handmade with ingredients you recognize and can pronounce.

Vapour Organic Beauty aims to make your makeup routine fully sustainable. Their products are formulated with a process that is as close as possible to the organic plant source. The company choose ingredients that benefit the skin but also focuses on whether the ingredients are sustainable in their harvesting. Vapour has been given Champion Safety status from the Environmental Working Group and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Vapour uses packaging that is recyclable, which means their solid products are housed in aluminum and liquids are put in glass containers. They also choose product boxes that are made from forest paper stock. Even the ink is made with soy, and the electric for the company’s facility is fueled by wind power.

About Dental Floss

Dental floss is as dangerous for animals as plastic straws. It is not biodegradable and it is not tearable. That means animals get caught in dental floss and suffer serious injury and death. Unfortunately, floss is too small to be recycled and often gets caught in recycling machines.

There are many aspects of dental floss use that you can change. First, be aware that you can’t reuse dental floss without introducing bacteria and plaque. Most floss is made with wax-coated nylon, but you can find floss made from silk. Silk floss can be composted and is biodegradable. You can also look for floss that isn’t packaged in the plastic box with a metal part (which makes it a mixed material that your local garbage hauler cannot recycle). RADIUS makes silk floss with packaging that is 100% biodegradable.

Also avoid the plastic floss picks, since they use even more plastic and cannot be reused. Amazon sells several brands of biodegradable floss picks. You could also use a water pick or a wooden toothpick.

This is just the start of your personal care zero waste journey. Even changing the way you buy your bath and hygiene products can make a big difference.

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