Are you making a shopping list and checking it twice for all your favorite beauty products? We all do our best to buy products with less packaging, so there’s less waste in the world. But for those things you just can’t drop from your skincare routine, recycle them through TerraCycle’s free beauty recycling programs before the season of giving begins!  

Did you know that cosmetic product packaging can be recycled into things like plastic shipping pallets, agricultural film, decking, industrial drain pipes, playgrounds—and even our collection of TerraCycle Made products available in the United States?

Beauty waste, like tubes, pumps, and other used makeup containers are not typically accepted in municipal recycling programs because of their size and material complexity. So, how do we recycle them? Our research & development team analyzes materials and determines the best way to recycle haircare and skincare products into something new. 

Let’s learn more about the recycling process and how used cosmetic, haircare, and skincare packaging takes on new shapes and sizes:

1. First, we receive and check-in your beauty products. When you send us your shipment of beauty waste, we receive it at one of our many TerraCycle Material Recovery Facilities. When a shipment is opened, we do a visual inspection and sort out any non-compliant waste. We scan it to register the shipment information, date, weight, and type of material collected.

2. Then, we sort your used beauty packages and separate them by material. 

Empty beauty packaging often has residual product in it. As a result, our process shreds and washes beauty packaging so that they can be properly separated and recycled. This is why you don’t have to empty and clean your beauty packaging before sending it to us for recycling.

We sort and separate materials based on material characteristics and composition, using a wide variety of sorting technologies included below. Once sorted, materials are broken down into their building blocks.

Plastics are processed by polymer type, so we first must separate them by using:

  • Sink-float separation, which uses water to separate co-mingled plastics based on density.
  • Air density separation, which uses fans to create a column of air. Low-density items like remaining paper from labels are blown upward, and dense items fall.
  • Optical sortation, in which items pass under an infrared sensor, which records the light waves that bounce off each item. This allows us to sort plastic shreds by type of plastic material.

The separated plastics are then dried, placed into a hopper, and fed into an extruder, where they are melted. Depending on the specifications of our manufacturing partners, who will use the processed plastic to make new products, we may melt together several different types of plastic or add certain additives (like color).

Metals must be separated out through magnetic separation.  

  • Magnetic separation uses magnets to separate “ferrous” metals, like steel, from other materials. The shreds are smelted into metal sheeting, ingots, rods, and bars. These are used to make springs, screws, bolts, cans, and other products.

Glass is separated through screening.

  • Screening feeds it into a rotating drum with screens of different sizes. Smaller items like glass pass through the screen while larger items continue to the next screen. Glass is also pulverized and may be used in applications such as aggregate in construction materials.

Aerosols are collected and recycled separately with a specialized aerosol recycler.

3. Finally, materials are used for new applications.

Our sales team and processing partners then sell the materials to manufacturers who produce new products and complete the recycling journey. These end products may include things like shipping pallets, thermoform packaging, piping, conduit and other industrial products, outdoor furniture, and much more. We also make our own line of products from recycled material.

You can feel confident in cleaning out your cabinets and recycling what you no longer use as the holiday season approaches this year. Start recycling through our many TerraCycle free beauty recycling programs—which accept haircare, skincare, cosmetics, and more. 

To learn more about our recycling process, watch how we recycle beauty empties here.

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