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How you can be a zero waste beauty consumer



No doubt, our typical consumption habits need an overhaul (if you need a refresher on our plastic issue, check back here).


But we don’t need to stop using beauty products altogether -- all we need to do is to be conscious of the steps that are available to us to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.


A huge step forward would be to reduce our plastic consumption. Here, we list out the steps you can take towards being an ethical and zero waste beauty consumer.


1. Look out for environmentally-friendly packaging







2. Send your beauty empties back to these beauty stores

We’re well aware of greenwashing - which is why we’ve ensured that these brands DO in fact recycle their empties, and similarly use post-consumer recycled materials in their products. So before throwing your empties out, you can consider these options.

A Kiehl’s recycling counter in their Ion store.


Donate 10 of your empty full-sized Kiehl's container to any Kiehl’s retail outlet, and be rewarded with a Kiehl’s travel product. One empty will consist of 1 recycle count. The products that you donate will be sent to Kiehl’s own manufacturing plant - they will never end up in landfills, but rather, is reused (42%), recycled (28%), and burned (32%) for energy recovery. Much of their material is also used as post-consumer recycled materials for their new packaging.

Image from: Lush Singapore


Bring in 5 clean and empty black pot containers back to any LUSH outlet, and receive 1 free face mask product in return.


Image from: Innisfree Singapore Facebook


Bring (a maximum of) 3 clean and empty containers each month to any of the Innisfree stores to redeem 50 points (equivalent to $1) for each container. Remember to ensure that these containers have a “Please return to Innisfree after use” on their labels before bringing them in! Makeup and canned type products are excluded from this program - only essence, hair and body products made of glass or plastic are applicable.


Image from: Neal's Yard Remedies


Similar to Kiehl’s, one empty container equates to one stamp and they can be collected and exchanged for free gifts!


Image from: Green Matters


Who doesn’t love free lipsticks? And for a good cause, too. When you bring 6 clean and empty MAC containers back to any MAC outlet, you get 1 free lipstick in return


3. Make use of beauty refills

  • Bring your empty containers out for this. The Social Space, a cafe, lifestyle boutique, and branch store of The Nail Social, has got shampoo, hand wash on tap. Unpackt, a zero-waste grocery store also has zero-waste shampoo and body wash alongside dry food products that you can check out.

  • Buy eco-refills instead - Brands such as L’occitane sell eco-refills, at 31% off the original product price. You can also find refills for shampoos and body washes at Muji and supermarkets.

4. Types of Materials that can be recycled

  • Plastic

As we have uncovered in our previous post, most clean plastics CAN be recycled.


Unfortunately, as consumers, most of us are unsure about the type of plastics that we can dispose of in the recycling bins.


If you have seen a number within a triangle-shaped logo at the back or bottom of a plastic product packaging, it is probably the Resin Identification Code (RIC). This code was created by the Society of The Plastics Industry (SPI) in 1988 for manufacturers to be more consistent in their manufacturing and recycling process. Consumers can also identify plastics with the RIC, and dispose of them in the recycling bins. Do look out for the recycling loop around the number when determining if an item can be disposed of in the recycling bin!



Source: Sustainable Packaging Coalition


1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

Common forms for cosmetic packaging: bottles, pump dispensers


Source: Google Image Search


PET is cheap and lightweight and is often intended for single-use products such as plastic bottles. Since repeated use increases the risk of bacterial contamination, it is recommended to avoid reusing such packaging and recycle them instead.


2. High-density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Common forms for cosmetic packaging: jars, tubs, pump dispensers


Source: Google Image Search


HDPE is a more rigid, cost-effective and safer form of plastic. It is better at preserving the product as compared to PET. Thus, cosmetic products such as essential oils, retinol products and Vitamin C serums tend to be packaged with HDPE as it helps prevent oxidation. Many shampoo and body wash bottles also tend to be made using HDPE, so you can recycle them as well!


3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

NOT COMMON for cosmetic packaging

Source: Google Image Search


PVC is a soft and flexible form of plastic used in children’s toys and clear food wrappings. However, it is considered the most toxic plastic as it contains nearly 60% of chlorine. It also contains a large amount of phthalates that help soften the material, and contamination can occur should the phthalates leach into the packaging and vice versa, making it unsafe for cosmetic packaging. Because of its toxic content, a very small percentage of PVC actually gets recycled.


4. Low-density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Common forms for cosmetic packaging: tubes, squeezable bottles

Source: Google Image Search


LDPE is another flexible plastic used for making tubes in cosmetic products. They are a common packaging for many products including cosmetics, though they are not ideal for packaging products that are filled at high temperatures. LDPE is relatively safer than other plastics and can be reused, though not always recyclable.


5. Polypropylene (PP)

Common forms for cosmetic packaging: tubs, jars, airless pump bottles/containers

Source: Google Image Search


PP is tough and lightweight and is slightly more rigid than PET when made into bottles. It is also often used in packaging for materials that are hot, such as wax or balms, due to its heat resistance. PP is also safe for reuse, though only a small proportion is currently being recycled.


6. Polystyrene (PS)

Common forms for cosmetic packaging: jars caps, covers, jars

Source: Google Image Search


Uncommonly used in cosmetic packaging, polystyrene is usually found in the small styrofoam-looking pellets that prevent items from being damaged during shipping. However, polystyrene can also be used to make jar caps and covers. Some jars, usually clear ones, are also made from polystyrene.


Formulations containing oil are not packaged in such jars as it would cause the plastic material to crack. These jars are typically given out as containers for samples and sold as small containers used for travelling purposes, so do remember not to fill them with any oil-based products!


Unfortunately, recycling of polystyrene is currently not widely practised currently, so it would be good to reuse packaging made from these plastics as much as possible while avoiding unnecessary styrofoams products.


7. Other plastics including acrylic (OTHER)

Common forms for cosmetic packaging: jars, airless pump bottles

Source: Google Image Search


Reuse and recycling procedures are not standardised for packaging and items with this label, as it includes different mixtures of plastics or plastics that do not fall under the six categories above. Nonetheless, you can still dispose of them in recycling bins as the recycling plants will further sort them and identify if they can be recycled.


  • Glass

Common forms for cosmetic packaging: bottles and jars

Source: Google Image Search


Recycling glass jars and bottles are fairly straightforward as they are 100% recyclable. They can be recycled infinitely without compromising its purity and quality. If you are unsure, here are some symbols you can look out for when identifying glass bottles or jars.


Source: Wikimedia Commons; Wikimedia Commons


Similar to the RIC, there are numbers in the logo which range from 70 to 79, depending on the colour of the glass. For cosmetic packaging, they tend to fall under 70, 71 and 72.



Source: Wikimedia Commons

  • Paper

Common forms for cosmetic packaging: cardboard box packaging


Paper waste is one of the most common wastes generated in Singapore. Generally, most clean paper and cardboard materials can be recycled. Some exceptions include paper towels, napkins, contaminated paper, wax, plastic or foil-coated paper. For example, milk cartons are not recyclable due to the difficulty of separating the foil and paper in the packaging.

If you are unsure, you can look out for the Mobius Loop printed on paper packaging. There are also other symbols you can look out for.


Source: Wikimedia Commons


  • Aluminium

Common forms for cosmetic packaging: spray cans


Source: Google Image Search


Cosmetic products with aluminium packaging can include hair sprays and deodorants. Here are symbols you can look out for:


Source: Wikipedia; Wikipedia


The most important thing to remember when disposing of recyclable items in the recycling bin is to empty and clean it. In Singapore, more than 40% of recyclable items are contaminated, which means that they cannot be recycled and have to be incinerated or sent to the landfill. That means your recycling efforts can come to naught if the items are not properly cleaned out!


There you have it! Though this is the season of gifting, remember to try to buy only what you truly need or want. Reducing waste is all in your (capable) hands!


References:

http://www.zerowastesg.com/2008/12/08/plastics-recycling/

https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/plastics-by-the-numbers/

https://www.containerandpackaging.com/resources/what-are-the-7-main-plastic-resin-types/

http://www.gpi.org/recycling/glass-recycling-facts


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