So Why Do We Recycle Less in the Bathroom?

Dear Recycling Bins: Our Recycling Advice Column

 

Dear Recycling Bins,

I’m pretty good at recycling at home and at work, except I have one Achilles heel: I often forget to recycle my bathroom products. What tends to happen is I let empty bottles and other containers pile up in my bathroom cabinet, on the shelf, or around the bath, then I remember that I have to sort them out, I get overwhelmed, and just throw all of the waste in a plastic bag where it ends up in the bin.

I’m so good at recycling in the kitchen so I have no idea why I find bathroom recycling so tough. Sometimes, I guess it’s because there are aerosols and other items which I have no idea how to recycle, so I just cut my losses and they go in the bin.

I’m a product lover, so my bathroom waste is getting out of hand and this can’t be good for the environment-please help!

Thank you for your question!

You’re not alone in having countless products in your bathroom, from bath foams, to shower gels, deodorants, and more, we all like to indulge in a bit of self-care from time to time.

But our personal care routines do create a lot of packaging waste, and as you rightly say, most people recycle kitchen waste a lot more instinctively than waste from the bathroom.

So why do we recycle less in the bathroom?

bathroom bottles

Are product labels confusing? Do they not give us enough information?

Well, Which carried out a review of common bathroom products we all buy and found that 12 out of 20 products did not have clear recycling labelling on them, even those that were made from completely recyclable materials.

Even where packaging did contain more information, like the plastic resin code (the number from 1 to 7 inside of a triangle), not everyone understands this and it’s not always clear whether the item can be recycled. Not every council accepts all plastics for recycling either, which further adds to the confusion, so we feel your pain.

So what should you do? WRAP gives this helpful advice: Generally, if something is in a bottle, it can go into your recycling. For items that are in pots and tubes, you can check what is recyclable in your area here.

Recycling isn’t the only solution to the bathroom waste problem though, companies need to redesign packaging and reduce waste at the source, rather than putting the onus on us and local authorities to recycle waste.

It’s not all bad news; some companies are stepping up and making their packaging recyclable. Colgate launched a new toothpaste in a recyclable tube in 2019. Toothpaste tubes are one of the items we often throw in the recycling, despite most of them not being recyclable.

So as for what you can do, yes, it pays to think about your bathroom recycling habits, but you can always reconsider the products you buy and make more environmentally-friendly choices to cut down on the amount of plastic you use.

Think about buying products like cleansers and shampoos in bar form, for all the beauty benefits without the plastic packaging, try a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one, and invest in a safety razor rather than creating lots of waste with disposables. Cutting down on plastic in the bathroom can be done!

But if after all of this, you still struggle with recycling at home, there are some high street companies that are willing to do their bit for the environment and help you out.

Lush is the latest brand to offer rewards to customers for returning empty packaging to the store. For every piece of packaging you return, you’ll get 50p to spend that day.

shampoo bottles

As part of its ‘Bring it Back’ scheme, the company is asking customers to return four types of packaging:

  • Clear plastic bottles (with lids)
  • Pots clear & black (with lids)
  • Makeup packaging
  • Bottles with trigger/spray tops

Everything must be full-size and the products must have been made and sold by Lush. Don’t try to recycle your L’Oréal bottles here!

This is not the only such scheme that Lush has in place; you can still exchange five pieces of plastic packaging to get a fresh face mask. You can only take advantage of one of the reward schemes at a time though.

Other retailers like Boots and The Body Shop, as well as makeup companies such as MAC also run similar schemes.

You can still enjoy your beauty routine and be environmentally-friendly!

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