On average each person in England and Wales produces nearly 500kg of household waste a year (source: That’s half a ton of rubbish. England and Wales count 59 million residents, so we’re looking at 29 million tons of rubbish every year. It sounds impossible. If this number sends your mind into a spin, there are many more scary statistics you can find, each more depressing than the other. But with every problem there is a solution: the three Rs have gained momentum throughout UK households and are increasingly being applied to all areas of waste, from the kitchen to the bathroom. Although we’ve become more aware of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra, it’s still one we find difficult to apply to beauty, with 56% of Brits not recycling their bathroom products (source: Marie Claire). It doesn’t help that beauty products are often composed of many different types of materials – from glass to paper inserts and foam – making recycling difficult. Applying the three ‘R’s to your beauty products will help minimise waste and increase your household’s sustainable living. I’ll admit when it comes to applying the three Rs to the contents of my bathroom cabinet there are definitely areas I can improve on. And as there’s no time like the present, here are a few tips on how to go greener when it comes to dealing with beauty empties.

Reduce Reuse Recycle beauty products flatlay


An effective way to reduce waste is to buy less. I’m not encouraging taking toothpaste off your shopping list, but there are certain habits you can learn or product benefits that can reduce unnecessary consumption within beauty:

  • Look for products that use less packaging: I’ll admit that packaging plays a big part in my first impressions of a product, but increasingly beauty brands are looking to strip back unnecessary layers and are perfectly capable of creating beautifully presented items such as Soap Folk’s prettily wrapped hard soaps which come in FSC certified paper printed in non-toxic vegetable ink.
  • Buy in bulk: this has been a tough one for me to take on board considering my love of miniatures, but the likes of Love Beauty And Planet offer hair and body care products in large 400ml and 500ml sizes, meaning you buy less often.
  • Look for multi-purpose products: you can reduce the number of products you stash in your bathroom by going for products that do several things: Dr Bronner’s All-One Bar Soap can be used to cleanse your face, body and hair. This is literally the only product you would need in your shower.
  • Which brings me to unisex products: do you have a set of his n hers toiletries in the shower? I agree there are instances when you wouldn’t want to be sharing your face wash, if you and your partner have completely opposite skin types (oily vs dry), or hair concerns (hair loss vs coloured), but otherwise a unisex bar of soap such as Zero Waste Path Activated Charcoal made using 100% renewable energy and presented in a box made from recycled unbleached cardboard.

Upcircle Coffee Face Scrub with coffee beans


Using items as much as possible before replacing or throwing them away might seem like common sense, but increasingly you can take it a step further than just finishing your jar of cream before throwing it away:

  • Refill your favourite perfume bottle: it seems such a shame to throw away a perfume bottle, especially as they’re often made of thick glass so every time you buy a new bottle you’re paying for the packaging all over again. I think Mugler were one of the first to introduce refill stations at their fragrance counters where you can bring your empty bottle of Angel for a refill. Penhaligon’s also offer this service now and The Body Shop’s new concept stores feature refill stations for shower gels – something they offered back in the 90s before it got scrapped due to customer confusion.
  • Upcycled ingredients: an increasingly popular trend in beauty whereby companies repurpose food ingredients typically seen as waste into beauty ingredients. Evolve’s Radiant Glow Mask features blueberry particles produced from the waste seeds from the juicing industry. And Upcircle’s Coffee Face Scrub uses repurposed Arabica coffee grounds from London artisan cafes. Extra points for adding an option on their website to forego the plastic cap if you’re doing a repeat purchase.
  • Donate to charity: went a little overboard during that 3 for 2 offer in Boots the other month? Instead of discarding unwanted beauty products, donate them to Beauty Banks. Set up by beauty PR guru Jo Jones and beauty writer Sali Hughes, the charity ensures your unwanted personal care and beauty items reach shelters for those who need them.
  • Reuse empty glass jars or bottles: once I’ve finished my Aurelia Probiotic skincare I’ll be repurposing the apothecary-style brown jars as pots for spare buttons. And that tin currently containing Love Absolute Facial Mud Bar? That would make a good candle holder.

Reduce Reuse Recycle beauty products groupshot


Need to brush up on what can and can’t go in your recycling bin? Best to check on your local council’s website as it does vary from one area to another, however here are some guidelines:

  • Glass: very straightforward to recycle, glass is 100% recyclable and can be reused countless times. Fushi’s fresh-pressed virgin oils come in apothecary-style glass bottles which can be recycled or reused after sterilisation.
  • Paper and card: also very easy to recycle yet account for 20% of all waste produced in the UK, so we can definitely improve on how we dispose of this material.
  • Aluminium: 100% recyclable
  • Plastic: the likes of shampoo and shower gel bottles are accepted by most recycling programmes, but you do need to empty and clean them out first, and also check if the lids are recyclable.
  • Food waste: surprisingly cotton pads fall under that category, which I wasn’t aware of. Or you can opt for natural and re-usable cleansing pads from The Konjac Sponge.
  • Composite packaging: items such as mascara, lipstick and make-up palettes are too complicated to recycle. Luckily TerraCycle has partnered with beauty brands such as Garnier, Kiehl’s and L’Occitane to create a free recycling programme for beauty packaging. And The Body Shop have introduced their Return Recycle Repeat scheme in partnership with TerraCycle where you can return your clean empties to store which will be collected by TerraCycle for recycling or repurposing

How do you apply the three Rs to your beauty products? Please leave a comment below to let me know.

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