For 15 years the company TerraCycle has processed to the tune of two million kilograms of non-recyclable waste together with its partners. Photo: TerraCycle

For 15 years the company TerraCycle has processed to the tune of two million kilograms of non-recyclable waste together with its partners. Photo: TerraCycle

Recycling Cosmetics Packaging

Mixture of materials impairs recycling

On a global scale bodycare products worth a double-digit billion figure in US$ are sold every year and forecasts say that the 100-billion mark will be reached by 2020. As the interest in buying grows so too shoppers’ demands – regarding sustainable packaging among other things. While there are more and more natural raw materials being used to produce cosmetics containers nowadays and energy is saved, their recycling still proves complicated due to the frequently used material combinations. But the packaging industry is not resting on its laurels and some companies have launched recall campaigns for the re-use of bodycare empties – some of them in cooperation with the global recycling player TerraCycle.
L’Oreal branded products can be recycled in Australia, for example. Photo: L’Oreal

L’Oreal branded products can be recycled in Australia, for example. Photo: L’Oreal

TerraCycle cooperations

Established in the USA precisely 15 years ago, TerraCycle is now active in 20 countries around the globe. By company accounts, the company and its partners process to the tune of two million kilograms of usually non-recyclable waste every month. After all, there are not only closed-loop re-use systems for PET, paper and aluminium. The company specialises in waste materials considered problematic. Be it private households or colleges, public facilities or industrial enterprises: everyone can fall back on the experience and support of TerraCycle. Parties interested can rent so-called “Zero Waste Boxes” for collecting special waste. Once the boxes are full, they are collected and their contents are re-used.
Henkel has the aluminium in deodorant spray cans recycled. The material retrieved is used for children’s gyms, among other things. Photo: Henkel

Henkel has the aluminium in deodorant spray cans recycled. The material retrieved is used for children’s gyms, among other things. Photo: Henkel

Even programmes running for a limited period of time are initiated here and this is why some cosmetics companies have offered their shoppers the option of returning their empties:
  • The French cosmetics producer L’Oreal has undertaken measures in not one but several countries: Australian consumers can return their bodycare empties to designated stores free of charge without having to purchase new products. In Austria every returned packaging unit from the pharmacy line Vichy is marked with a stamp in a recycling passport – for six stamps the passport holder receives a free Vichy-Spa shower gel. And subsidiary Garnier not only takes back all packaging units from its own range but also from other brands. The empties are mechanically and/or manually sorted by ingredient – glass and metal are molten and plastics are shredded and processed into pellets. These are then made into either new L’Oreal packaging or plastic products for community projects.
  • Consumer goods producer Henkel initiated the “Aerocycle” campaign with its “Right Guard” deodorants line in the UK; here the aluminium recycled at the end of the day is used for children’s gyms, to name but one project.
  • In Germany deodorant spray cans were also collected. The recycling programme R’cycle! by Unilever and drugstore chain “dm” also benefited children here: almost 800 bicycles could be made from the recycled aluminium for charitable institutions.
For many years now fans of the MAC Cosmetics brand have been familiar with its recycling programme. In the past every six returned products would get them a free lipstick – today it is an eye shadow.

For many years now fans of the MAC Cosmetics brand have been familiar with its recycling programme. In the past every six returned products would get them a free lipstick – today it is an eye shadow. Photo: pureglam.tv

Other take-back campaigns

However, cosmetics companies have also launched recycling schemes all on their own:
  • Estée Lauder’s make-up line MAC Cosmetics gives shoppers the option with its ‘Back-to-M·A·C Programm’ to return empty primary packaging to participating stores. In exchange for six returned cosmetics empties shoppers get a free eye shadow. The packaging is passed on to sub-contractors who in turn take care of recycling.
  • At organic cosmetics and fragrance producer Farfalla shoppers can also return tubes and bottles taking part in the “Bring it back” campaign – which is especially helpful since in Switzerland plastics cannot be disposed of via collection bins in solid household waste. The plastic containers are processed into pellets by recycling partners. By company accounts, this saves about 1 l of crude oil as well as two kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of plastics produced.
  • Austrian company Ringana has addressed the take-back of its packaging in a slightly different way: a total of ten completely emptied, pre-cleaned cosmetics glass bottles without pump mechanism and closure must be sent by surface mail and postage paid to the company. Then senders receive a free cosmetic product of their choice. The bottles are reclaimed and re-filled in an eco-friendly manner.
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