Recycling Beauty Products is Not Pretty Work
The smoke-filled air that enveloped Southern California kept me indoors this past weekend and turned me into a whirling dervish as I checked off several projects I've procrastinated about for months. My list of to-dos has definitely dwindled since March, but just when I think I have the cleanest, most organized house in the world, I always seem to stumble onto yet another task, which tends to cause my family members to avoid me.
THIS weekend's project was cleaning out my bathroom vanity. C'mon - who doesn't LOVE walking into their bathroom only to be met by neatly organized rows of serums, moisturizers, and makeup brushes (that are all freshly washed and sanitized)?
What I didn't realize once I began digging in is that I had a TON of stuff to throw out. Old, expired, half-used jars of face creams, crusty mascaras and smelly lipsticks (a sign of a truly old purchase).
At first, I started tossing everything into a big garbage bag with the goal of throwing it in my blue recyclable bin. But then I realized I was committing a horrible sin. How do I know if all these things are even recyclable?
The extra product left inside some of the containers alone was surely toxic, and I remember reading somewhere that pumps inside a bottle are not recyclable at all because of the metal springs. I write and promote this stuff for a living (you'd think I would know better), so immediately, I started acting on my best behavior. Let me tell you, acting on your best behavior is a pain in the ass. This project that was supposed to span the hour and a half it took to watch Pretty in Pink (again), took ALL DAY. After removing all the caps, mirrors, and metal pieces, not to mention, washing out the left-over shampoo, conditioner and gel from bottles, I was thrashed. And so was my bathroom. It looked way worse than when I sashayed in hours prior like a proud disciple of Marie Kondo.
By the time I got to the nail polish drawer, I waived my white flag. How was I going to clean out 50 bottles of old toxic nail polish? I looked that one up online and learned I needed to take them to a household hazardous facility in my neighborhood, which I will tackle another weekend. For reference, Earth911.com is a great resource for all things recycling. You just put in your zip code and it tells you where to take your waste.
TerraCycle is another amazing resource. It's a social enterprise that partners with consumer product companies around the world to recycle used products and packaging. Basically, you sign up with them based on items you purchase, and they'll send you a prepaid return envelope or box to send back your used packaging to ensure it recycles properly. Until recently, I didn't realize that many of the personal care, food items and cleaning supplies in my home are running recycling programs with TerraCycle right now such as Febreze Aerosol, Colgate toothpaste and one of my favorite skincare brands, C'est Moi. Ok, so maybe I do handle C'est Moi's public relations, but I still think they're an amazing, conscientious brand and I would gladly spend my money on their products :-). Plus they have the best Tinted Moisturizing Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ever.
So yes, ultimately, this does mean I get to add another chore to my to-do list (yay me!), but it's a really important one. In 2018, China stopped buying our country's plastic trash - about 7 million tons a year - and the recycling situation here is a f-ing mess. All that plastic is now stockpiling all over the country in landfills and being incinerated, which just creates more pollution. Currently, only about 35% of Americans recycle at all.
It doesn't have to be this way, though. If we're willing to educate ourselves about what really happens to the waste we create under our own roofs, and make conscious choices about what we do with it, progress can be made. Take it from Molly Ringwald, who turned two trashy frocks into one iconic pink prom dress.