You don’t have to sacrifice self-care to become a more sustainable-minded beauty consumer. Just follow our guide of simple ways you can significantly cut back on excess plastic waste.
The beauty industry has a rather ugly problem: globally, it creates over 100 billion packaging units every year, making it one of the top contributors to plastic waste pollution. Even the most basic beauty regimen probably includes some amount of plastic, so how do you reduce your cosmetic carbon footprint while still taking care of yourself?
“People think becoming eco-conscious is all or nothing, but really, it’s about making small changes,” says sustainability expert Kathryn Kellogg, founder of GoingZeroWaste.com and author of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste. “For beauty, it starts with choosing products that have less packaging, particularly the plastic kind, and look for brands that offer sustainable options such as refillable bottles.” Here are four small, easy changes you can make that significantly impact on reducing your beauty-related plastic waste.
1. Buy only what you'll actually use
This may sound like a no-brainer until you factor in all your beauty impulse purchases and freebies samples that have accumulated into a pile of unused or barely touched products. "My rule of thumb is, buy what you know works for you and what you truly love,” says Kellogg, who advises waiting until you’re just about out of a product before replacing it. “This simple tactic has singlehandedly been the biggest change in reducing my waste, my clutter, and my spending."
2. Make sustainable swaps for daily-use disposables
Everyday necessities like disposable razors and toothbrushes are among the most prominent plastic waste offenders. “These smaller items inevitably end up in a landfill, but it’s easy to find more eco-friendly versions,” says Kellogg. She suggests switching out your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one with plant-based bristles, which are biodegradable and compostable. Consider ditching disposable plastic razors in favor of a reusable safety razor that uses stainless steel blades, which are typically recyclable (but since they’re sharp, be sure to put them in an aluminum tin before recycling). And instead of cotton swabs with a plastic base, use biodegradable wood or cardboard ones, both of which are compostable.
3. Recycle the right way
Even though more than a third of Americans recycle regularly, 91% of plastic waste in the U.S. is never recycled. That’s partly because people tend to chuck any and every type of plastic container—tubes, caps, pumps, sprays—into their curbside blue bin, unaware that it’s not all recyclable. When non-recyclable plastics end up in the mix, they can damage the equipment at recycling plants, thereby slowing down the recycling process entirely.
“All items, not just plastic, that are bigger than a Post-It note have a better chance of being recycled, so always remove caps before tossing bottles into your recycling bin,” says Kellogg. “Be sure to rinse out the containers first, which makes them easier to process, and remove any plastic pumps or spray nozzles, neither of which are recyclable.” And on the bigger-is-better note, skip the free beauty samples and minis whenever possible. Their itty-bitty bottles and plastic packets are rarely recyclable.
MyKirei by KAO Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner and Nourishing Body Wash (and refills for each product) are packaged in innovative AIR Bottles that are made with 50% less plastic versus traditional bottles and are 100% recyclable through TerraCycle®.
4. Choose refillable beauty products
Refillable beauty bottles not only reduce packaging waste but “they’re also more budget-friendly because the refills are usually cheaper than the initial complete bottle,” explains Kellogg. “It’s so important for beauty companies to find ways to reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging, use recycled materials to make their plastic products, and offer refillable options whenever possible.”
The new MyKirei by KAO Soothing Peony Milky Lotion “Holder for Life” refillable system, which reduces plastic by 75% for the pouch refill versus traditional lotion packaging, turns sustainability into a work of art. The lotion is housed in an Eco-Holder, a beautiful bottle featuring Japanese artists’ designs that clips onto the Eco-Pouch lotion refill. All other products feature “Bottle for Life” packaging, and when you refill a “Bottle for Life” or “Holder for Life” with our 100% recyclable refills through TerraCycle®, you can help reduce plastic waste by 40-86% depending on the product.
With these simple updates to your beauty regimen, you can look your absolute best and feel good knowing you’re practicing a more sustainable lifestyle.
Plastic waste pollution from beauty packaging (2019) https://commercialwaste.trade/how-the-beauty-industry-is-feeding-plastic-to-you-and-the-planet/
Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made (2017) https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.1700782
More than a third of Americans recycle every day. https://www.epa.gov/americarecycles/america-recycles-day