Beauty recycling programs that are worth getting behind

Images via Lush
Words by Hannah Cole

Give a little, get a little.

For some time now, the sustainability conversation has centred around the consumer and our required responsibility. We need to recycle, use better products, purchase less, etc.

But deep down, we’ve known this game of finger-pointing couldn’t go on forever. One day the Corporates with a capital ‘C’ would also have to wake up, take some of the blame, and make drastic changes.

Finally, this day is edging closer. In exciting news, multinational companies including Unilever and Procter & Gamble are working with TerraCycle in the US to trial an innovative system. The program – Loop – arranges delivery of everyday items in reusable containers, which are then collected once empty for reuse. Ice cream and hair products are now joining the circular system, seriously reducing our waste by eliminating throw-away packaging.

I’m impatient for an impending arrival on our shores, but in the meantime, I’m taking on any store recycling program I can. It’s even better when I’m rewarded for it. Whether it’s in the name of sustainability or a sneaky stab at developing customer loyalty, I am a sucker. Take my money, take my leftovers, and reward me.

The beauty and skincare industries are making particular headway in this arena. Brands have boycotted damaging ingredients and are now promoting recycling systems to reduce their impact effectively. Read on for my picks of the bunch, with the best rewards on offer.


The gold standard for affordable, natural beauty products (and the most lust-worthy bath bombs), also happens to foster one of the best programs. Bring back five empty (and clean) marked pots and receive a fresh face mask for free. The containers are then recycled appropriately by Lush – because our local pick-ups just really aren’t good enough. Every avid recycler is a goddess, and deserves to have a face that matches.


The Back to MAC program has been doing the rounds for a while now. Return six MAC packaging containers and receive a free lipstick in return. The younger, beauty-hopeful version of me was a huge fan and wanted to collect every shade under the sun. The older, wiser me will stick to a classic Velvet Teddy.


I’m a real sucker for the simplicity of Kiehl’s packaging. Those slender bottles with an overdose of text: there’s just something about it. Even more so when I know it’s not going to fuck with the planet. The brand has teamed up with TerraCycle to collect old packaging, which is then repurposed, creating materials for children’s playgrounds and the like. Return empty bottles in-store to receive a mini gift-pack based on your bring-back amount.


TerraCycle is on a roll, having also partnered with earth-friendly Jurlique. All empty Jurlique packaging – including pump bottles, droppers and sachet foil wrapping – can be returned to any Jurlique store. In return, each product given back amounts to a 10% discount on one new item. Stockpile your bottles for a big old discounted spree (my favourite kind).

And now we sit back and wait for more of our fashion friends to take note and proceed. Eileen Fisher is setting the standard in the US, accepting worn same-brand returns in exchange for credit to spend in-store. This goes hand-in-hand with embracing new creative practices, where pieces are often dyed, felted or re-sewn to create something wholly new. For now, I’ll sit tight for an Australian alternative.

Brands, if you are listening, we are waiting for a sustainable solution to dispose of our over-used clothing. And if it doesn’t come soon enough, I may suffocate under all my stock-piling (because landfill is never the answer).

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