It’s no surprise to anyone at this point to say that we as consumers create too much waste. The pace we currently move at is unsustainable. According to Global Citizen, the US is expected to run out of landfill waste in the next 16 years. The timeline is much shorter for the UK: by 2022, the landfills of the UK will be full. While there is no clear number on exactly how much waste is contributed by the cosmetics industry, we know that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recorded 80.1 million tons of production packaging waste in 2017, 70 percent of which went directly to landfills.
So what can we do as consumers to lessen our contribution to this global mess? It turns out, a lot. Bustle, a top cosmetics journalism blog, reports that there are 7.6 billion pounds of beauty wipes thrown into the landfill every year. That means 1.3 billion wipes are being thrown away every single day. Personally, once I heard that number, I went out and bought some cheap microfiber cloths immediately. They are dirt-cheap (I bought mine from the dollar store!) and with just a little warm water, they remove my makeup even better than beauty wipes.
As the EPA recorded, most of our cosmetic waste comes from product packaging. That means shampoo bottles, conditioner bottles, plastic films, etc. It was important to me to eliminate my impact on that waste as much as I could, so I’m making the switch to solids instead of bottles. Solid soap bars, solid shampoo, even solid conditioner when I find it. This reduces the amount of plastic packaging that I’m throwing away—most of which cannot be recycled.
Recycle what you can. Luckily, TerraCycle is an organization present in 21 countries that specializes in recycling hard-to-recycle waste. Notably, TerraCycle allows you to now recycle razors, plastic caps, and lots of leftover makeup packaging! Their beauty and personal care program allow you to conveniently ship in the items you need to be recycled.
It matters that all of us put in just the touch of extra effort to ensure that the impact we have on the earth is a positive one, not a negative one.
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Lynnie McIlvain is a Clark College alum, acknowledged there by in-house awards for her creative writing, and is currently pursuing a Bachelor's of Arts degree in Classical Studies at the University of Puget Sound. She is passionate about traveling, her work in the nonprofit sector, and writing.