Make up products

Beauty Industry Plastic Pollution: The Not So Beautiful Face of Beauty

By Catherine Collins

Although many of us are trying to recycle more and reduce our carbon footprint, have we been focusing on food packaging and refusing to use straws whilst forgetting the treasure trove of our make-up bags and plethora of products sitting prettily on the bathroom shelf? If we are, then any beauty products we purchase this year could be adding to the millions of tons of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans every year, contributing to the ever-increasing problem of beauty industry plastic pollution.

The extent of beauty industry plastic pollution

From shimmering lip glosses to shiny shampoo gift sets, plastic can take more than 500 years to fully break down – a beauty industry legacy that is far from pretty.

Earlier this year, a report by the World Wildlife Fund estimated that this year alone, the UK will have worked its way through 10.8 billion wet wipes and 13.2 billion cotton buds – and that’s without taking into account mentioning that most beauty products are swathed in plastic packaging.

“We are polluting our world with plastic, suffocating our oceans and overwhelming our wildlife.

The amount of plastic which the UK is throwing away is set to rocket by over a million tonnes by 2030 – that’s the equivalent of 87,000 more double-decker buses worth of plastic waste each year.

We must act now – banning avoidable single use plastic by 2025 – and introducing incentives to help people and businesses make the right choices to reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF

Recently, single-use was named as Collins Dictionary’s word of year 2018, reflecting society’s increasing global awareness to products – often made of plastic – designed to be thrown away after one use and while it’s been reported that 90% of us recycle kitchen waste, 50% of Brits don’t recycle bathroom waste, such as shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, simply because it’s inconvenient, meaning 2.7 billion plastic bottles hit landfill every year.

And as the nation continues waking up to the damage excessive packaging is having on the environment and increasingly trying to live more eco-friendly lives, some brands within the industry have started to listen to customer’s concerns and shift towards creating solutions to win the war on waste.

So if you’re looking for a more sustainable beauty products, check out our pick of the pack for sustainably-packaged beauty buys…

Sustainably-packaged beauty picks


Lush has always been ahead of the game when it comes to being environmentally aware. From the beginning they used as little packaging as possible and 90% of their packaging is made from recycled materials with the aim to have 100% of their packaging recyclable or compostable.

They are aware recycling for their black pots is not available everywhere (despite being a clean and non-toxic material), so they put their money where their mouth is and offer a free fresh face mask when you take five of them back, they are then recycled or re-used as art material.

The selection of bath bombs, bubble bars, solid shampoo and assorted creams and potions also make a great gift, and fear not – their gift boxes are lovingly wrapped with recycled paper and protected using Ecoflow, which is made from potato starch and 100% biodegradable.


In order to continually reduce their environmental impact, L’Occitane en Provence have partnered with TerraCycle to make their used products nationally recyclable, including aluminium packaging, metal cases, travel size packaging, flexible and rigid plastic tubes, caps and closures and refill pouches.

Find your closest participating L’Occitane en Provence store via the TerraCycle website and drop-off any brand used beauty and skin care products during your next visit to receive 10% off a full size item of your choice (terms and conditions apply).


Garnier have also joined forces with TerraCycle to create a free recycling programme for all beauty products packaging (any brand is accepted), including plastic roll-on deodorants, hair colourant kits, plastic pots and flexible plastic tubes, flexible plastic wipes packaging, personal care and beauty product caps, pumps and triggers and flexible single use mask packaging. The scheme also offers participants the opportunity to fundraise for their favourite school or charity using TerraCycle points, which can be redeemed for a variety of charitable gifts or a payment of £0.01 to the non-profit organisation of your choice.

Participating is completely free and very easy. Check out the TerraCycle website for more details.

Making a conscious decision to choose sustainably packaged beauty products and recycling as much as possible are 2 ways we can begin to help our planet today.


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