You can now recycle contact lenses: What other cosmetics can you recycle - and how?

16th Jan 19 | Beauty

Get the lowdown on the beauty product packaging you shouldn't be sending to landfill.

Activist sorting paper waste

The UK’s first contact lens recycling scheme has just been announced, offering the nation’s 3.7 million lens wearers the chance to dispose of their lenses at public drop-off points, or via home collection.

The initiative, launched by Johnson and Johnson Vision in partnership with TerraCycle, aims to reduce plastic waste in landfills and waterways – currently 20% of wearers report they flush their lenses down the toilet, or wash them away down the sink.

Indeed, research shows that 70% of consumers are confused about the types of household products they can recycle, and while many of us have got better at checking food packaging and disposing of it appropriately, when it comes to beauty products, it’s quite a different story.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Like kitchen waste, some cosmetics can be recycled and others can’t – and there are a variety of ways to ditch your empties in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

Here’s what you need to know…

What beauty products can be recycled?


Most plastic bottles – like shampoo or body wash bottles – are widely recycled by local authorities in the UK. Leave the lid and label on (so the recycling information remains in tact) and rinse them to remove any excess product before leaving them for collection.

Aerosols and glass jars/bottle are also widely recycled, but you should remove their lids first. The only exception is nail varnish bottles, which can’t be recycled.


If you have an electrical product like a hair dryer, straightener, curling wand or shaver that still works, donate it to a charity shop (check your local one accepts electricals, not all do).

If it’s no longer working, check on the Recycle Now website to find out if your local authority collects electricals for recycling.

Cotton buds and pads

Cotton pads can’t be recycled but they can be added to kitchen waste or your compost bin. Same goes for cotton buds, as long as they have cardboard stems.

Cosmetics recycling schemes

In addition to local recycling, there are a variety of schemes you can use to dispose of your used cosmetics products, with some beauty companies offering free products as an incentive to do so.


Recycling company TerraCycle has partnered with Garnier to provide a service for personal care and beauty product packaging that’s not widely recycled elsewhere, including sheet mask and face wipe packets, plastic pots and tubes, hair colour kits and roll-on deodorants (but not aerosols).

Because plastic bottles are usually recycled by local authorities, they ask that you don’t deposit them. Visit the TerraCycle ( website to find your nearest drop-off location.


Lush uses recycled plastic to make its iconic little black pots, and it goes one further in helping to reduce waste to landfill. For every five clean empty pots you take back to a Lush store for recycling, you’ll get one of the brand’s face masks as a thank you.


With the Back to MAC scheme, if you take six used MAC products for in to the store for recycling, you’ll get a free lipstick of your choice. Recycling in exchange for a legendary Ruby Woo? Now that’s the kind of incentive we love.


Kiehl’s operates a kind of recycling loyalty scheme. For every empty you return, you get one stamp on your loyalty card, and when you reach 10 stamps, you’re entitled to one free travel-sized product, worth up to £9.50. It’s win-win.

© Press Association 2019