A Guide to Recycling Clothes and Beauty Products

TerraCycle Garnier Colgate Include USA Tom's of Maine Kiehl’s ZWB l’Occitane Burt’s Bees EOS Herbal Essences Weleda Josie Maran Paula's Choice Nordstrom BEAUTYCYCLE
If you've been trying to effectively reduce waste but don't know where to start, look no further.   image.pngYou know all about the three R's — reduce, reuse, recycle — but when it comes to applying them to a daily routine, it can feel complicated. There are a ton of different combinations of materials out there and it's intimidating if you don't know what's actually considered recyclable. Most likely when you think of recyclable materials, you might just think of paper goods, plastic water bottles, and aluminum cans. But what you completely forget about are textiles, or old clothes and beauty products. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, textiles made up more than 5% (17 million tons) of all U.S. landfills in 2018. That same year, 14.7% (2.5 million tons) of textiles were recycled. Consider this your personal guide on how to effectively reduce waste, reuse containers and recycle that old stained sweater you can't wear anymore. Read on to find out how you can do your part by sustainably getting rid of old clothes and beauty products.

Check Recycling Regulations

The first thing you're going to want to do is check your local recycling laws to make sure you're following the rules. Luckily, we live in a day and age where we have information at our fingertips. There are a ton of resources out there that help check which recyclables are accepted, like EARTH911Recycle CoachCall2Recycle and How2Recycle. Recycled items are then transported to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), where they're separated and prepared for marketing to manufacturers for repurposing. Just a heads up —MRFs tend to have stricter rules and don't accept a lot of beauty products. A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to beauty products is that if the packaging is made with fewer materials, it's more likely to be recycled. Some brands like R+Co and R+Co BLEU are committed to using post-consumer resource (PCR) packaging, which is made of 100% recycled material. Packaging plays a big part in recycling, so researching and purchasing from brands with such initiatives makes sustainable living much easier. Apps like RecycleNation and Recycle Coach are a huge help when it comes to figuring out if specific items and materials are recyclable.

Textile Recycling Programs

Textile recycling programs recover old clothing and textiles for reuse or material recovery. This helps keep these items — even those with stains and tears — out of landfills. TerraCycle, one of the most well-known recycling programs, has worked with multiple brands like Nordstrom for BEAUTYCYCLE and Package Free to help reduce waste. BEAUTYCYCLE is a free program that recycles emptied beauty and skincare product packaging at Nordstrom. The best part is that they'll accept any brand regardless of whether it's sold by Nordstrom. Package Free sells zero waste boxes that you can fill with appropriate waste streams and ship back to TerraCycle for recycling. You don't even have to worry about shipping — each box includes a prepaid return label. There are several categories of zero waste boxes to help organize items depending on what you're recycling.   image.png

Check If Brands Do In-House Recycling

There are a ton of brands out there that have started doing their part in reducing waste by recycling in-house. If you send old clothes and empty beauty packaging back to these brands, they'll most likely work with programs like TerraCycle to properly dispose and repurpose the materials for new packaging and products. There are also brands like W3LL PEOPLE that not only create products with plant-powered formulas but make it a point to give back to the planet. To celebrate Earth Day, W3LL PEOPLE has partnered with the National Forest Foundation to plant 10,000 trees in National Parks in the U.S in April. Read on to see which brands have in-house recycling programs to do their part in normalizing sustainability.

Beauty & Skincare

Clothing & Shoes



Donate or Resell Items

If you're not able to recycle your clothes or beauty packaging, there's always the option of donating or reselling lightly used items. You can pretty much donate any clean clothing unless it's wet because it can promote bacteria growth. For starters, you can pass clothes down to your siblings or friends or make donations to local thrift shops and charity organizations. If you're looking to make some extra cash, you can also take any items to consignment stores like Plato's Closet or sell items online. When it comes to selling and donating beauty products, there are different policies depending on the store or organization. Some places don't accept items past their shelf life or items that have been opened and slightly used. You're definitely going to want to check policies before donating anything, especially since they might have changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Do your part in reducing textile waste by following the tips highlighted throughout this guide. For more information on the best sustainable options out there, check out Seventeen's Sustainable Style Awards.