Get your recycling game face on

REduce waste

If you’re looking at reducing waste and recycling around your home you might not have considered the contents of your toiletry bag, but did you know it’s estimated more than 10,000 tonnes of cosmetic waste goes to landfill every year in Australia? Hannah Turner investigates how we can keep up our beauty and skincare routines without costing the earth. 

Makeup bag with makeup in it

I don’t know how it happened but for some reason my toiletry bag is crammed full of cosmetics to the point where I can’t close it! Maybe because I wanted to try a new lip shade, try a mascara my friend recommended, or I’m still hanging onto that face scrub my sister gave me for Christmas three years ago? 

What’s even harder to fathom is the fact that most of those makeup and skincare products can’t be recycled through the standard yellow recycling bin because they’re made up of so many different materials and remnants of product. 

So, what can we do about it?

Make up going into recycling bin

Meet TerraCycle, an international recycling organisation that collects tricky packaging and products and processes them into materials that can be reused. Since launching in Australia in 2014, they have already diverted over 13 million pieces of ‘unrecyclable’ waste from landfill. 

Many retailers now work in partnership with TerraCycle to provide take-back schemes for empty products, with some even offering rewards for recycling! Here’s a list of businesses that are helping you downsize your toiletry bag in a more sustainable way… 


Biome's Gold Coast store

Since their first shop opened in Brisbane in 2005, Biome has led the way with offering recycling instore across many different waste streams including beauty in partnership with TerraCycle. 

To recycle with Biome, empty, clean and sort your products to bring into their stores and if you can’t make it in-store, post your shoebox full of recycling to Biome and receive 10% off your next order online! 


Recycling bin in a Priceline store

In partnership with Maybelline New York and TerraCycle, Priceline’s Greener Together program has already recycled 48,370 units of beauty products, the equivalent of nearly 6 garbage trucks worth of waste or just over 3 backyard swimming pools! They have recycle bins in most stores so use their store locator to find one near you. 


Recycling bin at MECCA

When you’ve squeezed all that can be squeezed out of your products head to any Mecca store in Australia to drop off your empties to their TerraCycle® bins. Since 2019, Mecca have collected more than 150,000 empty beauty containers that would have otherwise hit landfill and processed them into raw materials that can be reused. 

David Jones

Recycling bin at David Jones

If you’ve got a bunch of empties, you can visit the beauty department in any David Jones store across Australia to recycle them through their BeautyCycle units in partnership with Terracycle. They accept empty skincare and haircare plastic bottles and pumps, empty glass bottles, jars and pots, caps and tubes in regular, travel and sample sizes, empty foundation bottles, compacts, lipsticks and gloss, eyeshadow palettes, mascara, eye and brow liners. 


Recycling bin at L'Occitane

Pop into any of L’Occitane’s 54 boutiques nationwide and you’ll be able to drop off your empty beauty products to be recycled. If you can’t make it in store, you can ship your empties direct to TerraCycle for free through L’Occitane’s free recycling program. Simply join their program here and they’ll provide free shipping labels to send them all to TerraCycle to be processed! 


MAC cosmetics

If MAC is your beauty brand of choice, did you know about their ‘Back to MAC’ recycling program? For every six plastic or glass MAC products you return empty to any M·A·C store or counter, they’ll give you a free MAC Lipstick of your choice! 

The returned MAC product is then sent to their recycling partner Close The Loop where it is either turned into asphalt or cement, or shredded and combined with other plastics to make new products. MAC have worked with Close the Loop in Australia for nearly a decade, and in the last 12 months alone have processed 24,000kg (24 tonnes) of used product. 

What CAN’T be recycled through the Terracycle program?

Most retailers cannot accept nail polish, nail polish remover bottles, makeup brushes, perfumes and aerosols. 

All the cosmetics that can't be recycled including nail polish and fragrance

What CAN be recycled through the Terracycle program?

It’s always best to check the guidelines for the business you choose to recycle your products with, but generally they can accept the following:

• Shampoo bottles and caps
• Conditioner bottles and caps
• Hair gel tubes and caps
• Hair paste plastic jars and caps
• Lip balm tubes
• Soap dispensers and tubes
• Lotion bottles, tubes, dispensers and jars
• Shaving foam tubes (no cans)
• Lip gloss tubes
• Mascara tubes
• Eyeliner pencils and cases
• Eyeshadow tubes
• Concealer tubes and sticks

Most important to note is the products need to be EMPTY.

How to make sure nothing goes to waste

Before your products can be recycled, they have to be emptied out, and if you really want to make sure none of your products are going to waste, here are three simple hacks for some of the everyday cosmetics you might use… 

Foundation, concealer or moisturiser

Getting excess foundation out of bottle

Got a plastic tube of makeup that you’ve squeezed the life out of, but know there’s more inside? Cut it open with scissors and scrape it out! You’d be surprised at how much is still left inside. Once you’ve cut it open keep it in an airtight container preferably in the fridge, so it stays fresh. 

Eyebrow pencil

Eyebrow pencil extender

Don’t know about you, but as your eyebrow pencil gets shorter the harder it is to get the shaping right and you might end up looking a little lopsided! So why not invest in a simple pencil extender? Designed for artists, these little inventions let you use almost the entire pencil and will give you a better grip on your pencil, so your eyebrows look on point. 



Is there anything more crushing than coming to the end of your favourite lipstick? You’ve wound it up as far as it will go and can’t paint your pout anymore, but before you kiss it goodbye, invest in a lip brush and dig out the remaining contents still inside the tube. There’s usually at least a centimetre or two of product tucked away that would otherwise go to waste. 

Make the switch to more sustainable options

A bottle of beard oil with wattle in the background

If you really want to make your skincare more sustainable, the best way to do that is avoid the packaging all together, or reuse and refill the packaging you already own with DIY skincare such as lip balm, beard and hair oil. 

Both Biome and Vessel Nundah also offer many refillable, reusable and make your own alternatives so you can love the skin you’re in and leave a lighter footprint on the planet. 

The author

Hannah Turner

Hannah works at Brisbane Sustainability Agency in the marketing team delivering sustainable events to help create a clean and green city. When she’s not in the office you’ll most likely find her thrifting at an op shop in Brisbane somewhere!

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