According to a recent report, the cosmetic packaging market was valued at $26.29 billion in 2019, and is expected to reach $32.86 billion by 2025.
An estimated 120 billion beauty packages are made each year--most of them from virgin plastic, and most of them ending up in the landfill.
At Wren and Wild we are working to be a part of sustainable solutions by collecting hard to recycle cosmetic packaging.
How does Pact collect hard-to-recycle packaging?
Pact has two collection channels, both of which end up with our specialty sorting/recycling partners:
- In-Store Collection Program, where we collect packages in a large bin in our retail partner’s locations, and ship when it's full, and
- By-Mail Collection Program, where the end-user ships packaging to the sorting facility. This program is in pilot mode-- so stay tuned for more!
So how does Pact work?
- Finish up your beauty products (dump any unused goop into the garbage). Rinse or wipe clean the package. Ensure it is truly empty, as packages with product left inside go to the incinerator, not on to be recycled!
- Check out the Pact takeback guidelines (pactcollective.org) to learn where this specific package belongs--in the Pact bin, in home recycling, or in the trash
- Visit a participating Pact location (for now, Credo Beauty in US and HBC in Canada) and toss the Pact-OK clean empties into our collection bin
Once the bin is full, Pact Members ship it to our sorting facility. There, we sort all packages by material type. We aim to find the highest and best use for all materials (i.e. we prioritize getting it back into consumer packaging or durable goods over downcycling or chemical recycling). Ideally, we will sell some of the material back to beauty packaging manufacturers so we can begin to close the loop in our industry (this is trickier than you might think).
However, some of the materials--like different plastic types that are not separable, or some “mystery” plastics that are not identified with resin codes--end up in “waste-to-energy” pile. This means they cannot be mechanically or chemically recycled or downcycled, and so they are incinerated. These are *not* the ideal end-use scenario, so we try to limit this. Packaging suppliers need to stop making packaging that can only be landfilled or incinerated.
What specific types of packaging go to Pact, to curbside bins or to the trash?
Short answer is:
Usually these go into the curbside bin:
- Plastic containers #1, 2 and 5--when they are the size of a yogurt cup or larger
- Cardboard & paper
- Clear or frosted glass
(Must be clean & empty!)
- Small plastic jars/pots, tubes, sticks, and small (e.g. travel size) bottles
- Colored glass
- Lipstick and lip gloss tubes, applicators
- Mascara tubes and wands
- Makeup compacts
- Lotion pumps, treatment pumps, all dispensers
- Aluminum tubes (the ones that are made of real aluminum, not plastic that has a metalized outer layer)
If these packages are hard-to-recycle, how does Pact do it?
Pact has clear guidelines about what we can and cannot take back (pactcollective.org). We do not want packages that are definitely going to end up in the incinerator. (It is not sustainable to add the cost and pollution from shipping on top of the package’s existing carbon footprint!)
The hard-to-recycle packages that we do take back are sorted carefully. Small items and flexible items can be caught in the Pact sorting system where the majority of Material Recovery Facilities cannot. We also pay people to break apart multi-material items, like pumps, which usually have metal springs and different types of plastic.