5 Quick Ways To Eliminate Waste From Your Beauty Routine

If you’re reading this I’m sure you’re already well versed with using reusable shopping bags, water bottle flasks and reusable coffee cups. In the past few years it has increasingly become the norm for the majority of us to try and reduce waste in these ways. However, we still have a long way to go, and there are many more areas of our lives where we can reduce our plastic waste further, starting with your beauty routine.

According to research carried out by Garnier and TerraCycle, only 50% of household bathroom packaging is recycled, compared to 90% of kitchen packaging. A quick glance at your bathroom is sure to show you a wide range of plastic products which are not possible to recycle or are too small to be recycled (plastic items that are less than 40 x 40mm are unlikely to be recycled because they will fall out of the recycling process in a step that is designed to remove small items of dirt and contamination).

So as not to overwhelm yourself, start by switching out things gradually in your routine for plastic-free alternatives. I’ve put together 5 quick ways to eliminate waste from your beauty routine and have found this method will help make the whole process more manageable and affordable in the long-run.

1. Ditch makeup wipes

According to research group Mintel, 43% of women in the UK regularly use face wipes, which take years to break down in landfills due to their composition of virtually indestructible materials such as polyester, polypropylene, cotton, wood pulp, or rayon fibres. A report by Water UK – the membership body for water providers – also found that wipes are behind 93 per cent of blockages in UK sewers with 9.3 million of them being flushed down toilets every single day.

There are many waste free alternatives out there for replacing your makeup wipes with that are just as convenient. From simple cleansers that just require water to wash them off, to a simple flannel or muslin cloth, there’s something for all skin types and preferences.

My favourite is The Body Shop’s vegan Chamomile Cleansing Butter that you simply rub all over your dry face (including eyes) and wash off with either warm water or a flannel. It melts away all traces of makeup, leaves your skin feeling soft, and comes in a recyclable aluminium tin.

2. Switch out disposable cotton wool pads for reusable ones

As well as being non-recyclable and non-degradable, it takes a large volume of water to produce a single-use cotton pad, which, unless it’s made from organic cotton, is also grown with pesticides that damage the surrounding environment. Cotton pads often are packaged in non-recyclable plastic wrapping as well.

The solution is to invest in reusable versions made from organic cotton or microfibre materials. My favourites are the Greenzla Reusable Makeup Rounds, which are made from 100% organic bamboo cotton. They come with a cardboard storage box and laundry bag to make washing them even easier.

Greenzla Reusable Makeup Rounds

3. Use bamboo cotton buds

In May 2019, the environment secretary Michael Gove confirmed that cotton buds with plastic stems were to be banned in England from April 2020 after an overwhelming public support for the movement. This was a brilliant development considering between 2015 and 2018, cotton buds were in the top 10 items found during the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean, according to the Cotton Bud Project.

However, despite this great environmental development, many retailers sell cotton buds in non-recyclable plastic packaging. With this in mind, why not make the switch to fully biodegradable bamboo cotton buds which come in cardboard packaging. My favourites are these Premium Bamboo Cotton Buds by Leeds based brand, Buds.

4. Try a solid shower gel 

Considering plastic can take 450 years to biodegrade, and with millions of people using bottled shower gel everyday, the amount of plastic ending up in landfill from these bottles must be colossal. A simple and affordable way to help reduce this unnecessary waste is by switching to a zero-waste alternative in the form of a bar.

Lush has a huge range of plastic-free shower products, from solid oils to shower bombs and gels.

For those after something a little less scented, I’d recommend the Capure Unscented Goats Milk Soap. Goats milk is high in vitamins, minerals and butterfat, which is an excellent moisturiser. It really helps to keep my skin soft and also massively reduces the redness of my Keratosis Pilaris (redness on the back of the arms). 

Selection of soaps: Top, Friendly Soap. Left, Eco Warrior. Right, Capure.

5. Replace your toothpaste

Most traditional toothpaste tubes are made from multiple materials laminated together, such as plastics and aluminium. Because of this mix, the tubes are not recyclable. There are many alternatives to your traditional toothpastes out there, from tooth powders to tablets to more traditional pastes, without the plastic packaging.

Georganics stock a variety of tooth tablets, powders and pastes in a variety of flavours. They all come in plastic-free packaging and are free of any synthetic chemicals like peroxides or synthetic flavourings. For more details on how to reduce waste in your dental routine, check out this blog post.

I hope this has helped you in finding some affordable, plastic free alternatives for your beauty routine. Please comment below if you have tried any of the products mentioned in the post or if you have any other recommendations.

Pip x


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Elm was born out of passion for the environment and a desire for a more sustainable, way of life, without compromising on quality or time.

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