Joanna Cunningham explores how you can reduce your carbon footprint with some eco-friendly ways to dispose of beauty products.

Are you looking for new and inventive ways to save our dying planet? Well, I may have just an answer for you. Recently, I came across an advert for The New Arc —an animal rescue centre who make use of your old mascara wands to soothe young animals by brushing their fur. Who knew, eh? It’s amazing that even if we don’t necessarily cut out every waste product we use, we can still give something back to our environment in ways we didn’t even realise.

Before we delve into all the ways we can recycle our waste makeup items, I think it’s important to specify why it’s so important that we all get on board with companies like The New Arc. Unsurprisingly, cosmetic packaging can be hard to recycle due to the sheer diversity of materials. In fact, when the waste reaches the recycling companies, they often don’t know what to do with the array of things they receive, and just send it off to landfill sites.

Unfortunately, plastics used in makeup packaging last for millions of years, ending up in our oceans, rivers, and lakes. Sadly – and I’m sure you’ve seen the heart-wrenching images of the plastic in our oceans in recent years – this plastic not only causes fatal problems for the wildlife, but actually contaminates the water, which can have disastrous effects on the world around us.

In the UK, programs like Blue Planet have opened our eyes to the effect that humans have had on our world. It’s sad to see our wonderful wildlife in pain, and it’s horrible to think that we, the designated protectors of this world, are the cause. As a society we have become so used to the conveniences of modern life that we forget to be respectful to the earth. However, as David Attenborough has told us, it’s not too late – there is still time, and even just the smallest action can produce shockwaves. With this in mind, I’ve found four companies that use your cosmetic product leftovers to make a positive difference.

The New Arc

The New Arc is a small charity in Aberdeenshire, who pride themselves on their “safe haven” atmosphere for abandoned, abused, or unwanted pets. Each year, thousands of pets are delivered to the doors of places like The New Arc. Naturally, these pets are often pretty shaken up, and need an awful lot of comforting and soothing to recuperate.

This is where we humble makeup users can come in. How? Well, the brushing feeling the clean mascara wands provide actually mimics the grooming techniques of rabbit and bird parents, so it’s an ideal way to calm them down after a difficult ordeal. It’s also a really great way to get into their fur and feathers, removing dust and mites to keep them clean and comfortable. You’re probably now wondering, “How can I get involved?”. One of the first things I did when I discovered this brand was to collect all my unused mascaras (unbelievably, I had about three used mascaras which I hadn’t binned yet!) and prepared them to send off.

All you need to do before sending off your used mascara wands to The New Arc is wash them thoroughly using soap and warm water. I’ve attempted this before, and I must admit that it is no mean feat. It almost seems as though the product will never be fully removed! That said, I think it’s worth the effort in order to not only help these poor animals, but also save our oceans and land from becoming contaminated by plastics.

Once you’ve done this, simply package them up, and send them to:

The New Arc Nether Auquhadlie Auchnagatt Ellon Aberdeenshire AB41 8UW

Who knew it was as easy as that to make a difference?


Origins was one of the first creators of programs for recycling cosmetic packaging. This was all the way back in 2009, way before the panic about our oceans set in all over the world— you may otherwise know this “panic” as the Blue Planet effect. Origins take used packaging from all companies, whether that be drugstore or high-end brands. Instead of up-cycling these materials like the other companies, they actually use the materials from the packaging to host their own cosmetic items. So, their own makeup packaging is made from 50% of the recycled consumer goods. Ideal!


TerraCycle is a huge initiative, with drop-off points dotted all over the UK. You may have even passed one without even realising! These drop-off points are places to recycle all your old packaging, and not just beauty packaging. We’ve seen already how most generic recycling centres won’t always take every item and much of it will end up in landfill. With TerraCycle, you can rest assured that whatever you choose to recycle with them, from coffee cups to lab waste, they’ve got you covered.


Would you believe that one of the largest makeup brands in the world is getting on board with recycling? In their “Back to MAC” scheme, they’ll take up to six empty MAC containers at a time to be recycled into new products! Not bad, eh?

Other Ways to Recycle Your Makeup Products

It’s not just companies who can make use of your old makeup products. In fact, you can take initiative on your own and find new ways to up-cycle your old cosmetic packaging. Let’s take a look…

Decorative Pots

Skincare is a massive element of many people’s everyday routine, but these pots are made of all sorts of materials, making them difficult to recycle. That said, a lot of them are usually pretty sturdy, and even aesthetically pleasing. Why not upcycle these pots, using them as trinket dishes, plant pots, or even tea-bag holders?

Pet Groomers

We’ve seen how The New Arc use recycled makeup wands to soothe frightened animals and clean their fur or feathers. Well, why not give this a go yourself at home? All animals can benefit from a brush of their fur here and there, so why not give it a try?

Makeup Containers

These days, people are experimenting with not just new ways to recycle their packaging, but new ways to eliminate packaging altogether. A recent video on Buzzfeed showed three women attempting to make their own makeup using natural ingredients, like honey and cocoa powder. Perhaps, if you’re feeling really nifty, you could attempt making your own products at home. This way, you can use old makeup containers to host your home-made goodies.

As you can see, there really is no end to the innovative ways you can get rid of your old cosmetic packaging. In an ideal world we would all just stop using this packaging altogether, but today’s society makes it extremely difficult to get on board. Before the big companies make any changes to the packaging they use, we have to take initiative ourselves. It can sometimes begin with the little man, but we just have to know where to begin. Hopefully, this article has provided you with that small stepping stone to get the ball rolling. Good luck!

You can keep up to date with Joanna’s work on her blog, itstartedwithrebecca.wordpress.com, or follow @itstartedwithrebecca on Instagram, and @iswrebecca on Twitter.

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