Ladies, we all have that drawer in our bathroom — the one overflowing with unused, half-used, and basically empty beauty products. No? Just us? Well, even if you’ve mastered that life-changing art of tidying up and never fall prey to clutter, you still get to the bottom of those bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and reach that frustrating end of your favorite blush or lipstick. If you’ve been sending those containers straight to the landfill (an astonishing one-third of landfill waste is made up of personal care and beauty products), step away from the trash can! There are women in need who could seriously benefit from your unused and gently used products, and there are super easy ways to recycle those empty containers.
To donate unused and gently used products:
Dress for Success
How do you nail an interview? It all starts with confidence, but sometimes that can be challenging if you don’t feel good about the way you look. That’s where Dress for Success comes in. Since launching in 1997, Dress for Success has helped over 1 million women by providing them with professional-looking clothing and beauty products to help them gain confidence for job interviews that will help them become financially independent.
Dress for Success accepts unused, unopened beauty products, as well as women’s professional attire and shoes. Visit the website for more information on what to donate.
Beauty Bus Foundation
The Beauty Bus Foundation provides in-home beauty treatment to men, women, and children whose terminal illness prevents them from accessing a salon or spa. Beauty Bus uses your donated unused and new beauty products in their “Beauty Bags,” which are given to patients around the U.S. The foundation accepts blushes, mascara, nail polish, hair dryers, straighteners, and more. To learn more about how and what to donate to the Beauty Bus Foundation, visit beautybus.org.
Project Beauty Share
Project Beauty Share collects personal hygiene, cosmetics, and beauty products and distributes them to more than a dozen nonprofit organizations that help women and families who suffer from abuse, addiction, homelessness, and poverty. They focus on helping women rebuild their lives.
Unlike most other organizations that accept only unused or new beauty products, Project Beauty Share will accept some gently used makeup, clean makeup bags, and shampoo and conditioner that is more than halfway full. For the full list of accepted products, visit projectbeautyshare.org.
Donate to Local Women’s Shelters in Chicago
If you would like to help women in your community, local women’s shelters are always in need of beauty and cosmetic supplies. Here are two such shelters. There is likely one near you that could use your supplies, wherever you are located.
Connections for Abused Women and their Children (CAWC)
CAWC’s mission is to end domestic violence and provide a safe place for victims of domestic violence. They offer shelter and counseling to women and children while also helping women start a new life. Many victims of domestic violence have lost everything, including essential personal care items. CAWC accepts donated unused self-care items, such as makeup and haircare products. For more information about their wish list, visit cawc.org.
Located in Chicago’s Uptown community, Sarah’s Circle is committed to helping women who face homelessness by offering case management and supportive counseling to help them get on track toward achieving their goals. Women who live in the shelter and the permanent supportive households lack the financial means to purchase self-care and beauty products. Many items are greatly needed, so please visit sarahs-circle.org for further details on donating.
To recycle empty beauty product containers:
Although the City of Chicago’s Blue Cart Program and its recycling drop-off centers do not accept makeup containers, as an alternative to recycling they recommend dropping them off at Origins stores downtown (111 N. State St.; 845 N. Michigan Ave. — see below for more information). Contact your local waste management authorities and recycling companies in your area to confirm what your own village or city accepts, as it often varies.
Return to Origins
In 2009, Origins was the first company in the beauty industry to create a recycling program for cosmetic products and packaging called Return to Origins. The program accepts a wide variety of items and packaging from all brands, “including any glass or plastic jars, bottles, tubes, lipstick covers and caps.” Locate any Origins store and they will be happy to take all your recycled cosmetic packaging, with the exception of paper boxes and plastic wrapping.
TerraCycle and Garnier
TerraCycle is a highly awarded recycling company that focuses on making new products out of recycled items. TerraCycle and popular hair product brand Garnier have teamed up to “provide a comprehensive solution to personal care and beauty packaging waste anywhere in the world.”
When you are done with a Garnier product, look for a TerraCycle logo on the bottle and send it back to Garnier and they will recycle or reuse the packaging. Also, for every piece of waste Garnier collects from you, they will donate two cents to a charity of your choice. That’s a win-win.
For every empty, full-sized Kiehl’s container you return to their store to recycle, you’ll be given one stamp. Once you have received 10 stamps, you are then rewarded with one travel-sized product. Although you can return empty deluxe samples and complimentary products to be recycled, only full-sized products earn a stamp. Start collecting!
MAC is another beauty brand that will recycle your empty containers and reward you for it. If you return six MAC primary packaging items online or at their store counters, you will receive a free lipstick of your choice.
Bird’s Nest Salon
The Bird’s Nest, located in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, is an eco-friendly salon that has a “product-refilling station where customers top off empty bottles of shampoo and conditioner.” The salon is dedicated to green living by creating an environment that is “toxic free.” They use organic product lines that will have the least impact on the ecosystem and have partnered with Green Circle Salons, “a recycling/repurposing program that ensures hair, foils, color tubes, plastics, papers and chemicals get diverted out of our waste and water stream.”
Your old mascara wands can help animals in need
Most organizations don’t accept opened or used mascara for sanitary reasons, but you can donate them to help animals in need! Donate your old mascara wands to the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge, a nonprofit that manages wildlife rehabilitation. The organization’s promotion, Wands for Wildlife, uses mascara wands as mini brushes because the bristles are great for removing unwanted bugs from animals’ fur.
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Avery Hansen recently graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas where she studied journalism and fashion media. During her time at SMU she was published in the school’s newspaper, The Daily Campus, as well as Beyond the Boulevard and HerCampus. When Avery is not writing, she is playing with her pug, Emmy, or cheering on the Blackhawks at the United Center. She is a proud supporter of PAWS Chicago.