Cosmetics companies who refill and recycle

Filed in by on July 4, 2008 36 Comments

LUSH unwrapped soaps

In this article, we spoke about the amount of non recyclable plastic packaging many toiletries and cosmetics companies use. This means that you, the consumer, are left with the task of putting this into the landfill.

Fortunately, there are some companies that are aware of the impact their packaging can have on the environment. I’ve been talking to some of them and have rounded up some of the best.


Elin, from the aptly named “Nothing Nasty” takes her environmental issues very seriously. Elin uses recyclable and reusable bottles, minimal and degradable packaging.

She sells a range of hand crafted products such as castile soap shampoo, moisturisers, shaving oil and lipbalm.

All of her products come in beautiful glass bottles, which are, of course reusable or fully recyclable.

Her little known secret, however, is that if you return your bottles to her, you can have a refill with a massive 20% discount.

We’ve managed to secure a discount from Elin for all you lovely readers, later this month. So keep checking back to the site to take advantage of owning some luxurious products soon.


I spent ages on the phone to a representative from LUSH He told me all sorts of exciting news about their products and packaging.

LUSH employ an Inspirational Environmental Officer who takes her environmental knowledge to the company in order to make sure they are doing all they can for the environment.


First up, you can buy slices of soap instore. These have no packaging so you can take your own containers or bags if you wish. If you opt for wrapped soap, the plastic LUSH use to wrap their products is biodegradable plastic which can be safely put into your home compost system.


In addition you can buy solid shampoo bars. Again, they come unwrapped, in recycled paper or you can buy a recycled aluminium tin to store yours in. Just one 55g bar is equivalent to three 250ml bottles of liquid shampoo. So you’re saving money and lots of plastic from going into the landfill – doesn’t that feel good!


For men, LUSH offer shaving cream in their black recyclable plastic packaging.


For deodorant you have two choices; powders and solid products. Based on bicarbonate of soda which absorbs moisture and neutralises odours, these products are effective and safe. The powders come in their infamous black, recyclable packaging and bars are sold loose.

Mail order Packaging

If you do not have a LUSH store near you, then they offer a mail order service. Goods arrive in recycled cardboard boxes, wrapped with string and are packed with popcorn which you can put out for the birds or compost. You can request that your products are not wrapped in plastic and that they use recycled paper bags instead when you place your order.


Any LUSH products that come in clear plastic bottles can be recycled with drinking bottles at your local recycling facility (or kerbside collection if you’re lucky enough to have one). Their black tubs can be returned to the store where their very own black plastic recycling machine will munch its way through the tubs and bottles to remould them.

Any tops and caps from bottles can be returned to the store where staff will happily reuse them.


I spoke to a lovely lady at Neals Yard who told me lots of juicy information. Firstly, many of their products are sold in glass bottles which can be returned to their stores for recycling. As thanks for this, you get 10p off your next purchase for every glass bottle you take back.

If you can’t get back to the store you can recycle these bottles with the brown glass bottles at some local recycling facilities The products that come in plastic bottles are fully recyclable. They are made from PETG which can be put in with plastic bottles recycling at your nearest recycling centre. Alternatively, you can take them back to your nearest Neals Yard store and claim your 10p off your next purchase.

If you order by mail order, the packing material is plant based and fully compostable instead of polystyrene.

Neals Yard are currently working with a packaging technologist who will be helping them to further increase their recycling.


Pitrok sell the original crystal deodorant stone that comes in minimal packaging – just a recycled cardboard box that can be reused or recycled. I’ve used one of these and they last forever and a day. They are surprisingly effective.


This week in Lidls we saw a pure olive oil soap that came in a cardboard box whereas other brands come shrink wrapped in plastic. Take a look around your local chemist or supermarket to see what is available. You never know what you are going to find where.

Let us know if you spot anything good so that other readers can share in your knowledge!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (36)

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  1. Kris says:

    I’ve ordered two sorts of soap from Elin which is going into service as soon as the current soap is used up. So all I can tell you thus far is they smell gorgeous and service and packaging was great :o) It may be some time off but I’m very pleased about the refilling service too.

  2. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Kris,
    Glad to see you are taking advantage of Elin’s wonderful products. Her service is wonderful and I’m delighted to hear they smell great. Do let us know how you get on and how you find the products. Feel free to send me a review for sharing on the site πŸ˜‰

  3. tina jaworski says:

    I am looking for a makeup company who will at least look at my idea, that will help with the problem of all the old makeup bottles and compacts that are being thrown into your landfills everyday. I am a mother of 2 with a patented idea, but it is hard when you don’t know who to talk to. The makeup world needs to catch up to with the green living concept. Any help I would appreciate it. thank you
    Tina Jaworski

  4. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Tina,
    Great to see you here; welcome to our site. I’m afraid I wouldn’t know the first thing for you to do. I’m not a business person.
    Would a business forum be a better place to ask perhaps? Maybe someone else will come along after reading your question and be able to help you.
    Good luck though; it sounds a great project. Anything that helps keep the landfill clear gets our vote.

  5. We should really support these companies that give importance to recycling. I am a supporter of Lush since it opened.

  6. Mrs Green says:

    che, welcome! I’m glad you are enjoying your LUSH products. Do you have a favourite?

  7. Estela says:

    NATURA is the name of a Brazilian brand who produces cosmetics with natural ingredients, like andiroba, pitanga, passion fruit and mate.
    The NATURA EKOS line and many others are available in reusable bottles and refills.
    They are found in Brazil, some Latin American countries and France.

  8. Mrs Green says:

    Thank you Estela and welcome to the site πŸ™‚ I’m glad there is a good company who take care of the environment for the areas of the globe you mention.

  9. Hi Mrs Green,

    Lush is my most convenient source of Zero Waste toiletries, deoderant and shampoo soap bars taken in containers. For shaving retro is the choice with shaving stick and brush, a combination I last used about 30 years ago. This avoids 2 aerosols with with plastic caps and 1 plastic shampoo bottle.

    I have used 1 deodorant bar for about 2 months with a good bit left. Probably 4-5 large aerosol sprays would have been used in the same period. Pricing is about the same but Zero Waste is a clincher for the Lush product.


  10. Mrs Green says:

    Hi John,
    It sounds as if your zero waste beauty routine is working a treat πŸ™‚ It’s great to get your feedback after using the products for a couple of months. If I remember rightly, you sourced some of these alternative during the zero waste week….

  11. Hi Mrs Green,

    That is correct. I had known about Lush beforehand as a female boudoir sort of place. It remains a women-friendly shop but it does cater for everybody. Breaking my aerosol use has been a big plus. The worst bit of aerosol recycling is the chemical waste issue. Best avoided.

    The toothpaste problem, having just finished another plastic tube, could be resolved at Lush also and my intention is to discuss that on the next visit. The best option might be dry or thick paste types. It must be worth their while to develop an alternative.


  12. Mr. Green says:

    Hi John, I used to use Eucryl toothpaste once and as I recall it came in a small round metal tin. We are also looking into making our own with household items like bicarb of soda and essential oils

  13. Mrs Green says:

    I’ve just heard that a friend of mine uses almond oil with peppermint and spearmint oil – that’s it. A couple of drops on her toothbrush and away she goes…………

  14. Hi Mr & Mrs Green,

    Those are good alternatives. My idea is to provide nationwide examples as convenient as anything now used by consumers. Lush is in the forefront of change and could give us this type of alternative.

    Zero Waste alternatives should have as broad a range of products as possible with easy access to consumers nationwide. Reusable/refillable systems are part of this trend and may be the best way for commodities. In the USA bulk purchases seem to be used a lot. This could be a factor here as well.

    There has been a lot of welcome change and we should push all the harder to achieve more.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    John, I agree that convenience is the key and most people are not happy to use things like bicarb or oil to clean their teeth with. I saw a tooth soap once, but I don’t remember where that was now.
    But I guess when the market is a minority there is not the incentive for manufacturer’s to provide us with products. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation.
    There are three co-ops I know of where you can bulk buy, but it’s over two hundred pounds worth of stuff for each. that’s good if you have several families chipping in and lots of storage space.

  16. Mrs Green,

    The toothpaste industry is in a strong position but when a suitable alternative is found they will feel the ground shifting under their feet. The point of Zero Waste alternatives is to break their hold on the system. They can do nothing when these new products arise, except join-in. There have been plenty of changes since I started in March and there will be plenty more examples to come.

    Bulk buying seems expensive but I will look into local possibilities. This is one area, commodities, which would be great to crack.

    I am dealing with Anna’s estate and found some great old stuff. A Wartime switchblade razor (no plastic), an old brown glass Nescafe jar with tin lid (a great choice for 1 Jar 1 Lid) and a cast-iron shoe maker (choose your own natural materials).

  17. Hi guys – A while ago I switched to Aquafresh toothpaste, which comes in an aluminium can that I can drop down to our local recycling centre. It lasts ages too, partly because it’s easier to dispense smaller amounts, just the amount you need, which is a good job because it is a little more expensive than others. I’ll do an online search later and add a link to my blog so you can see the one I mean. I cane across a company that sells old style products too. I forgot to bookmark it, but I need to find it so I’ll add that one too. Good to see you back John, hope everything’s going well with Anna’s estate. Some amazing stuff there. πŸ˜€ x

  18. Found it – made a note of the company in my notes – rather old fashioned I know. Anyway it’s the Carbolic Soap company – It’s a real nostalgic experience. πŸ˜€

  19. Hi Mrs A,

    The link is worth investigating for Zero Waste toothpaste and shaving soap. Ideally there should be no plastic in the products or postal packaging. At Lush, home containers can replace all packaging and so this is also a good contact.

    After the Zero Waste chocolate of Schogetten and part of Fin Carre brands at Lidls, the aim is now higher.

    I will be occupied with Anna’s affairs for a while yet. The old-style shaver is 100% Zero Waste, absolutely perfect.

    Have you come across any new developments in my weeks’ absence? How is your No-Spend November going?

  20. Mrs Green says:

    It sounds like you have unearthed some interesting things there, John. yes bulk buying requires an initial large financial outlay, which is why it’s better to hook up with other people to share the load. What I tend to do is focus on one thing each order – cleaning supplies one month, soya milk another and flour and baking goods another. We used to have the Robert Opie collection in a museum near us. I was fascinated by all the old packaging as a child and of course, not much of it was plastic πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the fabby site, Mrs A – I could get lost in there happily browsing all the ‘old style’ goodies.

  21. Hi Mrs Green,

    At Lush today, avoiding aerosols, plastic bottles and caps, purchases were 1 deodorant bar and 2 shampoo bars. Home containers were used at Lush and at Whittard, where Colombian beans were bought.

    At Sainsbury, purchases were loose fruit and veg and tub marg for baking. I discussed bulk purchases of commodities with the customer advisors. Hopefully this will be considered to aid further Zero Waste purchases.

  22. Sopi Lavender says:

    Heya (:
    I’m A 16 Year Old Art Student Working On A Final Piece, Our Topic Is Recycling. I Have Chosen To Explore The Recycling Of Make Up And This Is The First Article I Have Actually Found Where Someone Has Taken Enough Time To Go Around And Look Out For Companies That Do Recyclig Their Wastes.

    I Was Just Wondering If You had Any Idea If Bigger Named Brands Recycled Anything At All. Maxfactor Rimmel Clinique.. Anything Along Those Lines Would Be Really Useful For Me.

    Thanks (:

    Sopi x x x x

  23. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Sopi, welcome to the site. I’m glad you found the article useful. I have no idea about the companies you ask about, I’m afraid. I would think your best bet would be to visit a department store and go around the various counters, asking about their packaging / recycling policies.
    The nearest thing I know about is refills for things like powders……..
    Good luck with your project and I think it’s a great topic!

  24. Jackie says:

    Hi Sopi

    Mac Cosmetics collect back in all your empty containers and if you give them 6 (I think) back you get a free lippy

  25. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Jackie, thank you for the heads up on Mac; I’m sure some of our readers will find that very helpful πŸ™‚

  26. PanD'ora says:

    greetings all, i have been trying to put together an eco range of body lotions & bath products that have not only zero waste packaging BUT also natural sls free/paraben free. AND i have not yet found the perfect packaging solutions. ANYONE out there have contacts for zero waste packaging that has flower seeds in cardboard or paper to wrap soaps? AND SEEDED cellophane bags for bath fizzers/bombs melts etc??
    thanks a lot
    [email protected]

  27. Mrs Green says:

    @PanD’ora: Hello PanD’ora; welcome to the site. I’m not sure about the type of company you are looking for. I know that EcoHip sell plantable cards and there are a few retailers selling soap in plantable packaging, so perhaps you could contact them and ask where they source it from? Do let us know if you find anything and good luck with your business; your products sound lovely. It’s hard to find one that ticks all the boxes in terms of – skin and environment friendly PLUS is in decent packaging.

  28. fransii says:

    love this page!!!!

  29. Sidra says:

    @tina jaworski:

    M.A.C. Cosmetics ( accepts back any of their empty containers, lipsticks, etc. If you return 6 empty containers at once, you get a free eye shadow, lipglass, or mascara I believe. The containers are recycled and used in the store to create their advertisement, any plastic signs, etc.

    The M.A.C. counters in Nordstrom stores also take part in the recycling program.

  30. Mrs Green says:

    @Sidra: Hi Sidra, welcome to the site and thank you for sharing about MAC. That’s good news and will help to encourage consumers to support their brand

  31. Paris Parsa says:

    I also have a hard time with cosmetics. It is pretty hard to go Zero Waste there. My best bet is to use regular household items as much as i can. Lemon juice for skin brightner, Apple cider vinegar for acne problem( Yes at 40 I still have it) , Baking Soda for exfoliating …
    Unfortunately, because of my job( Dentist), I always had to wear mask and loops( glasses). So i have to use waterproof makeup otherwise there will be a big mess. There is no green way or product to replace the waterproof ones.

  32. Mrs Green says:

    @Paris Parsa: Thanks for sharing your ideas Paris; acne at 40 – well you must be young at heart I reckon! Love using baking soda as an exfoliator; another favourite here is yogurt and oats; you don’t need moisturiser afterwards, though if you do – a drop of olive oil does the trick!

  33. Jez Cox says:

    Interesting info. There is still not a lot of info about the cosmetics themselves being recycled. What about that old blusher that has been forgotten, or that old lipstick? Can they be taken somewhere and actually be taken care of without going to landfill. I mean the blusher or lipstick, NOT the container? My wife and daughter pass everything on to me for recycling, which is fine by me, as long as I can sort them out to go to the relevant places for recycling. Can anyone help? I also don’t want to RINSE THEM OUT as this gets the cosmetics into the water stream so is just as bad. My daughter has also recently introduced me to the delights of Lush. They have the problem solved. ALL Lush old products i.e. the cosmetics, NOT the containers (seperate issue), according to Lush, are fully compostable being made of totally organic ingredients. I hope they are right. The worms are currently getting their jaws into some lovely old Lush soap and eye moisturiser! Cheers, Jez

  34. Laura says:

    Love the conversations here! There is a new company called BlackBox Cosmetics that has refillable skincare products. The refills are at a discount and the inserts are recyclable. Plus they are natural, toxin-free so it’s a win-win!

  35. LizBlair says:

    I purchase Almond shower oil from L’Occitiane – you can take the empty plastic bottle with you to the store and they will refill it for you- reusing the plastic bottle.

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