A Canadian Guide To Recycling Your Beauty Products

by - Wednesday, June 28, 2023

When it comes to beauty products, recycling your empties isn't always as easy as it should be. Where I live black plastic isn't allowed, neither are refill pouches. I have no clue what happens to pumps or sprays. All of this has lead me to recycling most of my beauty, body care and hair care empties at stores that have their own recycling programs. They all differ though and allow different things.  It is a confusing mess, which is why I am doing this post. I am going to show you where you can go in Canada to recycle your beauty products. Who does it, what they take and what to expect.

First off, there are two companies that offer recycling services for the stores, Terracycle and Pact. Even with that, they all have very different restrictions and requirements for recycling. So, let us take a look at what each retailer accepts and doesn't.

L'Occitane En Provence
L'Occitane is one of the first retailers in Canada to offer a recycling program. They pretty much take any product type that they would sell (although from any brand). Since they don't sell cosmetics, other then lip balm sticks, you are out of luck at their stores. You'll also get 10% off one product purchased the same day as your recycling drop offs (great perk). Items do not need to be clean, but they do need to be dry.

Items accepted for recycling:
    • Beauty packaging such as lip balm tubes, makeup remover bottles and pumps, fragrances bottles and pumps, and deodorant sticks.
    • Skin care packaging such as face mask packaging, refill pouches, and dispensers and tubes for soap, facial cleansers and body lotions.
    • Hair care packaging such as pumps and caps from shampoo and conditioner bottles, hair care dispensers and containers, hair product trigger heads, and refill pouches.
    I personally recycle my hand soap refill pouches (I do not know where else to recycle those) and any shampoo or body wash packaging that is black. They also seem to be the only place to take glass fragrance bottles, so my old perfumes go there too. 

    To learn a bit more and to find a L'occitane that offers recycling here is the link to their Terracycle page.

    Hudson's Bay
    Hudson's Bay aka The Bay, North America's oldest retailer has a pretty great program offered through Pact. You can drop off almost any cosmetic product or skin care, from any brand with some conditions. The skin care or other products have to be under 60 ml in size. Which eliminates almost all body and hair care packaging that is not travel size. You can give them pumps, caps, lip glosses, mascaras, etc. You will also get  1000 Hudson Bay Reward points for every 5 items you bring in.

    Items accepted for recycling:
    • Mascara tubes • Lip product tubes • Makeup pencils, sticks & caps • Foundation/concealer tubes, bottles & jars • Foundation pumps & caps • Compacts & palettes • Bottles, tubes, dispensers & plastic jars less than 60 mL • Dropper tops • Extruded glass, like small sample vials • Body wash & lotion dispenser pumps • Shampoo & conditioner caps & pumps • Travel-size hair styling bottles, tubes & caps • Fragrance bottles
    Items not accepted for recycling:
    • Aluminum tubes • Toothpaste tubes & toothbrushes • Nail polish & nail polish remover • Beauty sponges • Aerosol cans
    • Hair & skin care tools
    I have dropped a bunch of old makeup there, lots of mascaras and lip gloss tubes.

    You can use their location finder and see a bit more information on right here.
    L'oreal Paris / Recycling in Beauty
    L'oreal Paris launched a recycling program at London Drugs, Jean Coutu and Walmart locations though Terracycle. Since I live in Ontario, Walmart is my only option. They take both cosmetics and skin care products. Products do not need to be cleaned, which is pretty fantastic (they do ask you try to remove as much product as possible).

    Items accepted for recycling:
    • Plastic and glass tubes, pots, pumps, sprays, and jars
    • Lipstick, lip balm, and lip gloss tubes, cases, and caps
    • Mascara tubes
    • Eyeliner pencils and cases
    • Eyeshadow and bronzer cases
    • Foundation packaging
    • Powder cases
    • Eyeshadow and concealer tubes and sticks
    Items not accepted for recycling:
    • Perfume, nail polish bottles, nail polish remover bottles, pressurized canisters (including aerosol cans), organics, broken glass, bio-medical waste, diapers, medication, sharps (including razors), and electronic devices.
    I generally take my skin care empties and things like foundation bottles to Walmart for recycling. I had a hard time finding the box the first time I went, but once I learned it was by the customer service, I had no issue finding it at any other Walmarts since.

    There Terracyle site has more info on where you can find a L'oreal recycling location, click here to see more.

    UPDATE: This is my second update this year. Back in January I noticed my Walmart no longer had the bins and was met with a bit of hostility when I asked about it. I then emailed back and forth with Terracyle and after months, they had no real answer either. During this time any links to recycling on the Walmart site went to 404 pages. So, it didn't look hopeful.

    This past week at a very different Walmart I took a peek at the Customer Service area and did see the bin, undernethie a bunch of boxes. So, I am going with, some stores have it, some do not. 

    Also, the Walmart site now has new info on the recycling, but still lists every store, including ones that do not have the bins on their locators.

    Holt Renfrew x Terracycle
    Holt Renfew is an upscale department store that has an extensive beauty department. Their recycling department is run though Terracycle. They take all brands, most products that local recycling will not and the products don't have to be cleaned out first. 

    Items accepted for recycling:
    • Beauty product packaging including compacts, concealer sticks & tubes, eyeliner & lip pencils, foundation bottles & tubes, lipsticks & balms, and mascara.
    Items not accepted for recycling:
    • Sharp and flammable items, aerosol cans, fragrance bottles, nail polish bottles, and nail polish remover bottles.
    I have brought my empty makeup containers to the store, If you want to see more about the program or a store locator, you can find it on the program's Terracycle page here.
    Winners Beauty Collection Program
    Winners has added a boxes to their beauty areas. Their program is run through Pact. It is very similar to Hudson's Bays, as they only take items 60 ml and smaller. There are some other differences, such as they take makeup palettes and metal tubes. Items must be empty, clean and dry before drop off.

    Items accepted for recycling:
    • Containers
      • Plastic bottles and jars smaller than 60 ml.
      • Ceramic and porcelain jars
      • Coloured glass bottles and jars
      • Compacts and palettes
    • Tubes
      • Plastic and aluminum squeezable tubes (including toothpaste)
      • Mascara tubes and wands
      • Lipstick and lip gloss tubes and applicators
    • Other
      • Caps and closures
      • Pumps and dispensers
      • Droppers and applicators
      • Makeup pencils, sticks and caps
    Items not accepted for recycling:
    • Containers
      • Plastic bottles and jars larger than 60 ml.
      • Clear or frosted glass bottles and jars
      • Stainless steel or aluminum bottles and jars
      • Cardboard and paper
      • Aerosol cans
      • Plastic bags and wrappers
    • Other
      • Beauty sponges and brushes
      • Nail polish and nail polish remover
      • Hair and skincare tools
      • Toothbrushes
    I haven't taken anything to one of these yet, because I've only seen it once. I thought my Marshall's would have it, but learned it is only for Winners locations. 

    The program is at select Winners only, and the website doesn't show you which ones, but you can learn more on the Winners' website here.

    The Ordinary / Deciem
    Ok, so this is an odd one. The Ordinary / Deciem stores have these boxes in them for recycling, but absolutely no information at on them. Not what they take, what they don't, not who runs it. I read something about it a few years back and now cant find it at all. The more sleuthing I do, the more it  seems like they were working with Terracycle, and that partnership is now over. 

    The below Instagram post is all I can find on it now. I am assuming, you can bring back any of their product packaging to the store.
    Sephora + Pact
    Sephora is the latest store to enter the recycling game and they're doing it with Pact. There are a lot of items they take, and a lot they do not. Items have to be cleaned out to be recycled here. They also have to be less then 2 x 2 inches in size, which man that is small if you are taking palettes.

    Items accepted for recycling:
    • Must be 2x2 inches or smaller.
    • Plastic
      • Small Tubes, Bottles, Jars, Caps
      • Lipstick, Lip Gloss, and Mascara Tubes, Wands, and Applicators
      • Eyeliner, Brow, and Lip Pencils -Pumps, Dispensers
    • Coloured Glass
      • Small Bottles, Jars
    • Mixed Materials
      • Palettes, Compacts, Pumps
      • Dental Floss Containers
      • Toothpaste Tubes
    Items not accepted for recycling:

    • Items accepted through your local curbside recycling program, which may include: plastic packaging larger than 2x2 inches, clear or frosted glass bottles and jars, and more.

    I haven't taken anything back yet, I actually had a hard time finding the box, it was behind the online order pickup stand.

    There is a much larger list of details on both the Sephora and Pact sites. You read them here and here. If you are still confused (as I was) there is a guide that will help you sort out if Sephora will take it back. See it here.

    We've come a long way in just a few years. We may have lost programs like The Body Shop and Mac, but gained so many more. I did my best to understand everything every companies websites and boxes have said. They may have changed. I personally have struggled to clean out my containers. I had a sunscreen completely clog up my sink when I tried to wash it out.

    Terracycle has a lot of other programs that are run through the mail, such as Gillette, Burt's Bees, Wellda and Living Proof. I recommend you taking a look and see if a program fits your lifestyle. I'm personally rounding up old razor blades and razor handles to send back for recycling.

    I hope this post helped you sort out what to do with your empties. I am pretty much always brining things in for recycling now, I just don't trust things like pumps and sprays will get dealt with properly otherwise.

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