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Nordstrom Launches BeautyCycle to Drive Consumer Cosmetic Packaging Recycling

It’s so easy to simply throw out your compact or lipstick tube when there’s no more left, but now is the time to make eco-consciousness a part of your beauty routine. It’s traditionally been difficult to find eco-friendly packaging or recycling in cosmetics, particularly high-end products. But department store giant Nordstrom is changing that with the launch of BeautyCycle, a new in-store beauty packaging recycling program designed to set a gold standard for other stores to follow suit. Nordstrom is the first major retailer to offer a recycling program for all beauty products. No matter where you bought your cosmetics, and regardless of brand, you can now recycle the packaging with BeautyCycle.

The store wants consumers to feel good about their purchase – and build consumer awareness for those who have not thought of cosmetic packaging as an issue. Nordstrom and its family of brands wants to be a good corporate citizen, and hopes that BeautyCycle will drive foot traffic into their locations, where it’s easy to replace any and all empty cosmetic items.

For this initiative, the retailer partnered with TerraCycle, becoming the first beauty take-back and recycling program accepting all brands of beauty packaging at a major retailer. The process is easy: customers can simply bring their empty beauty products to any Nordstrom beauty department and place them in the recycle boxes.

Each year, the beauty industry produces more than 120 billion units of plastic packaging, but less than two percent of that packaging is recycled. According to Nordstrom, many municipal recycling centers do not accept beauty materials and packaging, as they often contain a mix of materials that are not locally recyclable. The United Nations estimates that we produce 300 million tons of plastic trash every year and beauty packaging is largely to blame thanks to pumps, mirrored compacts, and caps that can’t be processed by traditional curbside recycling programs.  With BeautyCycle, Nordstrom plans to take back at least 100 tons of hard-to-recycle beauty packaging by 2025 to ensure it’s recycled and put to good use. To make good on this 200,000-pound promise, BeautyCycle will be available in 94 department store locations

When you drop your used cosmetics in the BeautyCycle recycle box at Nordstrom, Nordstrom sends the contents of the boxes to TerraCycle where they are cleaned and separated into metals, glass and plastics. Those materials are then recycled based on the material composition. For example, plastics are recycled into a wide range of new products including park benches and picnic tables, while metals are reused as base materials for items such as bolts, washers and rings.

Perhaps most importantly, Nordstrom doesn’t care where you originally bought the product. You can drop off empty cosmetic, skin care and haircare packaging regardless of brand or purchase location. Accepted items include lip balm and gloss tubes, hair spray bottles, hair gel tubes, shampoo and conditioner bottles, lotion tubes and dispensers, mascara tubes, eye liner pencils and cases, eyeshadow containers and tubes and concealers tubes and sticks. There are a few items BeautyCycle does not accept – including aerosol cans, perfume bottles, nail polish and nail polish remover – so make sure to leave those out of your drop-off.

Nordstrom is quickly becoming an industry leader in sustainability. In addition to the recycling commitment, the company’s 2025 environmental sustainability goals include setting a science-based target to significantly reduce its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, decreasing its single-use plastic by half, and ensuring that at least 15 percent of all its products are sustainable. The retailer also aims to extend clothing life and make financial commitments of more than $1 million to additional recycling innovation worldwide.

There are a handful of other cosmetics recycling programs available, mostly by brand. To find out more, check out MAC cosmetics’ and Kiehl’s long-standing recycle rewards programs. Brands like Fenty Beauty, Le Labo and L’Occitane also offer refillable services at discounted prices so you can refill with less waste. Nordstrom’s BeautyCycle hopes to build on those companies’ work to make it second nature to recycle your cosmetics regardless of the brand.

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