Return To Origins Recycling Program

Img_recprogram As someone who ends up with a lot of empty cosmetic compacts, or skincare jars, I am always wondering how to dispose of my cosmetic garbage. It is said that cosmetic packaging accounts for more than one-fourth of the trash in landfills, and I for sure don’t want to be a contributor to this number. Throwing your cosmetics in the recycling bin doesn’t solve this problem either.

Most packing is made with hard to recycle plastics that do not meet the normal recycling requirements. That is why I was excited and blown away when I found out the Origins created a program called Return to Origins. This generous program allows you to bring in all of your empty products into their stores (any and all brands accepted!) and they will find the proper recycling facility for your products. They take care of hard to recycle packaging and cut out the middle man. As a bonus, for every donation Origins will offer you a free sample of your choice.  Brilliant. 

Here are the FAQs:

"In an industry first, Origins will accept packaging from any cosmetic company regardless of the manufacturer. We believe that the more we collect from consumers, the more we can keep cosmetic packaging out of landfills. And we hope this program will encourage other companies into following our example."

  • Women confess to having about on average 12 products in their vanities, (according to an April 2008 survey commissioned by O.B. Tampons).
  • With 112,804,773 women over 20 living in the U.S.**, that’s a lot of packaging! Unfortunately, according to the EPA, approximately 1/3 of landfill waste is made up of this type of packaging.
  • Cosmetic packaging may never find a home in curb side recycling, but we have an opportunity to find new uses for packaging that may otherwise end up in a landfill.
  • Origins will accept primary cosmetic packaging - regardless of brand - and recycle them for you or use them for energy recovery.
  • The Return to Origins Recycling Program will accept only empty cosmetic primary packaging.
  • Primary packaging is the packaging that protects the actual product (glass and plastic jars, bottles, tubes, caps, lipstick covers). The following are not accepted as part of the recycling program:
  • Secondary packaging of any sort including paper boxes, plastic or cellophane wrappers, shopping bags, etc.
  • Samples containers, special/trial size products from promotional kits
  • Cosmetic applicators or tools such as disposables, puffs, sponges, scissors, spatulas, swabs, sharpeners, tweezers and curlers
  • Makeup accessory items including bags, belts, makeup cases, etc.
  • Packaging will be sent to a consolidation operation. Bottles, jars, caps and tubes will be separated and, where appropriate, will be sent to recyclers who will grind, wash and re-palletize the plastic or glass resin for use in new items, such as bottles, jars, closures, paint cans and park benches. 
  • Waste to Energy facilities generate electricity and/or steam from waste by feeding mixed municipal waste into large furnaces dedicated solely to burning trash and producing power. These facilities perfected the science of converting trash to steam and electricity, while strictly controlling emissions.
  • Recyclers can only accept those items made from materials that are easily recognizable such as PET (soda and water bottles) or HDPE (milk or detergent bottles).
  •  Most community recycling guidelines don’t include cosmetic closures (such as compacts or lipstick cases) because they do not readily recognize the materials they are made from.
  • For sanitary reasons, recycling companies require that all containers offered for recycling are completely clean and free of product residue such as creams and lotions. This also ensures that any debris is removed to avoid contaminating the recycling process.

*Another great recycling program is Back To MAC. Bring six of your empty or used MAC products (all plastic) back to the store and they will give you one free lipstick, lipgloss, or eyeshadow. Love that!


  1. love this post. thanks for the info! (Now, if only Sephora recycled and gave out freebies…)

  2. Seriously! Sephora needs to do this. :)

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