The Beauty Industry Has A Plastic Problem — So I Tried A Zero-Waste Routine

edited by Laura Conte; appearance by Lauren Singer; produced by Meghal Janardan; appearance by Mi-Anne Chan.
Beauty with Mi, hosted by Refinery29's beauty writer Mi-Anne Chan, explores the coolest new trends, treatments, products, and subcultures in the beauty world. Never miss an episode by subscribing here.
The beauty industry has a huge waste problem. In fact, your pumps, pipettes, and toothpaste tubes will likely still be sitting in some landfill in 2519, because plastic takes hundreds of years to degrade. It's a harrowing statistic, especially when you think about just how plastic-dependent the cosmetics, skin-care, and hair-care industries are.
In 2018, I started making steps to minimize my footprint by reducing my use of single-use disposable products (like straws and plastic bags), recycling my film plastics (thanks to New York's Plastic Bag and Film Plastic Reduction Act), and composting my food scraps (fun fact: The United States wastes more than $160 billion of food a year). But in 2019, I decided to educate myself about waste in the area I love most: beauty.
Recycling isn't the answer, especially considering that 91% of plastics aren't recycled at all. For some, one solution is minimizing the amount of waste we produce individually. This has become known as the "zero waste movement."
Living a zero-waste lifestyle means you're sending nothing to the local landfill by composting, reusing, recycling, and upcycling your products. If it seems like a daunting task, that's because it is — especially since most industries aren't set up for sustainable living. But living low impact is feasible. This month I constructed my very own low-waste beauty routine with the help of Lauren Singer, "zero waster" and founder of Package Free. Check out the video above to find out more.
Unwrapped Life The Hydrator Shampoo & Conditioner, $35, available at Unwrapped Life; Lush Naked Cleansing Balm, $5.95, available at Lush; Marleys Monsters Cotton Cloth Wipes, $14, available at Package Free; Meow Meow Tweet Juniper Carrot Seed Oil, $22, available at Package Free; Meow Meow Tweet Cedar Spruce Deodorant Stick, $22, available at Package Free; All Good Zinc Sunscreen Butter, $9.99, available at Target; RMS Beauty Un Cover-Up, $36, available at Sephora; Kjaer Weis Cream Blush, $56, available at Kjaer Weis; Elate Cosmetics Illuminate + Contour Kit, $56, available at Elate Cosmetics; Surratt Auto-Graphique Eyeline, $42, available at Sephora; Axiology Natural Lipstick, $30, available at Axiology.
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