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Shoppers Drug Mart, TerraCycle to recycle beauty product waste

Quo Beauty private line to be eligible for recycling, targeting difficult-to-recycle materials

A partnership between Shoppers Drug Mart and TerraCycle aims to provide a recycling option for beauty waste, which is a challenge for most recyclers. (Courtesy TerraCycle)

Shoppers Drug Mart Inc. has launched a recycling program for its private cosmetics line with Trenton, N.J.-headquartered TerraCycle, tackling a waste stream that is rarely accepted by curbside blue bin services.

Once the cosmetic is used, eligible parts from the company’s Quo Beauty products can be mailed to TerraCycle, which will play a part in the recycling and find a buyer for the reusable materials.

TerraCycle, a waste management company with an office in Toronto, focuses on recycling a range of materials not typically included in curbside recycling programs, according to its chief commercial officer Kathy Pazakis, who spoke to Sustainable Biz Canada.

“Beauty products for example, like Quo Beauty, are typically not recyclable because of their small size and because they’re made out of mixed materials,” she said. But TerraCycle “is motivated to recycle all of it, where someone who is a traditional recycler is not.”

The company has operated in Canada since 2009 and maintains recycling partnerships with over 40 brands and retailers such as Staples and Holt Renfrew.

How TerraCycle recycles cosmetic waste

TerraCycle establishes partnerships with brands and retailers who fund its recycling program. After using the products, consumers can ship the used packaging and container materials to TerraCycle by downloading a free shipping label and mailing the waste. It is then taken to a recovery facility in the country from which it originates.

In Canada, TerraCycle sends the waste to its Quebec site, Pazakis said.

A limited list of items allowed for recycling are: mascara tubes and wands; tubes for lipstick and lip balm; lip gloss tubes and wands; foundation packaging; and eyeliner pencils.

Nail polish bottles, nail polish remover bottles, makeup wipes and sponges, makeup brushes and pressurized canisters are not eligible.

At the recycling facility, the non-compliant waste is first sorted out of the stream. Next, the beauty product waste is shredded and the residual products like lipstick lingering on the containers are washed out.

Once the shredded materials are separated, they are divided by material type and shipped to TerraCycle’s third-party recycling processors that perform actions such as separating the plastics using air density separation or optical sorting; screening for glass; using magnets to find metal parts; and collecting aerosol containers.

TerraCycle looks for the most cost-efficient use for the recycled materials, Pazakis said. She declined to disclose the names of its partners that purchase the recycled materials, but said it could be reused for products such as metal sheeting, glass aggregate, industrial pigments, colourants and plastic lumber.

Shoppers Drug Mart's recycling initiative

Pazakis said Shoppers Drug Mart partnered with TerraCycle because it wanted to launch the first recycling program for a private cosmetics line. She did not have data on the projected impact of the recycling partnership.

Julie Dunham, a senior manager of external communications at Shoppers Drug Mart, told Sustainable Biz Canada in an email exchange the company will be receiving regular reporting from TerraCycle to monitor the impact of the recycling program.

"We are proud to partner with TerraCycle as the first major retailer to offer a recycling program for a private-label colour cosmetics line, offering more sustainable choices to Canadians and reducing our impact on the planet," Pat Dean, senior vice-president of category management at Shoppers Drug Mart, said in a release.

Dunham said Shoppers Drug Mart has identified the inability to recycle nail polish packaging as a problem. If there is a recyclable option for nail polish packaging, Shoppers Drug Mart will add it to the TerraCycle program, she added.

Outside of the TerraCycle recycling program, Quo Beauty launched over 500 products using packaging made from recycled plastics that also cuts virgin plastic content.

Additionally, Shoppers Drug Mart’s target is to adhere to the Golden Design Rules by 2025, which would require its brand packaging to be recyclable or reusable.

TerraCycle’s other Canadian recycling programs

Another beauty product partnership TerraCycle inked is with L’Oreal Canada and Walmart. Canadian customers can drop off their empty cosmetics and skin-care products at Walmart’s Canadian locations.

Other difficult-to-recycle products TerraCycle handles include coffee bean bags from Ethical Bean and garment bags from menswear retailer Harry Rosen.

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