The nasty, brutish and short life of a mascara tube

Everything in the Price family’s bathroom

Alas, it is time for me to bid a kind farewell to my empty mascara tube and throw it away. For three months, it sat with me in my purse. Together, we went to Budapest, Oslo and on a couple of really bad dates. Sadly, there is no hope for resurrection or reincarnation because the tube was created with industrial materials that are too contaminated for recycling.

In its final hour, let’s look at the life and legacy of my mascara tube, a lifecycle it shares with all of my other bathroom supplies, from cleaning supplies to cosmetics to toiletries:  

  1. Oil is extracted from deep in the earth.
  2. The oil is taken to a refinery where it is cleaned.
  3. At the plastic factory, the oil is transformed into plastic pellets and then melted into the mascara tube shape.
  4. The tubes are filled with 10 ml of mascara and sealed with a plastic label and then sealed in a cardboard and plastic cover.
  5. The tubes are shipped via truck to stores for purchase.
  6. You get to the store. You see it. You need it. You buy it.
  7. The plastic, and cardboard cover, are ripped off and thrown in the bin.
  8. The mascara is excitedly spread all over your lashes. You are stunning.
  9. You both live a happy life together for an average of 3 months.  
  10. There is no more mascara left.
  11. The tube is thrown into the dark abyss of the bin.
  12. On Tuesday, the bin is delivered to the rubbish service.
  13. It goes for a ride to the local landfill with other discarded friends.
  14. The tube arrives at the landfill.
  15. The tube and their birth packaging are reunited at last!
  16. Together, they will sit in that landfill for at least the next 500 years, in the hopes that they will find peace and tranquillity as they slowly turn to oil instead of being tossed in the ocean to be casually gnawed on by animal life until a sea lion swallows it and dies.

Hanna, editor Flor + Cesta, a site which promotes and educates eco-friendly dwelling in London, noted that “120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry. The cardboard that envelops perfumes, serums and moisturisers contributes to the loss of 18 million acres of forest each year.” 

The website goes on to say: “If this level of consumption continues, by 2050 there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic in landfills, the equivalent of 35,000 Empire State Buildings. The UN has declared our current situation a ‘planetary crisis’ and no industry is exempt from scrutiny, including beauty.”

Additionally, cosmetics containers are generally made with less recyclable materials. When they are made with materials that can be recycled, they lack the resin number, or the number on the bottom of a plastic product explaining the recycle-ability of the product. The lower the number, the easier it is to recycle that product.

Companies like Lush and Garnier, are now taking ownership of their responsibility to the environment when it comes to their packaging. Lush released a line of “naked” products that cut out the packaging entirely. On the Lush website, the company claims that around 40-50 per cent of the product costs goes to packaging, and have committed to decreasing their packaging by 90 per cent in the next 10 years.

According to research by Garnier, we recycle 90 per cent of kitchen waste but only 50 per cent of our bathroom waste. This includes makeup, body wash, lotions, soaps, toothpaste, cleansers and other toiletries. But Garnier has set out to change that. The cosmetics brand has partnered with TerraCycle, a company that pays for the consumer to send their used Garnier products back to the factory for recycling.

Another solution is to make your own bathroom products and store them in reusable jars or bottles. Linked is a series of our favourite recipes for homemade beauty products.

It is not about completely changing your life, it is just about being a bit more conscious of where your waste is going. Simple changes make a huge difference in both our homes and for the environment.

If you want to know more about how to live a zero-waste lifestyle, check out our Instagram page @ellnews, our Twitter @eastlondonlines and follow the hashtag #ELLzerowasteweek.

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