Recycling: the new magic marketing trick?

Recycling: the new magic marketing trick?

Let’s take a breather from all the digital/social influencer talk for a week and focus on the other key driver that’s giving beauty brands a lead over competitors, and that is sustainability, or, recycling, to be more specific.

I, for one, don’t go a month without having to do a bin run with a bag full of used cosmetics packaging (yes, ageing is not my friend), so it’s no wonder that beauty packaging contributes its fair share to the global waste and recycling problem, an impact the manufacturers are all too aware of.

And what they’re no doubt also cottoning on to, is that having a positive sustainable reputation is a key driver for consumers when choosing their beauty brands, a link noticed by Tom Szaky, founder of New Jersey-based recycling company TerraCycle, which makes consumer products from post-consumer waste. Speaking to, Szaky stated that the link between cosmetics and recycling is getting stronger as the big brands start to wake up to the growing consumer desire for more recycling awareness from the brands they choose.  

Of course, recycling is no stranger to the cosmetics world and going green is by no means a new phenomenon for the beauty bigwigs. However, there seems to be a perceptible shift of late with many companies thinking outside the box in which to showcase their green credentials in a bid to go above and beyond in their recycling actions – whether that’s to actually make a difference, or just draw in more buyers.

But this doesn’t come easy, or cheaply. As suggested by Szaky, it’s not ‘typically profitable’ to recycle in the current infrastructure, with cosmetics packaging being hard to clean and ‘often comprised of mixed materials, mostly plastics and some metal elements.’

So what are brands doing to counteract this and push forward with their recycling efforts despite the costly repercussions? Well, just recently L’Oréal Australia decided enough was enough and thought it best to work with those in the know – the aforementioned TerraCycle, And, in fact, the new service would help even those recycling dunces such as myself (what else are husband’s for?) – with consumers simply sending back their personal care items back via post, with a downloadable label from the TerraCycle website. Even I could manage that.

L’Oréal, however, can’t claim a recycling coup, with US brand Origins having stepped up the recycling mark back in 2009, launching what it claims to be the beauty industry’s first recycling system. And with all its packaging made from post-consumer recycled materials, it’s certainly got a lot to shout about.

Personal care giant Unilever also showed its hand, reprising its Rince.Recycle.Reimagine campaign back in April, aimed to encourage consumers to ‘treat their plastic bottles the same.’ And if Unilever is doing it, you’d bet that other competitors will be creating similar recycling angles as we speak.

Indeed, with Szaky thinking the link between the recycling industry and that of cosmetics is growing stronger, it’s clear to see the main industry giants are cottoning on, but will the smaller brands have the spend power behind them to make this a priority? It’s anyone’s guess, but with more and more brands fighting it out in the oversaturated market, it’s a pretty positive marketing route to choose.