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Sephora launches nationwide campaign against plastic waste in the beauty industry: 'An exciting step forward'

Many package features that make cosmetics easier to use make them more difficult to recycle. Pact and Sephora want to fix that.

Sephora and Pact Collective team up

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Sephora and Pact Collective's Beauty (Re)Purposed beauty recycling program has officially gone nationwide — helping to keep even more makeup and skincare empties out of our landfills.

Last July, circular nonprofit Pact Collective and beauty and personal care giant Sephora announced their collaboration on a recycling program called Beauty (Re)Purposed. In only a select few stores, you could "give your finished beauty products a second life," according to its slogan.

But now, the program is expanding in a major way.

Starting May 22, Sephora will begin offering Beauty (Re)Purposed all across North America, with the program available at every U.S. and Canadian Sephora store.

What is Beauty (Re)Purposed?

By joining forces, Sephora and Pact are helping to provide a solution to the beauty industry's large-scale waste problem.

Sephora stores across the U.S. and Canada will now collect beauty and wellness "empties" –– the shortened name for empty packages. From there, Pact Collective will recycle these containers.

"The launch of the Beauty (Re)Purposed program is an exciting step forward in Sephora's commitment to leading the industry and offering more sustainable solutions for the communities we serve. And the reality is that discarding beauty packaging can be complex for many consumers," Desta Raines, director of sustainability at Sephora, told The Cool Down in a statement. "It was important for Sephora to find a partner like Pact who shares our values and, in collaboration, can help to educate our clients and the broader industry in making the process more accessible for all."

How it works

As of now, each Sephora store in the U.S. and Canada will have its own Beauty (Re)Purposed drop-off bin.

You can make your beauty routine a little less trash-heavy by gathering accepted beauty packaging — which includes pumps, dispensers, applicators, mascara tubes, wand tools, lipstick, compacts, palettes, eye/lip pencils, squeezable tubes, and more.

First, try to squeeze the most value out of your products with clever hacks like cutting the ends of tubes off to reach the product stuck to the inner walls or scooping out the remaining product into smaller reusable containers.

Then, thoroughly clean your containers and then drop them off at a Beauty (Re)Purposed bin the next time you're at Sephora to replace your holy grail makeup product or search for a new skincare routine.

Once you drop your empties at Sephora, they'll get sent to Pact Collective instead of a landfill. The empty containers and materials get sorted and manually recycled into another product packaging, downcycled into materials like asphalt, chemically recycled into something different, or converted into energy. 

If you can't get to a Sephora near you, don't sweat it: Pact Collective offers a mail-back program for U.S. and Canadian customers.

Why recycle empties?

According to Pact Collective, the beauty and wellness industries create more than 120 billion packages each year. 

Many packages that make cosmetics easier to use, such as a pump for your liquid foundation or a multi-material squeezable tube for your cream blush, aren't accepted by curbside recycling programs. These features give beauty enthusiasts few options other than to throw their empties away — overwhelming landfills, polluting our surroundings, and clogging our water supplies with microplastics.

Beauty (Re)Purposed makes recycling these hard-to-recycle items easier, allowing you to waste less without compromising your makeup or skincare routines.

"We're thrilled that Sephora has joined Pact Collective," Mia Davis, Pact's co-founder, recently told The Cool Down in a statement.  "Pact members — including packaging suppliers, brands, and other retailers — work together to move the beauty industry toward more sustainable packaging solutions. Having Sephora at the table, and with their huge national footprint for the in-store collection bins, is a game-changer."

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