Resource Use

Only 50 per cent of bathroom waste recycled, says new research

Bathroom retailer Tap Warehouse has released new research suggesting only 50 per cent of bathroom waste is recycled, revealing the extent of UK’s bathroom waste problem.

Whilst Brits recycle 90 per cent of their kitchen packaging, only half of their bathroom waste is recycled, meaning bathroom waste accounts for 30-40 per cent of total landfill waste, where items such as nappies and toothpaste tubes can take up to 500 years to decompose.

Tap Warehouse has calculated that the average Brit uses over 52,000 bathroom products in their lifetime, weighing a total of 512 kilogrammes. Over 38,000 wet wipes are used within an average lifetime, taking 100 years to decompose.

Toothpaste being applied to a toothbrush.Women’s health and beauty products account for a significant proportion of this waste, with the average woman producing 527 items of cosmetic and hygiene waste each year.

Although many bathroom products, such as nappies and wet wipes, are not able to be recycled, numerous items of recyclable bathroom packaging – from toilet roll tubes to shampoo bottles – are wrongly destined for landfill.

Commenting on the issue of bathroom waste and how to recycle more of it, Craig Stephens, Resource and Campaigns Manager at the Waste and Resources Action Programme, which runs the Recycle Now recycling information service, said: ‘More and more people are recycling and awareness about what you can recycle from your bathroom has increased dramatically – as you can see from the results from our 2018 tracker survey.

“There are so many items that you can recycle from your bathroom such as shampoo and conditioner bottles, toothpaste boxes, bathroom cleaner bottles and even your glass perfume or aftershave bottles.

“You could re-purpose a box or basket to collect your recycling, hang a bag on the back of the bathroom door or use a drawer of cupboard to pop the items in until you have collected enough to put them into your main recycling bin.”

Read more: Wasted beauty: Packaging in the cosmetics industry

Some cosmetics companies are beginning to acknowledge their environmental impact – plant-based toiletries company Aveda, for example, uses 100 per cent recycled PET in its packaging, and has recycled 145 million plastic bottle caps through its ‘Recycle Caps with Aveda’ campaign. Skincare company Origins has made similar efforts to prevent products from ending up in landfill, establishing its ‘Return to Origins’ recycling programme in 2009, which recycles empty cosmetic bottles from any brand.

Cosmetics company Lush has also pushed environmental concerns to the forefront of its agenda, with the company using minimal packaging and returns incentives to encourage consumers to bring their empty pots back to the shop to be recycled.

However, the issue of bathroom waste runs deeper than recyclable packaging – many cosmetic products, such as shower gels and toothpaste, contain plastic microbeads, which eventually wash into the sea, causing serious damage to marine wildlife. However, some progress has been made on this after microbeads were banned in wash-off cosmetic products in the UK at the start of 2018.

You can read the full research on the Tap Warehouse website

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