Why Reusing is Even More Sustainable Than Recycling ♻️

The old fashioned future of sustainability…

“Reusing is better than recycling because it saves energy by removing the processes needed to recycle and minimises waste before it happens." - Our Founder, Jo

First of all, let’s just get it out there - we’re big fans of recycling. It’s a small step we can all take to extend packaging’s life cycle. Plus, we’re all for colour-coded, organised bins here at Beauty Kitchen HQ. 

In terms of history, recycling goes way back - in Roman times, copper pots would be melted down to create statues; as far back as 1031, Japan started pulping and recycling paper, and in 1354, people were hired to collect food waste in London to be used for compost. However, it wasn’t until 2003 that the Household Waste Recycling Act was passed in the UK and blue bins rolled into homes across the country - over 30 years after the famous recycling symbol was created by 23 year old student, Gary Anderson, who won a design competition held by Container Corporation of America. So, it’s safe to say, recycling as we know it today is still fairly new. 

“In a nutshell, recycling is where you revert an item back into raw materials to make something new. Reusing means using something again and again without any treatment” - Jo, Our Founder

Even though the recycling timeline extends far into the past, there’s something else that has existed since well, forever: Reusing. Today, we have access to cheap, fast, whenever-we-want-it options, but that hasn’t always been the case. We can hardly imagine cave people creating tools, only to throw them away after one use, or turn them into something else. Nope, they’d use, then fix, then reuse again. Taking things a little closer to this millennium, it wasn’t too long ago that milkmen would pick up glass bottles from our front steps, to then take return them washed and refilled with ice-cold milk to pour onto our Cornflakes the very next day. 

It’s this exact thinking that led us to launch Return · Refill · Repeat - our packaging reuse programme. Basically, you can send your packaging back to us for free or drop it off at over 1000 Holland & Barrett stores (in exchange for 100 Reward for Life points in the UK and 200 Passie points in the Netherlands) and we’ll wash and reuse it in the next batch. We’ve also launched our ‘Bottle for Life’ (yep, just like those bags for life you take with you when you go shopping). With a bottle for life, you can top up at our refill station (right now, you’ll find it in Boots Covent Garden store, but we have plans to roll it out across the country). Even though you can recycle our packaging at home if you like, we’ve designed our packaging with reusability as priority #1. Why? Because reusing is even more sustainable than recycling.

How so?

As we said above, recycling is great, but there are some little improvements that could be made. For example, when you recycle at home, the item has to be washed and squeaky-clean before being taken away. If contamination levels are too high (eg: there’s too much food residue mixed with the packaging), it could be rejected by the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and sent straight to landfill. For those who live in a building with lots of different people, this means that everyone has to make sure their recycling is clean - which can be a bit of a team effort. 

On top of that - depending on the material -  quality can dwindle every time an item is recycled. With reusing, the lifecycle extends far beyond that number and uses far less energy than what it takes to recycle. 

“With Return · Refill · Repeat, our glass bottles and jars can be reused up to 100 times and our aluminum bottles can be used 30 times” - Jo, Our Founder

For us, prioritising reusability comes from our passion for Cradle to Cradle thinking. Cradle to Cradle is all about designing with the end in mind - what happens after someone has finished using our product and how we can kick-start the sustainable life cycle all over again. The thing is, this way of thinking isn’t complicated, or completely new - if anything, it takes inspiration from the past. Here at Beauty Kitchen, we want to make it easy for people to make sustainable choices with programmes like Return · Refill · Repeat, but even if you decide to wash out one of our jars and fill it with a homemade face scrub, that’s great too! Whether you’re reusing, refilling or recycling - everyone can make a difference.