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Before You Bin It……

May 18, 2009

There comes a time in everyone’s life when that dark corner of the bathroom cabinet can no longer be ignored. Whether you have been struggling to find a home for your new shaving gel and razor or have to do a big clear out due to a move, the time has come to face those bathroom demons.

Cosmetic and Personal Care products don’t last forever. Depending on what you have you may get anything from  six months to two years out of any given product. While we may all go out and get that new fragrance, gel or lipstick with the very best intentions in mind sometimes, just sometimes, our good intentions go to waste and our new best buy runs out of shelf life on us!

So, what do you do? I know that the temptation is to bag it all up and dump it into the nearest bin – out of sight, out of mind. However, doing this is potentially damaging for both you and the wider environment. Let me explain.

Each of your unwanted or unfinished products contains a mix of ingredients  and be they “natural” or “synthetic” the ingredients will have been slowly changing over time as the product degrades. Putting these containers  straight into the bin will solve your immediate problem but your products will end up in landfill somewhere (still out of sight and out of mind?) As the packaging gets broken down over time by the elements, the contents of the tubs, pots and jars will eventually leach out into the soil and maybe into an underground water supply (still out of sight and out of mind?) If everyone does this, the chemicals – however innocuous and safe they may seem in the moisturiser will end up on your dinner plate as the veggies that you eat, the meat that you enjoy and the water that you drink will, at some point have come into contact with your unleashed chemicals. The more people that dump and forget, the bigger the problem gets.

So, what should you do?

First, some prevention tips.

*  Rid yourself of that dark corner – proudly display your products or at the very least have them somewhere that you can be reminded of them. This way you can be sure to use them all up rather than have them fester away, unloved.

*  Only buy as much as you need. OK, so I am usually a fan of buying in bulk as it saves packaging but there is no use in buying bulk hair gel if you only use it for birthdays and Christmas.  If you can’t find smaller packs or samples, see if you can split a purchase with a friend or decant the big package into “bite sized” containers that can be re-used.

* Store products away from direct sunlight. OK, so I said keep your products where you can see them but make sure that is not on a windowsill. Sunlight as well as intense heat will kill off your products. Sunscreens are often subjected to a roasting as we sit under our beach umbrellas and then fried again in the back of the car on the way home.  This can reduce the products effectiveness, which ends up costing you your skin and your product.  Coloured cosmetics and moisturisers are also prone to spoiling due to heat.

* Be careful when you dip. Just as we cringe when kids double dip the salsa, don’t fall into the same trap with your cosmetics. Remember that every time you dip your fingers into a jar, smear lipstick or balm onto your lips or leave the lid off the toothpaste you are affecting the products quality. While cosmetics are designed to withstand normal use (of which this is all pretty normal) you can help to extend your products life by notching the hygiene up a little.  Try to limit your cream’s exposure to the air if you want it to last for ages, never dip dirty hands in and if you want to share with the family or friends have them use an applicator to take their share. Keep lids on tight and don’t drip extra water into your lotions (as this can be a breading place for bacteria).

And if you do end up with left over product?

Collect up your half full containers, unwanted gels and powders and take them to your nearest “Hazardous Waste Recycling Unit”. Where I live there are four chemical collections a year organized by the local council.  In Australia the “Recycling Near You” website allows you to search for your nearest waste facility.   Whatever you do, don’t pour products down the drain as this is only adding to future problems.

If you find yourself with products that you haven’t opened and you believe are still in good order (and shelf life) why not donate them to a local charity store or refuge.

Our planet is beautiful, let’s keep it that way!

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