October 19 2020
This is part of our ongoing series, called DTL (that stands for Down to Learn), where we take deep dives into the odd, nuanced and mysterious world of sustainability. Each article in our series should give you a good icebreaker for your next Zoom, or perhaps even inspire you.
We have good news and bad news. (We may have just summed up everything about sustainability in that single sentence.) Your face wash bottle is probably recyclable, even though recycling has become even more fraught as of late. The bad news? The pump that dispenses the product from the bottle into your hands, is almost definitely not recyclable.
Let's get into the anatomy of a pump, shall we? It's actually a pretty impressive device— a plastic tube, pump top, metal spring and ball bearing join forces to quickly and efficiently dispense product from an airtight bottle into your hands. Pumps are great for skincare products that go bad when exposed to too much oxygen, or, obviously, for soap.
That said, all that plastic and metal combined so tightly and in such a small device makes it really, really difficult to disassemble and recycle. Pumps aren't really recyclable. When you think about how many single-use products come with pump-tops, that's a heck of a lot of pumps ending up in the landfill.
Our solution? You don't need to deny yourself pump-top products. You probably already have dozens of them in your bathroom as is. Hang onto those pumps (and even that bottle!) and invest in refills. That pump should work for a really, really long time (it is, *chef's kiss*, great technology), and you can count on us to carry a bunch of different products you can refill that bottle with.
As for the base of any of your pump-top bottles? Those can be recycled much more reliably, though we can't stress enough that recycling is a really imperfect solution. America used to ship our recycling to China, who no longer accepts most of it. Our recycling options domestically aren't standardized at all, and are mostly private operators with different approaches. This creates glaring inefficiencies for a country that produces as much trash and recycling as we do. The best thing to do with anything you have is to reuse it as long as possible. (We like to use larger bottles for flowers and smaller bottles are great for DIY cleaning solutions, body mists, or room sprays.)
Another thing you can do is opt for PCR (post consumer recycled) plastic, wherever you find it. A lot of products made out of "recycled plastic" are made out of industrial plastic, meaning plastic that may have never left the factory floor. That's alright, because we'd rather reuse that plastic than have it end up in, say, the landfill, but it's good to remember that not much gets made out of the every day plastic bottles that end up in your recycling bin, and to try to seek out PCR whenever you have the option.