Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Leon Kaye headshot

Garnier Wants You to Recycle Those Bathroom Empties

By Leon Kaye

Garnier, the personal care products company owned by L'Oréal, wants you to make more of an effort to recycle those empty plastic bottles of shampoo and body wash.

The company says it is looking to boost waste diversion by preventing at least 10 million bottles from entering landfills. To that end, the company enlisted a popular YouTuber and partnered with DoSomething.org to spread the recycling gospel.

According to a widely shared press release, as many as half of all Americans cannot be bothered to pitch their bathroom “empties” into the recycling bin. So during this campaign, Garnier is taking a two-pronged approach. First, participants are encouraged to decorate a bathroom recycling bin and share a picture on DoSomething.org for the chance to win a $5,000 scholarship. Once that bin is full, recycling devotees can print a shipping label for free and then send those pesky empties to TerraCycle, which has worked with Garnier and other CPG companies to upcycle plastic waste into new products. And of course, consumers are expected to share their stories using the hashtag #empties.

Garnier is also trying to leverage peer pressure on college campuses: It selected 50 campuses to compete in a recycling competition, with the winning school scoring a garden funded by Garnier and TerraCycle.

In the meantime, Garnier recruited personal care products guru Remi Cruz to showcase why recycling is so important. And the campaign could use a little celebrity help: As of press time, the public service announcement had 171 views on YouTube.

Other consumer packaged goods companies have also attempted to raise awareness about plastics consumption and recycling. Unilever, for example, has launched similar campaigns in the past. And earlier this year, the food and personal care products giant announced that all of its plastic packaging will become compostable, recyclable or reusable by 2025.

Procter & Gamble is another global CPG brand that says it is determined to use more recycled content in its packaging. Garnier and P&G have both touted their zero-waste operations in the past; the waste from their products after they have been sold at retail outlets, however, has long fallen upon municipal governments to figure out.

In fairness, more packaging suppliers have found ways to reduce the plastic content in their containers, which means less waste going to landfill and money saved for personal care and food companies – though sometimes the results do not always make consumers happier, as in the fuss over the thinner Poland Spring bottle.

Of course, there is another solution, which is to curb the use of plastic in the first place. Plenty of health and beauty experts insist shampooing is not necessarily a daily requirement, if it is a requirement at all. Sustainability writer Katherine Martinko, for example, switched to a cider vinegar and baking soda concoction to cleanse her hair; recently she ditched all product and is now going “no poo” with water, which she argues resulted in even healthier hair.

That coconut oil you use for oil pulling, baking ketogenic brownies and frying your free range eggs? It can do quite well as a skin moisturizer. Got gunk on your hands from working on your car or in the garden? Kosher salt can do the trick. The half avocado that didn’t make it into last month’s Super Bowl guacamole that has since turned brown in the fridge? Heck, the Limey supermarket chain Sainsbury’s suggests using it as a facial mask.

Now that’s a way to reduce one’s consumption of plastic, while avoiding cleansing agents like sodium lauryl sulfate while going back to nature – and saving money. But in the meantime, recycling those empties is always a good idea.

Image credit: Garnier

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye