The truth about personal care packaging waste

If you're looking for ways to cut down on waste, there's no better place to start than with your personal care products. From toothpaste tubes to menstrual products—the amount of toiletries used in the United States is astronomical, and the packaging that comes with it is only hurting our environment. Luckily, there are plenty of zero-waste personal care options out there that not only help you reduce your carbon footprint but also save you money in the long run! Below is a list of five easy zero-waste swaps that you can include in your everyday routine:

Opt for reusable Q-Tips

If you’re looking for a zero-waste alternative to cotton swabs, reusable Q-Tips are the way to go. The traditional kind of cotton swabs are made from plastic and come with a plastic wrapper—neither of which are recyclable or biodegradable. Instead, opt for bamboo- or wood-based versions like these from the Zero Waste Outlet ($5.95), or reusable versions like the LastSwab Basic, which has helped eliminate 1 billion single-use swabs. LastSwabs can be cleaned with soap and water after each use so they don’t store bacteria, and they’re small enough that they won't take up much space in your bathroom cabinet!

Switch to refillable and reusable skincare or makeup containers

Makeup and other beauty brands produce an overwhelmingly large amount of plastic (120 billion units of packaging according to TerraCycle) and although some businesses claim to be "recyclable", the reality is that most of this packaging ends up in landfills. The good news is that there are zero-waste makeup brands out there that want to help consumers reduce their packaging waste. That means you can still have your go-to products, but you won't have to worry about sending additional plastic to the trash or our oceans. Here are a few of our favorite brands that are putting in the work to make our planet a better place to live:

Ready for an extra zero-waste makeup hack? Do you have a leftover bag from a recent purchase that's been lying around in your house? Turn it into your reusable and zero-waste makeup bag to carry all of your new refillable cosmetics!

Ditch single-use cotton rounds

Did you know that single-use cotton rounds do a lot more harm than good? According to World Wildlife Funds (WWF), it can take more than 5,200 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of cotton, which means each time we have to go buy another bag of cotton rounds, we're using a lot of water to get there. Instead, use a reusable round as part of your daily skincare routine because it's better for the environment and for your wallet. Store them in your bathroom, and when you've used one, simply wash the reusable round by hand or with your laundry and you can use it again and again!

Use toothpaste tablets

  • Why use toothpaste tablets? According to, an estimated 400 million toothpaste tubes are discarded every year in the U.S., and at least 1.5 billion globally. The plastic used to make these tubes is non-recyclable, so it ends up in landfills or oceans (if you're lucky enough to be in a place where they throw away recyclables). Even if you don't care about the environmental impact of your personal hygiene products, saving money on buying a new tube of Crest can also be incentive enough for making this switch!

  • Getting started with toothpaste tablets is so much easier than you might think—just take out one tablet (we like the Fresh Mint tablets from Bite), chew it up, and start brushing--you can add a little bit of water to your mouth if you want more bubbles! Plus, storing them is a breeze: keep your toothpaste tablets anywhere you keep your other toiletries, and you can even try using a mason jar that used once held pasta sauce or mayonnaise to keep them in one spot (the jars are made from PET plastic which means they're recyclable!).

Try a silicone menstrual cup

If you've ever had to worry about having your period, you know just how costly things like pads and tampons can be. Not only are we spending a ridiculous amount of money on necessary products, but these sanitary pads and tampons can take hundreds of years to decompose! Luckily, there's a cheaper and more sustainable alternative: menstrual cups. Silicone menstrual cups have a minimal impact on the environment compared to pads and tampons (no plastic packaging or applicators) and can last for years if properly cared for.

Depending on the brand, these menstrual cups can hold about two tablespoons of liquid—enough to last up to 12 hours—and can be reused 10 times per cycle or more! That means they'll also save you money in the long run. *Here are a few options for reusable menstrual cups:

  • Saalt: not only can you forget about having to carry menstrual supplies like pads or tampons with you throughout the day, but Saalt's menstrual cup is made from odor-free medical-grade silicone.

  • Flex Cup: at $34.99, this brand says it gives 12-hour protection and is made for beginners because of its patented pull-tab that removes the menstrual cup like a tampon.

  • DivaCup: When thinking of "menstrual cups", many people will automatically think of DivaCup, because for many it was the very first brand that introduced them to the concept of a reusable silicone menstrual product. Similar to other brands, the DivaCup is also made of medical-grade silicone and does not contain any chemicals, plastic, or dyes.

They come in different sizes: some will fit even if you've given birth vaginally multiple times before; others may work better if you're more petite than average. Silicone menstrual cups are also reusable, which means they don't need any disposable materials like paper towels or toilet paper when changing them out. Menstrual cups are even safe enough for exercise, with many people using them during swimming or to run a marathon. When it comes to cleaning your silicone menstrual cup, it's recommended that you place it in a container of boiling water to ensure that all bacteria are killed. Then, you're free to store it in your bathroom or reuse it again.

* If you're curious or have questions about using a menstrual cup, we always recommend speaking with your primary care physician first!


Ultimately, the key to reducing your personal care waste is to be mindful of every single item you’re buying, and sometimes that means refusing to purchase that product altogether. From makeup remover wipes to cotton pads, we can all make small steps towards a more sustainable future by thinking about the long-term impact our choices will have on our planet. If you're ready to continue your own zero-waste journey, find a Good Filling Station on the east coast where you can refill your home and personal care products at any time. Learn about the power of refilling here! 

Leave a comment