From Blush to Crayons, Cosmetics Recycling on Rise

Jiji Press
A collection box for old cosmetics is seen at Nihombashi Takashimaya in Chuo Ward, Tokyo on Feb. 20.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Companies are ramping up efforts to collect old cosmetics and recycle them into goods of higher value, such as crayons.

Although cosmetics are harder to recycle than clothing due to their wide variety, retailers and manufacturers have started to take serious steps to use old cosmetics for other purposes in ways deemed less harmful to the environment.

Japan is set to ease its COVID-19 face mask guidance Monday, likely increasing opportunities for people to wear makeup.

Department store operator Takashimaya Co. set up collection boxes for old cheek blushes, lipsticks and eye shadow last month for a limited time at seven stores including its Nihombashi outlet in a busy Tokyo district.

The company plans to turn the cosmetics collected into crayons and sell them at its children’s goods sections from summer.

Matsuya Co.’s department store in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district will also collect old cosmetics from April.

The cosmetics sections of department stores are bustling with customers seeking makeup products for their lips and cheeks, hidden so far underneath masks.

Takashimaya has been enjoying strong sales of lipsticks and other color cosmetics since February, while Sogo & Seibu Co. has seen cheek blush sales rise 45% from a year earlier.

With new cosmetics for spring and summer hitting the shelves, department stores are hoping that “upcycling,” or adding new value in the recycling process, will spur demand to replace old makeup with new goods.

Environmentally friendly recycling helps make many “feel less guilty about throwing away old goods,” an official at a department store operator said.

Cosmetics are difficult to dispose of, not only because there are many types of makeup but because products consist of many parts, including containers made from plastic or aluminum and mirrors.

“I can’t throw them away because I don’t know how to separate the garbage,” a woman in her 50s said.

“It’s difficult to sort the parts of cosmetics, but I want people to know that recycling will turn them into something new,” said Midori Sakaguchi of Plus Cosme Project, which processes cosmetics into crayons and paints.

Manufacturers are also exploring effective uses for cosmetics left over from the production process. Kose Corp. has started to make ink from eye shadow and other goods, using it to print company names and designs on paper bags and packaging materials.

“We hope to create a cycle in which cosmetics that have served their purpose will return to Kose,” an official said.