What to do with empties? Mecca NZ stores will recycle empty beauty products otherwise destined for landfill from August

Makeup products stock image composite
Wondering what to do with all those empties? There's now a solution. Photo credit: Getty Images

If you're anything like me, you probably have a collection of totally useless containers relegated to the depths of a random drawer; the skeletons of a former skincare routine or the ghosts of makeup's past.

When you decant that last drop of Maybelline Fit Me Foundation onto your hand, you're left with a sad-looking, usually smeared vessel with dregs of product and a peeling label - and the pervasive question of, 'is this recyclable?' It doesn't seem right to chuck it in the bin, but the symbol on the back is vague; what do the two interlocked arrows mean and is the number important?!

Unsure, the container gets placed among the other random junk you probably don't need but still keep in the event you might one day urgently need a plug adaptor for South Korea, or a manual for a bung CD player you haven't used since 2007.

However, that literal graveyard of glass bottles and empty glosses can now finally be put to rest; beauty retailer Mecca has announced that from August, it will be accepting empties of every brand at their New Zealand stores as part of the MeccaLife campaign. 

The beauty giant will recycle Kiwis' empty bottles, tubes, pots, pans and palettes to ensure packaging otherwise destined for landfill can get a new lease on life. Everything is sent to TerraCycle, where their team of environmental angels sort and process the waste into raw materials that can be reused and repurposed. Even the bins used to collect the products in-store are made from 100 percent post-consumer waste, including some of the 150,000 empty containers that have already been recycled through the programme.

Mecca's partnership with TerraCycle - a waste management and recycling business that collects non-recyclable waste and turns it into raw and reusable materials - launched in Australia last year. Now, the TerraCycle bins are being rolled out across Australia and New Zealand, with the bins to be located in all stores by the end of August. 

Starting in August, empties of any brand can be taken to your local Mecca for recycling; either hand them to a staff member or chuck them in the labelled TerraCycle bin near the register. Empties can include shampoo, conditioner and lotion bottles and their caps; soap dispensers; lip product, concealer and mascara tubes; and various pencils and palettes. Basically, if it's a beauty product and it's empty, bring it in; emphasis on the 'empty'. Mecca can't accept the containers if they still contain leftover product. 

Throughout the month of August, the MeccaLife campaign will also be celebrating sustainable beauty by highlighting the importance of refillable products, eco-friendly packaging solutions and makeup that has been made mindfully. 

Since 2019, Mecca has collected almost 12,000 kilograms of beauty-related waste - more than 150,000 empty containers that would have otherwise hit landfill.

Where can I recycle my beauty products?

In all Mecca stores across Australia and New Zealand from August 2022.

I've brought my empties into my local Mecca store - what do I do now?

Head to your local Mecca store and look for the TerraCycle bin near the registers, or hand your empties to a staff member.

What can I put in a TerraCycle bin?

Makeup, haircare or skincare packaging (from any brand), such as:

  • Shampoo bottles and caps
  • Conditioner bottles and caps
  • Hair gel tubes and caps
  • Hair paste plastic jars and caps
  • Lip balm tubes
  • Soap dispensers and tubes
  • Lotion bottles, tubes, dispensers and jars
  • Shaving foam tubes (no cans)
  • Lip gloss tubes
  • Mascara tubes
  • Eyeliner pencils and cases
  • Eyeshadow tubes
  • Concealer tubes and sticks.

Note: the above must be empty or almost empty. TerraCycle will not accept any returns that still have product in them.

What can't I put in a TerraCycle bin?

  • Aerosol cans
  • Fragrance bottles
  • Nail polish bottles and nail polish remover bottles
  • Electronic items such as blow-dryers and straighteners
  • Any bio-medical or bio-hazardous waste
  • Any contents of packaging such as nail polish, lotion, soap or ointments.

What happens to my empty packaging once I provide it to a Mecca team member?

Everything collected is sent to TerraCycle to be sorted and processed into raw materials that can be reused instead of being sent to landfill. 

  • PLASTICS are separated by number, melted down and turned into pellets that can be moulded and extruded to produce new products
  • METALS are separated by type and smelted into ingots for reuse
  • GLASS is cleaned and sorted by colour for processing; it is then crushed and melted to be used in new glass products.