various plastic lip balm tubes in a row

The Environmental Impact of Lip Balm

Week 23

My poor little lips are chapped regardless of the season, so applying lip balm is a pretty consistent part of my day. I've never kept track of how much lip balm I go through, but honestly, the tubes are so small that I lose them often (and so inexpensive that I don't mind replacing them on a regular basis). This week, I'm saying goodbye to the trail of tiny plastic lip balm tubes I've been leaving in my wake and searching for a sustainable alternative.

Why is lip balm a problem?

Conventional lip balm not only comes in plastic, but is made using forms of plastic. Most lip balms contain synthetic waxes and petroleum-derived ingredients like paraffin or mineral oil. That means that while wearing lip balm, every time we lick our lips or take a sip of water, we are swallowing plastic. In the words of Randy Jackson, "that's gonna be a no from me, dawg."

Plastics are problematic because they are made from non-renewable resources, have limited recyclability, and take hundreds if not thousands of years to break down. Lip balm tubes, like all plastics, are made from crude oil, a non-renewable resource, which is harmful for two reasons: manufacturing generates significant pollution and the product is not biodegradable. As put it, "they are difficult to produce and nearly impossible to get rid of once produced". Instead of biodegrading, plastic breaks down into tiny micro-plastics that litter our soil, our waterways, and even our air.

Can plastic lip balm tubes be recycled?

Unfortunately, lip balm tubes are not curbside recyclable because they are small enough to clog up the machinery and are typically made of a mix of plastics. However, you can print out a free shipping label and send them to Terracycle via a program sponsored by Garnier. Or, you can drop them off for recycling at participating Nordstrom stores.

How can I be more sustainable?

Opt for lip balm with all natural ingredients in low waste containers like cardboard, glass, or aluminum. Read my next post for 12 Sustainable Lip Balm Options.

You can also consider upcycling your empty lib balm tubes! They make excellent travel containers for bobby pins, matches, pills, and even toothpaste tablets. Or, you can refill old tubes with a this DIY Lip Balm Recipe.

10 Sustainable Lip Balm Options →