Dear Recyclebank: I was just wondering if deodorant containers are recyclable? I use a gel deodorant that comes in a tall rectangular shaped tube with a screw on the bottom to push the product up. It appears to be made entirely of plastic. I always throw them in the trash when empty. –Earl B.
Dear Earl: Standard deodorant containers are generally made of plastics like polyethylene and polypropylene, which in and of themselves are recyclable in many areas. However, many containers contain more than one type of plastic — for example, the container itself might be a different plastic than the screw wheel — making them mixed-material items that can’t be recycled all in one piece. Complicating things even further, not all containers are labeled with a resin identification code (the classic “number in arrows” symbol you see on many plastics). Because of this, it can be hard to tell if the plastic in your container will be accepted by your local hauler.
The first step to figuring out your course of action is to contact the company that makes your preferred brand. They should be able to let you know which plastics are in which parts of your container. You may be able to disassemble the tube and salvage at least some parts for recycling. If you can’t break it down or your local facility can’t process that type of plastic, TerraCycle offers zero waste boxes for personal care packaging that you can fill and ship back to them for recycling. You may want to consider coordinating a collection effort with your friends, family, and colleagues to save time and money.
If you’re still worried about the environmental impact of your current deodorant, or if the TerraCycle box isn’t practical for you, you have other options. Try shopping around for a deodorant brand that uses plastics that are recyclable in your area. While aerosols come with their own set of concerns, their metal cans are also often recyclable when empty. Brands such as Lush make solid deodorants with little or no packaging. Many people are shopping around for smaller-batch deodorants or even making their own at home! With some planning, you’ll come off smelling like roses.