REDUCING WASTE IN THE BATHROOM Tips for bringing zero waste visions into reality, from your Friends at the MSU Surplus Store & Recycling Center

"Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use." --Zero Waste International Alliance, 2004


Can you find the toothbrush buried among other plastic waste? All these bits and scraps were collected from a beach and displayed artfully by SSRC's former student employee, Hannah. A billion toothbrushes will be thrown away in the U.S. this year, most of them plastic. (National Geographic)

Bathroom waste is often paperboard tubes and boxes; plastic toothbrushes, bottles, tubes and tubs; plus tissue, cotton pads, Q-tips, floss strands and more. It's quite a lot, really! While you might not think to put a recycling bin in the bathroom, you'd be surprised how much of what you toss can be diverted from the landfill. Moreover, much of that waste can be avoided in the first place. Below are some simple swaps you may choose to try.


Some online retailers that offer products like the ones mentioned below include Clean Refillery (Lansing), Soulful Earth Herbals (Lansing), Package Free Shop (New York), Earth Hero (Colorado), Wild Minimalist (California), Fill and Refill (Colorado), and EcoRoots (Arizona).

Ordering online? Beware of where its shipping from, shop locally/regionally, and don't forget about small businesses. Etsy is a treasure trove of options for sustainably packaged bath and beauty products. To narrow your Etsy search to Michigan retailers, click the magnifying glass on the search bar to enter your location preference. Some items may be best purchased directly from the company, or you may want to get a few things from one shop to cut down on shipments. Feel silly shipping a single bar of soap? Consider asking a local friend if they need something and place your order together for a single shipment.

As always -- remember to use what you have first before buying more!

Pay attention to packaging and look for package-free options.


  • Shampoo: Consider a bottle-free shampoo bars (Clean Refillery, Lansing).
  • Face soap comes in bottles or tubes, but also good ol' fashioned bar form (Byrdie reviews 11 bar soaps).
  • If using body wash from a bottle, make sure you use a washcloth or other "suds-ing" device to make the gel last longer. Consider diluting it, or putting it into a smaller bottle to trick yourself into using less. Refillable body wash is available from select brands and locations.
  • Lotion is sold in tubs, pump bottles, and other types of packaging. Can it be reused when empty? How about recycled? How many applications does the packaging contain? Can you make your own?
Choices abound for toothcare supplies, shaving needs, and even deodorant.


  • Bamboo brush: Does the same thing as the usual plastic brush, but is made from a renewable resource and is biodegradable when placed in a backyard compost (after removing/cutting off the bristles. (BamBrush is neatly wrapped in paper packaging and available through Green Envy in Windsor, Canada; the Humble Co. brush, available through some retailers; other brands can be found at a nearby pharmacy or grocery store).
  • Recycled plastic bush: Help complete the "cycle" in "recycle!" (Preserve)
  • For electric toothbrushes, there are some companies that have take-back programs for the used heads, and others have bamboo attachments instead of plastic.
  • Paste: Tablets (U.K. based GeoOrganics tablets from Wild Minimalist) or tooth powder packaged in reusable/recyclable jars can replace traditional nonrecyclable tubes. Some paste (GeoOrganics paste) is also offered in a glass jar. Or, a metal tube (David's, $10 for single tube of 5.25 oz.) can be cut open, rinsed and recycled when empty. Prefer to stick with your usual tube of paste? Get crafty with the empty tube, a broom handle, and a precision knife.
  • Floss: Do you love tiny things? Then floss in a tiny recyclable glass jar is for you! (Dental Lace, $9 for 33-yard spool). The regular package is not recyclable but can be upcycled into a sewing kit, and is a better choice than single use floss picks.


  • Safety razors with replaceable blades eliminate the excessive plastic waste of disposable razors (Safety razor kit for women from EcoRoots). If you'd rather not go that route, opt for a standard razor with refillable cartridges or try an electric one.
  • Shaving soap is available in the form of a bar (Booda Bar multi-use soap, Kansas), which eliminates the nonrecyclable packaging associated with many gels and foams. Shaving oil may be found in bottles that can be recycled. Shaving butters (Coco Cloud, from Truly, Nevada) may come in small tubs that can be reused, but note that the tubs may be made of a hard-to-recycle plastic resin.
  • Look for bulk/refill size gel. Here's one from Beast (16 oz. refill for $15, with the bottle it costs $30, ships from U.S.).


  • Paperboard tube instead of plastic: Raw Sugar ($8.29 for 2.56 oz, available at select stores including Meijer, Target, Walgreens)
  • Refillable deodorant: Secret and Old Spice
  • Paste in a recyclable jar: Soulful Earth Herbals ($13 for 2 oz. shop in Lansing)
Makeup and skincare samples are tempting and can help you determine what you like without buying the whole thing, but it does mean a lot of packaging for a little product. Consider if it is worth it, or see if there is a store tester that you can try on your skin. Like to pamper yourself with facemasks? Opt for larger size containers, instead of individually wrapped masks, or make one from household ingredients like oatmeal and coffee.


Some medicine cabinet staples come in non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle packaging and may be a bit challenging to replace. However, home remedies are easy to find with a quick search online. For instance, here's a Neosporin alternative.


What'll it be? Everyday T.P.? Recycled-content T.P.? Bamboo T.P.? A bidet toilet attachment? (Learn how to use it on Healthline!)


If you're using products in plastic, look for the #1 or #2 symbol on the bottom to indicate it is made of a plastic resin that is more readily recyclable than #3 - #7. Currently, the MSU Drop-Off Center is accepting ONLY #1 or #2 plastic bottles and jugs (view our recycling guide). The graph below comes from the E.P.A and indicates that the vast majority of plastics are landfilled, however #1 and #2 bottles and jugs have a high value on the recycling market, which makes them more widely accepted. Please rinse all items before dropping in the recycling bin!

THANKS & STAY MOTIVATED ;-) Contact us at recycle@msu.edu

Are you a MSU staff/faculty? If so, it might be time to join the Waste Warriors! The Waste Warriors program of the MSU Surplus Store & Recycling Center cultivates waste reduction and the utilization of waste as a resource by training and empowering the MSU community to promote these practices among their peers. Designed to reduce the amount of waste disposed of on campus, the program builds knowledge and leadership by empowering individuals who are passionate about working with others and promoting action to champion goals outlined in the SSRC strategic plan.


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