MOST people know that plastic, old clothes, food waste and even used cooking oil can be recycled.
But can broken or old cosmetics and electronic accessories be reused?
Old lipsticks, eyeshadow palette, face masks, power banks, headphones, cables or even old iPods and handphones are often left in a corner to collect dust or thrown into the bin as domestic waste.
It is not easy to repurpose gadgets and its accessories as well as cosmetics like eyeshadow and lipstick.
Despite this, some people have found creative ways to reuse empty perfume bottles, unused soap bars, glass containers of facial products and even home electronic devices.
Celine Cheah does not throw away empty perfume bottles.
“As the bottles still have traces of fragrance, I put them in my wardrobe, in between my clothes.
“It is way better than using old-fashioned mothballs that make my clothes smell just like them,” she said.
Apart from perfume bottles, she also places fragrant soap bars in between her clothes for the same effect.
However, she does not know what to do with her old cosmetics and accessories apart from giving them away to those who would want them.
“Sometimes I regift cosmetics that I do not use,” added Cheah, who is a retiree in her 60s.
Aileen Lee, who runs her own business, uses her old lipsticks and soap bars as markers on fabric for her sewing projects.
“I use soap bars to mark the outside of fabrics as they can be easily washed, but with lipsticks, I can mark only on the inside as the stain is hard to wash off,” she said, adding that it was such a waste to throw away old lipsticks.
Lee, who is in her 30s, said she bought cosmetics from shops that accepted used packaging or bottles for recycling.
Thirty-three-year-old engineer Nathan Yang said one way to repurpose electronic items was to turn them into do-it-yourself (DIY) sensory toys for toddlers.
“I attached a bunch of unused electrical switches and old gaming controllers, among other things, to a rectangular basket, and gave it to my son.
“He loves it as he can turn on and off the switches without hearing a ‘no’ from my wife and I,” he said.
Yang added that other sensory items mounted on the basket included an unused faucet and padlock with keys.
There is no limit to what can be attached to the basket, he said, adding that it depended on the items available and one’s creativity.
Yang also suggested to use lip gloss, shiny lip balm and even nail polish for children’s projects or to brighten any home craft projects.
Empty glass cosmetics bottles can be used as home-made
Zero Waste Malaysia (ZWS) founder Aurora Tin does not really use cosmetics and if she did, she got them in pre-loved recyclable packaging.
As for electronic items, she reuses whatever she has at home and sources for second-hand parts, if possible.
“When an item is broken I give it to a group called the Beli Nothing Group as some people there may find good use for it. If no one wants it, I send it for recycling,” she said.
Tin, who is leading a zero-waste lifestyle, buys package-free products to minimise waste that she generates each day.
“I always try to get my cosmetics second-hand, they are just normal cosmetics but kept in recyclable packaging.
“So far I have not refilled them but I do know of some brands that offer customers refills with their existing bottles,” she said, adding that even lipsticks were sold in refillable packaging.
In a bid to help reduce waste, she also accepts unwanted or unused cosmetics from friends to be repurposed.
Local TV host, model, actress and zero-waste advocate Melissa Tan, 33, does not really know how to reuse or recycle cosmetics
and electronics, but would buy cosmetics that are easily recyclable.“I don’t buy new cosmetics and I just use and reuse what I already have. In terms of skincare products, I buy items that come in thoughtful packaging.
“Thoughtful means no extra paper, laminated box or plastic wrap was used, and that the product is kept in a glass bottle with a lid and aluminium foil seal,” she said.
This makes it possible for her to recycle every single part of the product.
“Even my eyeshadow palette is probably five years old and some of the items in it are broken because I dropped the casing. But I do not want to open or buy a new palette until I have used up this one,” she said.
Tan, who is also Earth Day Network Malaysian ambassador, encourages the use of containers to plant seedlings as a hobby.
Tzu Chi Foundation head of humanistic cultural development Chong Chuan Yit said the foundation received more e-waste than cosmetics waste which is in the form of packaging and bottles.
“At the centre, our team dismantles and segregates the electronic parts and sell them to factories that have a use for them.
“Phone cables are easier to dismantle as we only have to tear apart the soft casing to reach the wire inside,” he said, adding that items like handphones or iPods would need to be dismantled by their tech team.
Some items with minor faults can be easily repaired with new parts, but because this is troublesome, most people would rather get rid of them as it is easier to buy a new one.
Seeking government’s intervention
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) chief executive officer Datuk Paul Selvaraj said there should be an authorised body to manage the collection and recycling of e-waste and cosmetics waste.
“There is no authorised body to regulate this yet. It is a serious issue because electronic goods that are not disposed of properly can cause damage to the landfill as they contain toxic chemicals,” he said.
He added that there was also lack of awareness on the disposal of e-waste and cosmetics waste.
“Consumers do not know where or how to recycle or throw them.
“E-waste especially, is a major issue for the future as we move towards a smart technological world. So raising awareness on this is very crucial and we need to have proper mechanisms and regulations in place to dispose of such items,” he said.
He hoped the collection, disposal and recycling of e-waste and cosmetics waste would be regulated with certain protocols and regulations in place.
“I do not know where to dump or recycle such items but a local community group in my area collects e-waste once every two weeks.
“I would like to trust that it is recycled or disposed of properly,” he said.