Is perfume bad for the environment? The short answer is yes — if it’s disposed of incorrectly. Here, we explain the impacts of perfume on the planet and the swaps you can make to improve your footprint.
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Fragrances can play a part in helping you feel socially confident, and they may even be an important part of your identity.
However, most of us spritzing away are naive to the damage that these fragrances can inflict on the world around us if we don’t take care to dispose of them properly.
So, is perfume bad for the environment?
The short answer is yes, they can be — but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo perfumes altogether.
In this guide, we look at how perfume affects the environment and how we can reduce these impacts by making different choices.
We’ll also unpack how to dispose of perfume safely to keep dangerous liquids and bottles out of landfills and waterways.
Perfume can be bad for the environment, particularly if it is not disposed of correctly. It sounds a little far-fetched, but there’s more to those tiny, delicious-smelling particles than you might think.
Perfume has the ability to affect the environment in two key ways; the bottles can end up in landfills and the liquids can seep into our waterways.
Perfume liquids contain different ingredients, many of which can be harmful to the water pollution and soil pollution.
Tipping perfume down the drain or sending half-full bottles to landfills means these liquids come into direct contact with aquatic and land ecosystems, where they can go on to harm surrounding wildlife.
Musks, one of the key ingredients in most perfumes, can cause issues for wildlife by interfering with the animals’ ability to eliminate toxins from their systems.
In a similar way, perfume bottles that are thrown into the general waste bin will end up in landfills.
It can take hundreds of years for these bottles to decompose (that is, if they decompose at all). In the meantime, the materials that make up the bottle and lid leach harmful chemicals into the surrounding soil.
The perfume industry is taking strides towards greater transparency and innovation in their ingredients, manufacturing, and packaging.
We can minimise our own impact on the environment by making different choices, opting for naturally scented, organic, and sustainable perfume products where possible, and always disposing of perfume liquids and bottles correctly.
There is a wide range of perfumes that use natural ingredients, like essential oils, to keep you smelling fresh.
These formulas are better for the environment and your health. Certain chemicals can actually cause side effects such as irritation and headaches, so if you’re particularly sensitive to fragrances, look to perfumes containing natural, organic ingredients, such as plant extracts and essential oils.
For example, Ayu use all-natural ingredients in each of their perfume products. Each ingredient is kind to the earth and responsibly-sourced using age-old methods.
Ayu’s perfumes feature different properties to soothe and heal the body; they craft grounding, balancing, uplifting, energising, calming, warming, and cooling perfume oils. There truly is a blend to suit everyone.
The bottles contain a selection of essential oils, medicinal herbs and florals that are beautifully scented and kinder to the planet.
Explore the a range of rejuvenating floral, oriental, woody, and fresh scents.
We’ve all had the disappointing experience of purchasing a perfume and discovering we didn’t like the scent.
To avoid perfume waste, opt for a brand with a perfume-return policy.
For example, N.C.P and youtime will send you a 1ml sample with every 50ml bottle of perfume so that you can test the scent before opening the bottle.
If it’s not for you, you can return the unopened bottle.
This process saves hazardous liquids and bottles making their way to landfills and oceans where they can wreak havoc on the earth and surrounding wildlife.
Where you can, opt for perfumes from brands that are transparent about their supply chain.
Brands that are socially and environmentally conscious will adhere to fair-trade prices and share information on how their ingredients are sourced, as well as how their purchases help local communities.
Refillable packaging isn’t a new thing — the refillable perfume concept was coined by Mugler in 1992 — but it’s certainly gaining popularity among cosmetic giants.
Each year, the beauty industry produces over 120 billion units of packaging, 95% of which are discarded after a single use.
Today, perfume typically arrives in recyclable cardboard packaging and a glass bottle, but some brands are taking things up a notch by offering refillable packaging instead.
Mugler’s current perfume concept allows all of the bottle’s parts to be removed and replaced in-store, so the consumer only pays for the formula.
As for how much waste this saves? The statistics speak for themselves.
Correctly disposing of your perfume liquid and bottles is extremely important to keep chemicals, plastics, and glass out of our waterways and landfills.
It also keeps us humans safe — perfumes are actually considered hazardous waste.
The Australian Government reports that Australia produces more than 5.6 million tonnes of hazardous waste each year, which is more than 9% of the country’s total waste.
Hazardous waste is essentially any product that can cause harm to humans and/or the environment, now or in the future.
A hazardous product will fall under one or more of the below categories:
As perfumes are considered hazardous, pouring the liquid down the sink or dumping it in your general waste or recycling isn’t safe for humans or the environment.
Disposing of perfume and perfume bottles properly can help to keep us and our planet safe.
If you’re not planning on using the perfume liquid, don’t pour it down the drain or put it in the rubbish bin.
Leftover perfume will need to be sorted by a special chemical collection group.
Most councils regularly offer free household hazardous waste drop-off events. For example, Victoria offers free Detox Your Home events for each council area at different times during the year.
Councils will also have permanent drop-off sites and community recycling centres and selected resource recovery facilities.
Check in with your local council to find out where your local drop-off site is.
Once collected, the perfume liquid will be sorted by qualified chemists and placed into sealed drums. It will then be transported to a specialist waste treatment facility, where it will either be recycled or stored in secured landfills.
By taking the time to send your perfume liquid to the right place, you reduce the impact on the environment and human health and keep landfills and waterways clean.
Whether you’re left with full bottles or old, empty bottles, there are a few things you can do to safely dispose of your perfume waste.
You will need to check with your local council to see if your glass perfume bottles can be recycled.
Some council recycling facilities will accept them, but others will advise for empty bottles to be disposed of with your general waste.
Remember, the bottle must be empty. Do not dispose of a full perfume bottle in your waste bin as it is flammable and must be sent to a hazardous waste facility.
If the bottle still contains some liquid, try swapping with your friends or donating it to a local op-shop or charity.
If the perfume is brand new, you could also sell the bottle on a buy/swap/sell app to reduce the amount of cosmetic waste ending up in landfills.
Empty bottles can be repurposed throughout the home or used as decoration.
If you want to throw the empty bottle away, head to your local council website to see whether the bottle can be recycled or should be disposed of in the general waste.
Perfumes can be bad for the environment if the liquids and bottles are not disposed of correctly. But this doesn’t mean you have to give up that beautiful spritzing ritual.
We can all make better choices to ensure that we keep our planet clean and safe from chemical damage.
Remember to dispose of your perfume liquids and bottles through dedicated council services to keep them from ending up in landfills and oceans.
You can also avoid perfume waste by choosing brands with refillable packaging or a perfume-return policy, as is possible with N.C.P and youtime.
Do you have a question for us? We’d love to hear from you. You can get in touch with us today.