Estee Lauder’s Origins Brand Asks Consumers to Recycle

To celebrate Earth Month and to strengthen its own green roots, Estee Lauder cosmetics brand Origins has launched the “Return to Origins” package recycling program. Shoppers drop off old cosmetics containers–from any makeup manufacturer–at dedicated receptacles at the beauty brand’s 450-plus retail shops and department store counters nationwide. The discarded packages are then sorted and recycled or converted to energy by Origins.

According to company research, cosmetic packaging–such as lipstick tubes, shampoo bottles and moisturizer jars–accounts for 33% of waste in landfills; even when its former wearer means well.

“Most people don’t realize that when you put cosmetics packaging in a [regular] recycling bin, it gets thrown out,” said Jane Lauder, Origins’ svp/general manager of the joys of sorting grades of plastic by makeup manufacturer. “The whole idea of bringing it back to Origins was that we’ll do the hard work for you. Origins can make a difference by making [a commitment to recycling] with our packaging, but imagine what we can do by doing it industrywide.”

The program launched April 2 with a New York press conference hosted by actress Kelly Rutherford (Gossip Girl) and Linda Wells, Editor in Chief of Allure and another press event in Los Angeles with 90210 actress Jessica Stroup. Concurrently, Origins threw store parties for shoppers in Austin, Boston, Cambridge, Denver, San Francisco and other greenish markets.

Estee Lauder launched Origins in 1990 as an organic/natural brand backed by sustainable business practices to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers. At the time, a green movement was also emerging. 

In the two-hour launch events, customers dropped off 293 pounds of empty cosmetics jars and palettes. As a thank you, they received small samples of Origins’ A Perfect World moisturizer. “But it’s not about the sample–they really want to be responsible,” Lauder swears. “Customers are coming in with big bags full of stuff.”

Also this month, the brand is launching the Origins Earth Initiative to aid reforestation projects around the globe. One tree can offset “10 air conditioners running 20 hours a day,” Lauder says.