Badly labelled toiletry products 'undermining' waste recycling fight

Patrick Sawer
Rudiana, 24 from Cihampelos Village, collecting plastic in 2019 at the Saguling reservoir on the headwater of the Citarum river in Bandung, Java, Indonesia. The Citarum is considered one of the most polluted in the world and the Indonesian Army has been tasked with cleaning it up as part of an ambitious 7 year project - Jack Taylor

Badly labelled bathrooms products are undermining the global battle against plastic waste, consumers have been warned.

Which? Magazine has found that 12 out of 20 (60%) products it examined had no recycling information on the label, despite most of them being partially or wholly recyclable.

Only six of the products (30%) that Which? looked at advised consumers that the products should be recycled and with specific instructions on how to do so.

The consumer group fears the lack of clear and accurate labelling is causing confusion among shoppers and could lead to many products that are recyclable being sent to landfill.

Which? found that while two-thirds (67%) of people think recyclability of packaging is important when supermarket shopping, a majority (65%) of Which? members said they were not cutting back on plastics in the bathroom. 

A third (33%) said this was because it would be too difficult to replace bathroom products they regularly use, while a quarter (23%) hadn’t thought about it before. 

One in six (16%) said they don’t know how to cut back on bathroom plastic.

Experts at Which? found that Head and Shoulders classic clean shampoo (500ml), L’Oreal Elvive Colour Protect conditioner (400ml) and Listerine Total Care mouthwash (500ml) had no clear labelling regarding recycling, despite being made of recyclable materials.

Among the best labels was Carex’s Complete Original handwash (250ml) and Radox Feel Refreshed shower gel (250ml), both of which display clear recycling instructions. 

Which? says many toiletry brands are not doing enough to offer consumers clear information about whether or not their products are recyclable. 

Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services, said:

“Recycling and sustainability are a high priority for many consumers - so the lack of clear information on the products we looked at is inexcusable in this day and age.

“With the packaging of many recyclable bathroom toiletries going into landfill in the UK, brands must take action to ensure bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel are clearly labelled and can be disposed of in an efficient way.”

The consumer group is calling on the government to make recycling labelling simple, clear and mandatory and ensure the necessary facilities are in place to make it easy for everyone to recycle.