Can You Recycle Lotion Bottles, Tubes, And Pumps? (Full Guide)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

You step out of the shower, get prepared to lather up, and find your favorite lotion bottle is empty. Of course, you have a new one under the sink.

But as you set out to dispose of your old bottle, you might wonder: Can a lotion bottle be recycled? Read on to find out this answer and more in the article below!

Can you Recycle Lotion Bottles, Tubes, And Pumps?

You can recycle most lotion bottles as long as they are rinsed out before throwing them into the recycle bin. However, the pumps and tubes used to deliver lotion cannot always be recycled. Unless there are alternate disposal options, pumps and tubes should usually be thrown into the regular garbage.

Recycling bathroom products might seem like a small step. Still, it does have a meaningful impact on our environment and the future sustainability of our planet. Read on to learn more about how to recycle your favorite lotion bottles and how you can make a difference.

How To Recycle Lotion Bottles, Pumps, And Tubes

It is important to note that while lotion bottles can be recycled, in most cases, not all parts of a lotion bottle are fit for such a purpose. 

Furthermore, the tubes and pumps are considered hard to recycle and cannot be placed in the recycling with the rinsed-out bottle. They must be disposed of by alternate means. 

Many bottles do not come with pumps and tubes, depending on which brand you prefer. 

However, if yours does, the proper disposal of these items will be covered in this article. For easy reference, let us look at a guide showing the different components of the lotion bottle.

Component Recyclable? Disposal Method
The body of the bottle Yes Can be recycled and placed in the appropriate bin 
The pump Generally, no Must be placed in your regular garbage unless an alternate program is available
The tube attachment Generally, no Must be placed in the regular garbage unless an alternate program is available

How To Dispose Of The Lotion Bottle?

Unlike its components, the bottle itself is fairly easy to recycle. 

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Therefore, to properly dispose of your plastic lotion bottle, here are a few simple steps to follow:

  • Make sure the bottle is marked #1 or #2. (This number is usually located on the bottom of the bottle.)
  • If the bottle is marked #3, #4 #6, or #9 it cannot be recycled.
  • Remove the tube and pump from the bottle.
  • Rinse out the bottle

You can now dispose of the lotion bottle in your plastic recycling. 

But you might wonder, what about the label? It’s not plastic, so can it too go into the container designated for plastic recycling? The answer is yes. 

Due to the heating process used during recycling, the labels and adhesives are burnt away during the procedure, therefore, it is not mandatory to remove the labels.

What about the cap; can it be recycled? If your bottle has a screw top, it can be recycled along with the bottle.

How To Dispose Of The Pump And Tube

How To Dispose Of The Pump And Tube

Unlike the bottle itself, dealing with the pump attachment is not as easy. 

Furthermore, these components cannot be recycled due to the many tiny parts used in manufacturing them. 

Each pump uses up to four different kinds of plastic as well as often other materials like glass or rubber. 

Therefore, to ensure the complex device does its job the way it’s supposed to, many different materials are needed, rendering it unsuitable for recycling conventionally. 

Unfortunately, unless you plan to use the parts in an art project, they are destined for the regular trash can. At least that was their fate until recently.

If you are dedicated to recycling every part of your lotion bottle, there are programs such as TerraCycle, which offers free recycling programs funded by manufacturers and retailers. 

Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about their recycling program for hard-to-recycle items, TerraCycle has information to help you.

However, what about the tube? Well, that is where it gets a little complicated. 

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The tubes are increasingly made out of plastic, which would make them recyclable – except that’s not always true.

In some cases, tubes may include mixed materials, just like the pumps. 

Furthermore, these mixed materials could cause contamination of the recyclables, and therefore, they should be placed in the regular trash. 

Furthermore, as a general rule, mixed materials are difficult to recycle.

Are There Alternatives To Pump/Tube Components? 

Advances in the beauty industry are happening every day. As more people become concerned about the environmental impact of plastic use, pump and tube alternatives are hitting the market. 

Are There Alternatives To Plastic Lotion Bottles?

Many companies are offering lotion bottles made out of sustainable materials. Some of these materials might sound familiar already:

  • Glass (100% recyclable)
  • bamboo – There is an ample supply of bamboo as it’s the planet’s fastest-growing plant.
  • Silicone – Made from sand, it is less wasteful to produce and can be recycled
  • Paper – A material made from paper pulp such as paperboard is strong enough to serve as a container for lotion.
  • Metal – You likely already own several metal containers, and the good news is they are environmentally friendly.
  • Stainless steel – Tough and easy to clean contains made of stainless steel is durable and will last a long time, unlike plastic.

Additionally, many companies will allow you to either return your bottles to them or refill them.

Furthermore, it is always worth checking the back of your bottle to see if the manufacturer of your preferred product takes part in any such initiatives.

How To Reuse And Upcycle Lotion Bottles

Recycling is not the only option for your empty lotion bottles, of course. 

You could use a refillable bottle and avoid having to throw away any part of the bottle. 

This is often also the least expensive choice, but this may not be feasible if you’re attached to a particular product.

If refilling a bottle isn’t possible, there are still many alternatives to throwing empty bottles away. 

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For example, instead of throwing away the bottle, you could use it for a fun craft project with your kids or friends. 

The possibilities are endless with a bit of creativity. Here are just two more examples:

  • Why not make a vase out of an old shampoo bottle? 
  • You could make a phone holder from an old soap bottle 

Furthermore, if you are interested in arts and crafts, plastic lotion bottles and their often beautiful designs and decorations are an ideal canvas to let your inner artist explore and experiment. 

Why Should I Recycle My Lotion Bottle? 

You might come away from reading this article wondering just how bad these bottles are for the environment. The answer is simple: They are not great. 

Your lone lotion bottle might seem like a drip in the ocean of your local landfill when compared to: 

  • Toxic waste
  • Tires
  • Broken furniture
  • A disposed of living room set 

However, when taking into account the millions of bottles used in America alone, plastic lotion bottles contribute a great deal to the damage inflicted on our planet.

Therefore, by recycling, you are a part of making sure this damage is reversible, and the beauty industry is sustainable.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether you can recycle black plastic, whether you can recycle meat trays, and why recycling is important.


While more and more companies are moving away from plastic bottles and making their packaging more sustainable, a truly waste-free beauty industry is still a distant vision. 

In the meantime, recycling what we can and throwing away what we can’t is the best way to help Mother Nature along the way and do our part to aid in reducing waste.


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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