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Picture the shampoo, conditioner, leave-ins, styling and finishing products you use on any given day. Depending on your hair care routine and on how many products you use in your routine, you could be going through close to 40 bottles each year (assuming three bottles each month). For Product Junkies, this number is likely to be even higher. That makes for a plethora of plastic packaging that you are disposing of every year.

Of course, both the size of the bottle as well as how much you use will determine how many bottles you use. That said, have you considered what your bottle usage may be doing to the environment? Is there an eco-friendly way to be a curly girl?

What is BPA in plastic?

Many plastic products - especially bottles - contain a chemical known as BPA (Bisphenol A). While this chemical helps harden plastic bottles, it’s also hazardous to humans. In fact, there’s a link between BPA and cancer, neurological problems, and even early puberty in girls. This chemical enters your body through contact with BPA-containing plastics.

What kind of plastic do hair products come in?

Many shampoo bottles are made from a plastic known as HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic. This type of plastic is so safe that even eco-friendly companies recommend it for manufacturing baby bottles.

It's standard practice for many curlies to research the ingredients in your curly hair products, especially with so many brands now putting front and center their choice to exclude certain ingredients from their formulas; likewise, it wouldn't hurt to check out a brand's stance on product packaging.

Is all plastic recyclable?

Not all plastic bottles are recyclable. Even though you may think to put it in your recycling bin, that doesn’t guarantee it won’t eventually end up in a landfill.

Not all plastic bottles are recyclable. Even though you may think to put it in your recycling bin, that doesn’t guarantee it won’t eventually end up in a landfill.

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Know Your Numbers

All plastics display a number, which identifies the materials used in them as well as whether or not they’re recyclable.

To determine whether your product bottles come from HDPE plastic, look on the side or bottom of the bottle. If the bottle contains a number “2” surrounded by arrows in the form of a triangle and contains the letters HDPE, then it contains HDPE plastic. (The letters HDPE may or may not have arrows around them).

  • #3, #6, and #7 are among the absolute worst; they also contain BPA.
  • Bottles with #1 have small amounts of BPA that slowly releases itself over time.
  • The best plastics have the number #2, #4, or #5 on them.

You will need to check the guidelines for your local area to see which plastic numbers they accept.

Where to recycle your product bottles

If you’ve determined that you’d like to recycle your product bottles, there are several options. In many neighborhoods, all you’ll need to do is place your materials in a recycling bin (that you keep) and put them by the curb on trash pick-up days. If your neighborhood doesn’t do this, you can also bring your recycled materials to on-site locations. The site 1-800-Recycling.com was set up to help you find those on-site locations near you. Simply click the button titled “plastics” for product bottles, then select the type of plastic you have from the menu on the right. From there, you’ll just enter in your zip code or city, and the site will find you the nearest locations!

If you have a lot of stuff that you’d love to have hauled off, try 1-800-GOT-JUNK who will not only haul away large quantities of stuff but they’ll also do your recycling for you. They’ll come to your house and give you a quote as to what it’ll cost to remove everything, and then you’ll decide when you’d like them to come take it!

Rethink your product consumption

To be eco-conscious, you may need to re-think a few things. Do you really NEED that new bottle of shampoo that all the curlies rage about online? If you decide you must have it, what will you do with your other bottle? If you justified the new purchase because your other bottle is almost empty, where will the bottle go when you’re finished? Can you recycle it? If not, where will it end up going? Being aware of these considerations, and asking yourself these questions before each and every purchase, can help you make more environmentally friendly purchase decisions.

Repurpose your used products

Many curly girls are DIY-ers, so it's a great idea to hold onto your used product bottles for your future concoctions. Be sure to rinse it thoroughly and cleanse with hot water, releasing any leftover product on the inside of the bottle, which could interfere with your new mixture.

Read next: 5 Hair Brands that Will Biodegrade When You're Done With Them