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EXCLUSIVE: After 32 Years, MAC Cosmetics Is Giving Its Recycling Program a Refresh

The improved Back to MAC program aims to maximize recyclability of product empties, and includes an initial $100,000 donation to Plastics for Change to help reduce plastic pollution.

MAC Cosmetics is fine-tuning its approach to recycling.

The makeup (and as of last year, skin care) brand is evolving its its Back to MAC sustainability program, which was first introduced in 1990 and enables consumers to return product empties en masse via mail or to participating MAC counters in exchange for a free product of their choosing, with the aim of reducing landfill waste.

In 2022, more than 340,000 pounds of empty MAC containers — the equivalent of roughly 9.3 million lipsticks — were processed in the U.S. through Back to MAC, and now, the brand has teamed up with Close the Loop and Plastics for Change to execute an even greater program impact in 2023 and beyond.

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“When [Back to MAC] was born, recycling was not top of mind as it is today; there weren’t the partners that exist today,” said Aïda Moudachirou-Rébois, senior vice president, global chief marketing officer at MAC. “We want to improve both how much we recycle, and how we recycle.”

Through its partnership with Close the Loop, the end-to-end solutions provider will process returned empties using an exacting process which ensures as much material as possible — including some which otherwise wouldn’t be recognized as recyclable by municipal streams — will be recycled into new products.

MAC estimates more than 660,000 pounds of product will be collected each year through the program, and that between 220,000 and 440,000 pounds will be recycled in the U.S. this year with Close the Loop.

Plastics For Change plastic collectors.
Plastics For Change plastic collectors. courtesy

The brand has also pledged an initial donation of $100,000 to provider of ethically sourced, recycled plastic, Plastics for Change.

“We know that customer adoption alone is not enough, which is why we wanted to partner with Plastics for Change to support the collection of plastic, but also the collectors who collect plastic in their communities,” said Moudachirou-Rébois, adding that the initial donation will enable the collection of more than 550,000 pounds of plastic.

In addition to bolstering its recycling program, the brand is investing in other efforts to lessen its impact on the planet, aiming for 60 percent of its packaging to be either recyclable (or recycled), refillable, or reusable by 2025, and 50 percent of its plastic to be PCR by the same year.

“Our goal is to make more responsible choices through the entire product life cycle without compromising the product offering and experience for the consumer,” Moudachirou-Rébois said.