What are compostable lip balm tubes?
Compostable tubes are a type of packaging for lip balm that are made out of materials that compost in your backyard or industrial facilities. These are typically made out of recycled cardboard, paper, or biodegradable plastic and dyed with natural pigments to ensure minimal environmental impact. These almost always use a unique push-up mechanism rather than the twist-bottoms traditionally used in plastic tubes. This takes some getting used to, but means that the tubes are often larger than most lip balms and last longer — plus, if you lose it, there is no plastic waste!
But what does compostable mean? Are all compostable products the same?
There are several nuances to compostable and biodegradable products that are important to understand to be able to choose the best option for you. Use this tool to find compost locations near you, anywhere in the US.
Biodegradable products are those that break down naturally over time without requiring any specific conditions. The most sustainable products in this category biodegrade quickly and without emitting harmful chemicals or gases. Cardboard lip balm tubes are biodegradable in most conditions, but will vary in the time required to break down depending on the exact materials used.
Products that you can compost in a backyard compost bin are made with paper and other plant-based fibers, without any plastic or complex coatings. This is possible because simple items can break down at low temperatures in low bacteria environments found in residential compost setups. More complex materials require the specific conditions created and maintained in commercial compost facilities. Cardboard lip balm tubes are perfect for backyard composting, since they are made with paper and don’t have any artificial materials. While you can let a cardboard lip balm tube biodegrade anywhere, it will happen much more quickly in a backyard compost bin and contribute to the creation of new soil.
Not all compostable items are equal — some types are made with more complex materials that require warmer temperatures and different bacteria to compost. This requires depositing these items at a commercial composting facility, and cannot be broken down in your backyard. Cardboard lip balm tubes can break down in either a residential or commercial setting, but will degrade much faster in a dedicated facility.
What are the benefits of compostable lip balm tubes?
Choosing a compostable lip balm tube has several important benefits for you, your wallet, and the environment:
Simple, natural, personal care
Many doctors warn against using lip balms containing harsh chemicals and fillers, like many found at the grocery store. Ingredients like phenol, menthol and salicylic acid dry out and irritate lips with use over time. Instead, it is important to look for lip balms that are made with a short list of natural components instead. While not all lip balms packaged in compostable tubes are automatically better for you, it’s a good indicator that the maker is thinking about your experience with the product holistically and making smaller batches more thoughtfully. Always check the label to be sure!
Longer lasting and harder to lose
Plastic-free lip balm tubes inherently have to be designed differently than their plastic counterparts — much of the waste in the traditional tubes come from the twisting mechanism and the overall small size of the container. Thus, cardboard lip balm tubes are made with a wider “push up” bottom — eliminating plastic while accommodating the size of adult hands. As a side benefit, this means you get more lip balm in every tube — making your personal care products last longer and taking some pressure off your wallet. Further, larger lip balm tubes are harder to lose and fit nicely in a pocket or bag — and if you do lose it, it will just break down over time!
Less plastic in the waste stream
Plastic lip balm tubes cannot be recycled because they are too small for the processes in many municipalities, and rarely are sent to these facilities 100% “clean” (without any of their original contents). Thus, our waste stream gets filled with more small plastics — worse than ending up in landfills, small plastics are often found in waterways around the world.
While there are many other large changes we all need to make to achieve a sustainable future, switching out plastic for cardboard in our personal care products is one place to start. Learn more about our Bee Good, Do Good lip balms — made with beeswax from farmers in Moreau, Haiti and packaged in a residentially/commercially compostable cardboard lip balm tube.