[DOCUMENTATION 2015] - Circular Economy Cosmetic Bottles

Bottle-Beetle Circular Economy Cosmetic Bottles

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The aim of this project is to explore and create a more sustainable design for cosmetic bottles that increases their ability to be recycled or reused more easily. After discussing the general issues that the cosmetic industry face regarding sustainable design, we quickly established that currently most bottles are not suitable for recycling. This is because they tend to be made from many different material components, which cannot be disassembled easily. This results in them being discarded and/or sent to landfill. We focussed on the design of one particular type of bottle used by the majority of brands for their face creams. It became clear after some research that these containers were all designed in a similar fashion, with an outer glass jar and inner plastic tub that contained the cream. The outer jar is the aesthetically attractive part used for branding information. The inside plastic tub is currently not removable and therefore cannot be recycled.
Our concept focusses on changing the design of this inner plastic tub or cartridge, making it a removable component, using a twist lock mechanism to clip it in and out of the outer glass jar.

This weekend we aim to develop this concept further. We plan to make a prototype using CAD software to design the product and a 3D printer to build the prototype.

Initial business plans include pitching this as a concept to different cosmetic companies. The intention would be for customers to buy the original cream product and then on their return to the shop they would buy refill cartridges. Ideally the customer would bring back their empty cartridge, hand it into the shop and buy a replacement. The company would be responsible for recycling their cartridges approrpriately.

Curie Park
Katherine Welbourn
Ahlam Qattam
Sagar Sumaria

See challenge page

To design and build this product we used CAD software to work up a specific design, incorporating three separate components: lid, outer container and inner container. The lid twists on using a thread and the inner tub clips into the outer container using a twist lock mechanism. We used a Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) machine to 3D print all three components separately.


  1. Sketch out cosmetic bottle on paper, with dimension and twist lock component.
  2. Use CAD software to work up design. We used GrabCAD open source website to download the twist lock mechanism for the cartridge.
  3. Save the file as a stl. File, transfer this to printer software
  4. Print on FDM 3D machine
  5. Allow to cool down and construct.

Rather than trying to make the entire cosmetic bottle sustainable, we focussed in on one component (inside cartridge).
Some of the 3D printer settings needed to be adjusted to ensure supports were included in the twist lock mechanism.
Making the card box using the laser required a few attempts to get the setting adjusted to cut and score the card correctly.
We would like to edit the design slightly by adding rim to the inside cartridge that would help the individual grip and remove the cartridge easier.

We are very happy with the final design, the 3D printer works very well and all the components slotted together perfectly.
Business ideas to develop further:
We have developed a name for our concept called Clear Cycle Cartridges (CCC).
For companies who incorporate this technique into their design we thought they could introduce a loyalty card for their customers which may include schemes like loyalty points. This would be an incentive for customers to come back to purchase the refill cartridges at a slightly cheaper price.

Future work

  1. Investigate issues relating to recycling of plastic cartridge e.g. Manufacturing cost, method of recycling and degradation of plastic quality. Speak to companies like MacCosmetics, Aveda and Benefit Cosmetics.
  2. Find out who are manufacturers of individual parts of cosmetics containers e.g Baepak.com are a big manufacturer of cases.
  3. Investigate idea of adding a bio polymer film to encapsulate the entire cartridge, this would improve the hygienic aspects of the product and improve allow the greasy layer to be removed easily from the cartridge before recycling.
  4. How can the concept of CCC be applied to other types of cosmetic bottles?
  5. Is it feasible to source recycled plastic or stay with Virgin plastic.
  6. Map out a full Life Cycle Analysis of all the product all the way back to manufacturer.
  7. Map out an LCA looking at product once customer has finished using it.