Why I Never Buy Lip Balm In Plastic Tubes

One of the more common items we find along shorelines, nationwide, are Chapstick tubes. Somehow they either fall out of pockets, cars, trash cans or are inadvertently left behind when we’re on outings so they make their way down to the water and float back in on the high tide. I’ve collected hundreds of these buggers from beaches — enough to turn me off plastic tube lip balm forever.

Reduce & Refuse: We try our best, now, to purchase lip balm in tin or wood containers. Or make it ourselves with our own beeswax. There are many non-plastic options on the market, like Earthwise Medicinals’ Wintermint Lip Balm.

Earthwise Medicinals’ Wintermint Lip Balm comes in cute tin containers, Photo © Earthwise Medicinals

The containers are small, attractive, and 100% recyclable. My children use the little wooden boxes of their favorite lip balm over and over again as specimen containers for archaeology outings. But they’d also make great kindling.

Repurpose and Reuse: So, if you have a Chapstick tube, what to do with it when you’re done with the balm?

1) Salt & Pepper Shaker for camping trips – Pour a little salt and pepper into clean empty tubes and toss in your bag for a little salt and pepper at work or whenever you are on the go eating.

2) Perfume refresher- Don’t have a travel size perfume? Soak a cotton ball in your favorite perfume (or essential oil) and stuff inside an empty lip balm tube. When you need a refresher, just remove the cotton ball and swipe on! Also great for tossing in a drawer for freshness, or even coat pockets when they are stored for the summer.

3) Instructables has a tutorial for making a tiny Chapstick tube LED flashlight.

4) Yours Truly, G recommends simply refiling your tube with homemade lip balm. They make excellent gifts, too.


5) Always wishing you had a spare plastic bag when you go grocery shopping? Make a travel plastic bag holder that attaches to your key ring!

6) A 7-year-old trash hacker designed a travel toothpick holder from a used lip balm tube.

7) Send a secret message to a friend inside your lip balm tube or turn it into a secret waterproof treasure map holder:

8) Store an emergency $100 bill inside your tube and put inside your purse, backpack, briefcase, glove compartment. But don’t forget about it.

Recycle: Most lip balm containers are made of #5 plastic, which is also used for things like yogurt and over-the-counter medicine bottles. Whole Foods, along with Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm, has a Gimme 5 initiative that accepts #5 plastics in some stores. Check to see if there’s one in your area.

balm on the road.jpg

I know there’s a campaign out there, questioning whether any of us have actually fully used up our chapstick (before the chapstick tube somehow disappears). Well I have! And often. I’m one of those people who’ve used up plenty of ’em because lip balm is critical protection against the elements. High in the mountains in remote parts of the planet, lip balm is tantamount to survival. I’ve even attached lip balm to the outside of my pack or to a gizmo that goes around my neck so it’s always available, a lip balm necklace of sorts. Go to the mountains or desert sans lip balm and you quickly end up with blistery bloody lips that crack and ooze with a simple smile. Gross. And painful. So, use up your lip balm, and better yet, skip the plastic tube and bring it to your favorite places in nice metal or wooden containers.


Chapstick Tube Turned Salt & Pepper Shaker

We went on a backpacking trip last week and decided, at the last moment, to not bring our salt and pepper shakers because of the added weight. Luckily, we didn’t miss them due to the foods we had chosen to bring with us, but for the future I was looking for that perfect DIY salt & pepper container.

The finished Dermatone tube my husband handed to me this a.m. was all I needed to get my DIY juices going to make our own little camping condiment container. The steps, you’ll see, are quite easy:

1) Find yourself a used-up Chapstick tube.

2) Remove the inner plastic cup that holds the lip balm and should be at the top of your tube. Simply turning the tube upside down and banging it on the table should do the trick.

3) Boil the tube and lid in water for 2-3 minutes to sterilize it and get rid of the remaining goop inside.

4) Remove the sticky label if you’d like on the outside of the tube and write with a permanent pen the name of what you’re stashing inside: “Special Herb Blend” or “salt & pepper” for example. We chose to put the salt & pepper together due to weight constraints when we’re in the mountains.

5) Add your condiment of choice inside. I used our favorite Celtic sea salt and freshly ground 3-color pepper.


Here are a few other trash hacks you can do with a chapstick tube:

  1. Use it to hold any pills you might need on a trip.
  2. Make a mini travel sewing kit out of it.
  3. Put some emergency cash inside your tube as a hideaway.
  4. Condom stash?