The Lip Balm Tube, a.k.a. Chapstick

By Liesl Clark

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.

Used-up Dermatone, Photo © Liesl Clark

Reduce & Refuse: I try my best, now, to purchase lip balm in tin or wood containers. There are many 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) My Lip Stuff creator, Brea, has these and other excellent ideas about how to reuse your tubes: 1) Salt & Pepper- 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.

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

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

4) Taking my lead from Brea at My Lip Stuff, I decided to make a travel salt-n-pepper shaker-in-one. It took about 10 minutes and now we have a great addition to our camping & backpacking cooking kit.

Salt & Pepper Anyone? Photo © Liesl Clark

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:

Chapstick Secret Treasure Map Holder, Photo © Liesl Clark

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.

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.

If you’re looking for more inspirations, please visit our app for reuse, reduce, and recycle ideas. Just type in your item, hit the action you want to take and there are lots of ideas for you to choose.

Chapstick Reuses At

Do you have any interesting ideas for repurposing your chapstick tubes or avoiding them altogether? Please let us know in the comments below, or use our crowd-sourcing page on the app!

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Categories: Plastic-Free Living, Reduce Your Use, Repurpose and Reuse, Trash Pile - All Our Stuff, Upcycle


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3 Comments on “The Lip Balm Tube, a.k.a. Chapstick”

  1. August 31, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    I used to go through chap stick especially in the winter months, but after trying to find an alternative that was free of chemicals I gave up and now use a little aloe on my lips when they feel dry. It works well enough that I don’t have to buy chap stick any longer.

    • September 1, 2012 at 9:16 am #

      Yes! I love aloe, too. But up in the mountains or on the beach a little sun protection is really needed. Maybe adding a little zinc to the aloe would work?

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