For all mascara users out there, there may be a better destination for your old, dried-out mascara wands than a stinking landfill—the nearest wildlife rehabilitation center!
That’s right, when teeny tiny animals (like cute baby birds or squirrels) are rescued, their fur or skin can sometimes be infested with fly eggs, larvae, and other pests that are difficult to remove safely. However, wildlife rescuers have discovered that clean, repurposed mascara wands make this painstaking grooming process easier for them and more comfortable for the animals, all while giving new life to waste that would have ended up in a landfill.
Wands for Wildlife
Nonprofit organization Wands for Wildlife collects and redistributes mascara wands and has so far donated 500,000 used and 930,000 unused wands over the past five years. For Earth Month, they’re participating in a “wandraiser” which they hope will make people more aware of the use of old mascara wands and encourage more donations.
“Home-based rehabbers look for tools around the home to use in their work (they are mostly volunteers not getting paid),” explains Kimberly “Tashi” Brewster, founder and executive director of Wands for Wildlife. “Using a mascara wand is a ‘tip of the trade’ in caring for injured and orphaned wild animals.”
Where did this idea come from?
The call for mascara wands began around five years ago when Appalachian Wildlife Refuge, a nonprofit sanctuary in North Carolina, asked for donations of clean, used wands. The refuge quickly started getting packages filled with wands, and since then around 1.5 million wands were sent in and shared with wildlife rehabbers nationwide.
The success of the wand campaign encouraged a group of volunteers to transform it into a nonprofit in the summer of 2020, deciding to push through even though the world was in the thick of the pandemic.
On top of mascara wands, Wands for Wildlife collects and distributes kits that are filled with other supplies such as latex gloves, syringes, and formula. So far, they have benefitted more than 130 wildlife rehab facilities, 100 home-based rehabbers, and a number of state wildlife symposiums.
What makes mascara wands perfect for wildlife rescue?
Mascara wands are usually used on injured and orphaned animals like bunnies, birds, squirrels, and box turtles. The bristles of mascara wands are so tightly packed that they are more effective for removing minuscule fly eggs and larvae from fur and feathers, as well as for grooming and cleaning equipment such as syringes and bottles.
If you’d like to send in your used wands, soak them first in hot, soapy water, and then use an old toothbrush to remove any leftover mascara gunk. Dry them completely before packaging them and enclose a wand donation form.