When Lush Cosmetics began in Poole, England in 1995, they didn’t have the resources for fancy wrappings, so they would hand-pour soap into upcycled drain pipes or lunch pails and then cut slices for customers to order. Now, almost 30 years later, the brand is highly successful, but they have maintained their humble sustainable packaging style to reduce waste and help build a circular economy.
The $500 billion cosmetics industry is a significant contributor to the single-use plastic crisis. The vertically integrated Lush is turning their attention towards the value of the product, not the container it comes in. They own their own manufacturing and distribution locations and even grow some of their own raw materials. They distribute in 49 countries around the world and have embedded their zero-waste philosophy throughout their value chain.
To reduce water usage and plastic bottles, the company has invested in creating solid versions of shampoo, shower gels, body lotions, and toothpaste. While shampoo bars have gained popularity in recent years, Lush has been producing them since 1980, saving 19.4 million plastic bottles from being produced so far.
Lush has also launched its new Naked Shops in Milan, Berlin, Hong Kong, and Manchester. These stores offer packaging and label-free items, making ingredient and usage instructions available via their app, rather than printed on the packaging.
For items that still require wrapping, Lush sources 100 percent post-consumer recycled content for all their plastics and 100 percent recycled paper. They also launched their Black Pot program in 2008 where customers can return five product containers in exchange for a free face mask. These containers are then cleaned and reused. Even cardboard boxes, used to deliver products to stores, are reused, on average, five times.
As we look towards what we want our reopened economy to look like, introducing circular practices to reduce waste is a key focal point we have been covering at the Optimist Daily. Strategies from companies committed to reducing their personal plastic footprint are solutions we love to share.