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Tackling makeup packaging

While many kerbside collections take food waste, cardboard and glass, the likes of makeup boxes, lipstick cases and foundation pots are thrown straight into the landfill bin. At Lush, we believe in doing things differently...

Materials such as plastic, glass, metal and paper are all used in packaging makeup cosmetics, but plastic remains the most common due to its low cost, light weight, and convenience. Some brands are switching to biopolymers or wood and bamboo products to reduce their carbon footprint, while some others are looking at refillable makeup cases. At Lush, we champion going naked. This means no packaging at all.

Little items, big problems

Packaging recycling is on the rise in the UK, which is undoubtedly a good sign, but it only tells half the story. Plastic is still one of the two least recycled packaging materials in the UK (wood is the other) with approximately less than half being recycled. Every year globally, it's estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic is offloaded into waterways; that's the equivalent of one rubbish truck being dumped out every minute. This is expected to rise to two trucks per minute by 2030, then four a minute by 2050. In the same year, pieces of plastic are predicted to outnumber fish in the world’s oceans.

Part of the problem is the packaging used for cosmetics. For example, it's believed around one billion lipstick casings are discarded each year, ending up in landfill where, if they’re made of plastic, will take approximately half a millennium (500 years) to degrade.

Getting naked

In response to this we've created a completely vegan, cruelty-free makeup range, the majority of which is completely naked; completely free of packaging. What's more, where packaging is required, it's: compostable, reusable, recyclable or refillable.

"Feeling fed up that the makeup industry had become saturated in plastic packaging, I began to think about what we at Lush could do differently," Rowena Bird, Lush co-founder and product inventor, responsible for innovative products such as Emotional Brilliance face powder and solid tricolour lip blocks. "I wanted to explore how we could challenge that market, while still innovating creative, beautiful makeup."

Good enough to keep

Our makeup has certainly changed over the years. Back in the Cosmetics to Go days (the company that came before Lush), Rowena and the team wanted to create packaging that people would keep. "That’s always been my thing," she continues. "The range in Lush’s sister company, B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful, was inspired from the days when I played at my aunt’s dressing table. There was a lot of packaging. We were thinking about the ethical treatment of people, but you could say that we weren't thinking environmentally at the time. But I’d like to think that our customers still have the beautiful eyeshadow pots and brushes. I wanted them to be coveted items that people would keep."

Fast forward to today and we have a range of naked makeup, featuring lipsticks, foundation (Slap Sticks), highlighters (Glow Sticks), and concealers (Trix Sticks). Elsewhere in the range, every piece of packaging that does exist is thought about carefully. "We asked ourselves: is it reusable? Is it recyclable? Do we need any packaging at all?" Rowena explains, "any packaging we do use is tailor-made and unique, so I hope people don't want to throw it away."

For example, the refillable lipstick cases are made by a company in France that produced vintage-style pieces back in the ‘50s. "Technology has moved along so much since then, so we really had to persuade them to take on the project," Rowena reveals. "Then there are the eyeshadow cases made from tagua (a very hard seed that can be carved into) from Ecuador. The time and dedication that goes into both these pieces, and the stories behind them, are just incredible. I really believe these reusable pots are timeless."

Minimising the amount of brushes you use is another way to avoid adding to the pollution problem, with the advice here to invest in one or two good quality brushes that will last, rather than dozens that might not. What’s more, caring for your brushes properly will help to increase their longevity. Just simply lather up your brushes on a bar of soap, then rinse with warm water and allow to dry.

Vive la révolution

"Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, said something that’s stayed with me," Rowena concludes. “We are the first generation to know that we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.

"It’s everyone’s responsibility to affect change. If we want to see a decrease in the impacts of plastic pollution, we’ve got to start consuming less of it, and I really hope our customers will get on board. Help us bring about a naked revolution!"

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