Tackling the Plastic Problem

Minor changes can make a major difference
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Close your eyes, breathe slowly, clear your mind and relax your body. Then, in your mind’s eye, picture hundreds of millions of tons of plastics in our oceans, seas, rivers and ponds.

The plastic problem

It may be hard to believe, but this mental image isn’t a huge departure from reality. The fact is, we’ve polluted marine ecosystems with the plastics we use every day. This has a detrimental effect on marine life and, gradually, the plastic finds its way back into our lives through the fish some of us consume, or the tap water we drink. Recently, researchers found hundreds of tons of plastic floating in the Arctic Ocean, undeniable proof that our relationship with plastic has had a far-reaching impact. But don’t worry – it’s not all doom and gloom! The good thing is, we can take steps to ensure that the problem doesn’t get worse.

Free fresh face masks?!

At Lush, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to address the issue. Take our black pots recycling program as an example: in Lush stores across the world, customers return five black pots to claim a free fresh face mask. These pots are chipped down into raw material, re-molded as new black pots, filled with product and sent back to stores to be picked off the shelf once again. This closed-loop system cuts down on our overall plastic use and reduces our carbon footprint.

A man with a plan

Gary Calicdan is Lush North America’s print and packaging buyer, and he’s changed how we – and others – approach packaging. A few years ago, he identified an opportunity to use less plastic in our clear, post-consumer recycled plastic bottles: in 2015, we reduced the thickness of each bottle by 13 percent and avoided using roughly 13,600 lbs of plastic that year alone.

“It’s always been the goal of Lush buyers to create that positive impact while at the same time reducing the negative one,” Calicdan explains. “I make sure that we use the most sustainable options available to us.” This commitment to using recycled materials and reducing our plastic use has inspired other major cosmetics brands to do the same, with many committed to using 100 percent recycled materials within the next few years.

Even when it comes to the molds used to make our black pots, Calicdan has found a more sustainable solution. Moving from PVC materials to 100 percent recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic means the molds are now fully recyclable, and thus more sustainable than before.

Reducing the amount of plastic in our packaging is a crucial step to take in the fight against plastic pollution, and for Calicdan, lowering the carbon footprint produced by sourcing materials is another top priority. That’s why today, both our Vancouver and Toronto manufacturing facilities get their plastic pots and bottles from local suppliers instead of from our former suppliers in Taiwan, Japan and the UK.

“We try to look for local source options, as local sourcing has a ton of positive impacts,” says Calicdan. “This might not be the cheapest option for the company, but the overall value of local sourcing means less freight costs, less inventory space, less carbon footprint and shorter delivery time.”

Calicdan credits Lush’s commitment to innovation and sustainability for keeping him motivated. “Ethical buying, charitable giving and [Lush’s] approach to sustainability are the main attractions for me,” he says. “The dynamics of new products and innovation towards more sustainable products are also main drivers that continue to keep my fire burning.”

We can all play our part

With people like Calicdan overseeing Lush’s ethical buying and supply chain management, positive steps are being taken every day to address the plastic crisis. Everyone can do their part: from choosing reusable bags instead of plastics, to ditching plastic straws, to getting a reusable mug for that must-have morning coffee! And with people returning black pots to local Lush stores, they can be happy in the knowledge that they, along with Gary, are part of the solution, not the problem.

For more information about the plastic problem, read about our packaging or enjoy more of our stories.

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