In 2015, the shampoo and conditioner market was worth almost $35 billion. As a result, untold numbers of plastic bottles were discarded in landfill sites, where they will remain until they biodegrade or are dug up by archaeologists, perhaps exploring an age of excess packaging.
In the marketing world, plastic and other packaging materials play an important role. Extra boxes, layers and frills are shiny and visual; they catch the eye and add unnecessary cost to a product. Dreamy, obviously, if you’re taking home the profit. Not so ideal for the customer or the planet.
Shampoo bars offer an alternative
Between January 2015 and January 2016, global sales of Lush shampoo bars meant 15,890,925 plastic bottles were never created. These travel-friendly, naked bars are packed full of essential oils, so you also get more bang(s) for your buck, with each bar lasting for up to 80 washes: around three times longer than shampoo by the bottle.
Increased customer demand for less packaging is a welcome challenge to retailers. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, plastic containers and packaging generated about 14 million tons of waste in the U.S. in 2013, with just 14% being recycled. Now, 35% of Lush products are naked, with solid body butters alone ensuring that 37,500 lbs of packaging was never required (let alone dumped) in 2015.
But we know we can do better. “Packaging is rubbish and for too long we've had to suffer excessive amounts of it. Now that the true financial and environmental costs are becoming obvious, customers are challenging manufacturers and retailers to cut the wrap. Companies like ours need to think out of the box and present customers with innovations that allow them to buy truly naked products,” says Lush co-founder Mark Constantine.
Transforming liquids to solids may be a task of Wonka-esque proportions, but the process often has multiple benefits. Inventing (and reinventing) naked products goes hand in hand with making them self-preserving, which means they don’t need to be filled with synthetic preservatives to stay fresh.
By replacing the water content with ingredients that remain solid at room temperature, like fair trade cocoa butter, bacteria growth is inhibited and stays that way. Eureka!
When you order naked products online, of course we’ll need to send it in a package. But have no fear—they’re lovingly packed in biodegradable bags and 100% recycled boxes. Inside the boxes, we use plant-based, biodegradable packing peanuts to keep fragile products safe in transit. The peanuts break down quickly in water or soil, so pop them in your compost bin or reuse them in the next package you mail to a friend.
Similarly, (eco-friendly) light bulb moments are also driving innovation for currently packaged products, too. Take black pots, for example: when you’re finished using five Lush products in black pots you can bring them back to your local Lush in exchange for a free fresh face mask. The black pots are then cleaned thoroughly and ground into pellets, before being heated and remolded back into black pots by our recycling partners. Although we offer an incentive to returning our black pots to the shop, only a fraction of them are returned. By bringing yours back to be recycled, you can help close the loop so that every single black pot has more lives than a cat.
And, welcome as it is, it’s not just about recycling on a personal basis. Customers have the power to demand a change in attitude from retailers and prompt industry-wide improvement. Tell us what you think. Kick up a fuss. Challenge us and others to do better to recycle harder, better, faster, stronger. Let's give future generations a better Earth to bathe on.