Lush to open UK’s first plastic-free cosmetics store in Manchester

Lush launched its first plastic-free locations in Berlin and Milan (pictured) last year

The shop, on Market Street in Manchester, will not sell any products in plastic packaging, in a bid to help consumers choose more sustainable alternatives.

Toiletries on offer will include traditional solid soap bars, bar versions of Lush’s most popular shampoos, conditioners, shower gels and body lotions and loose bath bombs. Customers will be encouraged to place these items into paper bags made with 100% recycled material, or reusable metal tins, before buying them.

Plastic-free cosmetics, such as lipstick refills housed in a beeswax coating and lip scrubs in glass pots, will also be available at the store, which opens on Friday (18 January).

Lush’s product inventor Alessandro Commisso said the opening of the Manchester store, which comes shortly after the brand opened its first ‘naked’ locations in Berlin and Milan, would serve to spur discussions around how best to solve the global plastic pollution problem.

“With the naked shop, we don’t just want to offer beautiful products to our customers –  we want to debate these topics with the public, with the media and with Lush customers to find out where to go next,” he explained.

“We’ve opened this up these spaces for debate, and we’re also inviting NGOs and activist groups that work on reducing waste and reducing plastic pollution into the store. We hope that it will be an education for us and for our customers.”

To ensure consumers know what their packaging-free products contain, Lush uses a digital tool called #LushLabs in its naked stores. The tool uses smartphone or tablet cameras to scan and identify products, before providing a list of ingredients.

Low-plastic pampering

Lush is widely regarded as an ethical leader in the health and beauty sector, having sold only products classed as 100% vegetarian and cruelty-free since it was founded in 1995.

Around half of the products it sells are currently plastic-free, with liquid products such as shower gels and face masks housed in packaging made with 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics – some of which are made using recycled coffee cups.

This business model stands in stark contrast to that of the wider global cosmetics and toiletries sector, which has been estimated to produce 120 billion units of plastic packaging every year by think tanks.

Nonetheless, the opening of Lush’s Manchester store comes at a time when consumer goods firms in this sphere are launching more low-plastic or plastic-free packaging, amid rising consumer demand for more sustainable alternatives.

Unilever, for example, recently launched its Love Beauty and Planet range, which is housed in 100% recyclable PCR packaging, in the UK. The Anglo-Dutch firm is currently striving to ensure that all of its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Similarly, Procter & Gamble (P&G) is now selling its Head and Shoulders range of shampoos and conditioners in recyclable bottles made with up to 25% ocean and beach plastic.

Other brands, such as L’Oreal have gone one step further and eliminated plastic packaging from some of their products altogether. The French firm launched its Seed Phytonutrients products, which include shower gel housed in waterproof paper and hand cream in metal tubes, last spring, and has since received orders from the likes of Walmart and Target.

Sarah George

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