Oct 11, 2021

From recycled to naked and carbon-neutral

We catch up with Lush's Nick Gumery ahead of his appearance at PACE.
Elisabeth Skoda

Nick Gumery, creative buyer for packaging at Lush Cosmetics, talks about balancing consumer experience and sustainability when developing cosmetics packaging ahead of his appearance at the Packaging and Converting Executive Forum 2020 in Vienna, Austria on March 11th and March 12th, 2020.

Please tell me more about Lush’s packaging strategy and the mix of materials you use.

Our packaging strategy is quite simple: We endeavour to produce naked (i.e. packaging free) solid products wherever possible. Over 50% of our product offering is naked. In addition, we offer our in-store customers 100% recycled paper bags and invite them to shop with a market style approach placing all items in the same carrier bag to minimise packaging. On-line customers will receive their goods in a 100% recycled cardboard box cushioned with eco-flow made from natural potato starch. Where packaging is still required, for example for creams, liquids, gels, toothy tabs and powders) we used 100% recycled materials wherever possible.

Most of our ranges come in 100%  post-consumer recycled waste plastics, including pots and clear bottles, apart from perfumes, which are packaged in glass. We offer our customers reusable packaging to support the use, transportation and storage of our naked product range i.e. all metal lipstick holders, cork pots and aluminium tins. We are also looking to introduce regenerative materials, such as natural cork, mushroom and nuts, into our packaging, looking beyond recycling centres and letting nature do this job for us.

- What are the design challenges and opportunities using alternative packaging materials?

The main challenges are centred around scalability of natural materials and meeting the demand for a relatively large global business. Designing with natural materials can also prove more testing as we need to retain the bio-degradability by not introducing any materials or coatings that will hinder or prevent this process. Closing systems may need to remain simplistic, but all of these are achievable. Mass production is the single biggest challenge that we face.

-What challenges did you have to overcome with your Naked products in terms of functionality? Have you noticed an increase in popularity of this type of product?

Our wonderfully creative inventing team (which still includes some of our founders) work tirelessly on producing fantastic solid products and each product will throw up different challenges regarding functionality. We need to ensure that a product will lather effectively in some cases and be generally fit for purpose, will retain colour, will not stain and will be just as fantastic as its liquid cousin.  Our bath bombs and shampoo bars are among our top selling products and are becoming increasingly popular. Lots of customers still prefer our liquid versions though, and it is great that they can choose.

-Tell us more about Lush’s carbon positive cork pots.

We developed our ‘carbon-positive’ cork pot to replace the aluminium tin of its shampoo bar. Cork is harvested from the tree once a decade by stripping the outer bark without it being chopped down. According to analysis verified by the Carbon Trust, each 35g pot removes more than 33 times its weight in carbon dioxide and is certified ‘carbon neutral’. The pots will all be shipped rather than flown to minimise the carbon footprint

-How can the packaging industry support brand owners to achieve future circularity?

The ultimate goal is to get to the point of pelletising and re-forming totally natural materials including binders through an injection moulding process (usually used for plastic production) or similar, this would start to give us the opportunity to mass produce. Easier said than done...but it would be a huge innovative leap forward in solving the current packaging waste crisis.

Elisabeth Skoda

Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!
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