Circular Economy Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas: Cosmetics

As Christmas approaches, people across the globe are queuing on highstreets and browsing online, searching for the perfect gifts for their loved ones. Many of these gifts will be ‘fast-moving consumer goods’ (FMCG), which are products that are sold in a short period of time and for a low price, such as packaged food, beverages, toiletries, cosmetics and medicines.

FMCG account for 60% of total consumer spending, and 75% of municipal waste. A major challenge for FMCG companies is therefore designing out waste whilst  delivering these goods. Lush, a British company founded in 1995, has used innovative product design to reduce the impact of their products, such as avoiding the need for bottles, containers, and tubes for many of their goods. They have instead developed cosmetics and personal care items, such like shampoo and soap, in solid form rather than liquid, reducing the need for plastic packaging. Since 2007, the company has sold more than 38 million of these package-free “naked” shampoo bars throughout the world, which research from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has shown has avoided the use of more than 90 million plastic shampoo bottles. This also demonstrates the customer appetite for circular solutions.

Lush has also begun to embed circularity practices throughout their supply chain, going beyond packaging by stripping back products to combine high quality, essential, self-preserving ingredients. They avoid synthetic material and preservatives where possible, and are conscientious with their suppliers – for example, salt is sourced from suppliers who protect and sustain the salt marshes and migratory birds who live in these environments.

In addition to their naked products, Lush are also producing novel packaging materials and reusable plastic packaging items made from 100% post-consumer recycled feedstock for refilling. In 2021, they launched their new deposit return scheme for their plastic packaging, ‘Bring it Back’. The scheme encourages customers to buy their items with the understanding that they are renting the packaging and can easily return it when they are ready. The company is therefore responsible for eliminating waste and resource recycling, and is a move towards the circular principal of providing products as a service.

To find out more about Lush’s work, visit their website.


These short stories are intended as illustrative of organizations, networks or individuals taking action to implement circular economy principles and practices. Any data or references are taken from publicly available material or interviews. They are intended for discussion, comment and feedback. If you would like to comment or feedback we would be delighted to hear from you.