Lush Cosmetics' Green Hub in Poole, Dorset

In pictures: Inside Lush’s circular ‘Green Hub’ in Poole, Dorset

Lush has officially unveiled its ‘Green Hub’ facility in Poole, Dorset, which forms part of its headquarters and provides a dedicated home to its recycling, repairing, and materials processing.

The site is one element of Lush’s push to be a leading retail player in the circular economy and its mission statement of “leaving the world lusher than we found it”.

In a behind-the-scenes tour, Green Retail World saw where the retailer’s plastic packaging is washed, processed, and recycled into new packaging – including the material it receives from customers as part of the ‘Bring it Back’ packaging scheme that is widely promoted and used in its stores across the UK.

Over the course of this week, we’ll pick out the most interesting aspects the wider environmental work Lush is doing. We also had a chance to sit down with Lush co-founder, Mark Constantine, to talk business and the environment – and that interview with be published on Friday.

First up, here’s a picture tour of the site, supported by comments from Ruth Andrade, earthcare strategy lead for Lush, who has driven the Green Hub project.

Green Retail World at Lush's Green Hub in Dorset
Ben Sillitoe assesses Lush’s circular economy ambitions

The first iteration of the Green Hub opened in 2014, with the aim of helping the business circulate more materials and maintain the value in those materials rather than allowing them to end up in what the company views as an inefficient UK recycling system.

While the site was previously viewed mainly as a place for innovation, “Green Hub 2.0”, as Andrade describes it, has received a £2.3 million investment to ensure it is now “an education centre and open to the community” and “the heart of how Lush wants to showcase circular economy”.

The main pillars of the hub, according to Andrade, are: education and external influencing; creating local and community networks; and testing the concept of materials as service, which involves running a closed-loop recycling system for Lush’s own materials and packaging but also, potentially in the future, helping the wider Dorset region become more circular.

“We are like the metabolic part of Lush that is taking materials in, washing, recycling, and bringing materials back,” she said, explaining that the hub contains tech and biological processing, repair stations where items such as store furniture is fixed, and where waste water is treated to the point it goes back into sewage ‘clean’. Ultimately, the retailer sees an opportunity to treat the water to the point it can be used in the cleaning processes related to its recycled packaging.

Andrade said that the annual costs of the Green Hub, which runs on renewable energy like all its UK sites, come out less than if Lush was to pay for all its manufacturing waste management externally. As Green Retail World reported last week, it does have a new third-party partner to support with its waste management, Axil Integrated Services, which has taken over managing the retailer’s commodities waste and overseeing some aspect of recycling.

The earthcare strategy lead acknowledged that UK-wide recycling levels of plastic are low compared to many other countries, including her home nation Brazil, and she warned the pace of new materials produced globally is outpacing the capacity for society to become more circular. But she stated “paralysis is never the answer”, so that is why Lush has taken action to support the UK’s recycling infrastructure by launching the Green Hub.

“It’s important not to dishearten people, they still need to recycle [at curbside],” she noted, although she wants a reusing infrastructure to be implemented in the UK – describing recycling as “what has been promoted as the solution”. She argued that to truly support environmental welfare, packaging must be reduced considerably and businesses in general need to shift their entire way of operating.

She added: “It’s an infrastructure problem we are trying to support by having the Green Hub – by partnering with people, by supporting closed loops. It’s trying to make as good a situation as we can now.”

Ruth Andrade talks to guests at the official launch of the Lush Green Hub

The hope from the Lush team is that the wider Dorset area might one day soon be able to tap into what Lush has built, meaning the retailer would effectively be providing material handing as a service. Andrade said she would love to explore how that could develop further, but it is only one of several directions for “Green Hub 3.0” as it begins its journey to ensconce itself in the local landscape.

Talking holistically, she remarked: “I really believe if we’re producing waste we should treat it locally where it is produced – not export it or have incinerators in people’s back yards.

“The Green Hub is the answer to this – how do we increase capacity to process waste in Dorset? Business as usual is to build an incinerator in an important place for biodiversity, the other option is the Green Hub.”

Andrade continued: “We used to be able to process 2.5 tonnes per week, now it’s 20 tonnes per week. We are trying to create capacity in the system.”

Lush pots are processed with help from partner Aurora before being made into new packaging

The Green Hub will be open to the public, as part of Lush’s circular economy education piece. It also processes product donations, which sees items that cannot be sold in shops or online but are safe to use organised and distributed to charities across the UK.

There is also a ‘Shop Again’ concept, where Lush staff can purchase items that used to appear in stores but are no longer needed for commercial purposes. In time, this could be opened up to the public, providing a pre-loved shop for the local community.

Lush’s Shop Again concept at The Green Hub

“Instead of just relying on existing processes and recyclers, we are actually helping create more capacity,” Andrade said.

“Not just for Lush but hopefully, in the future, the region.”

[Image credits: Green Retail World]

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