The Smell of Bullshit, part 20: a glittery turd is still a turd

One of my all-time favourite Lush products (back in the days when the products were nice) was Fairy Jasmine. It was a beautiful lilac ballistic, scented with jasmine and filled with glitter. It coated the bather with glitter which stuck around, coating everything the bather touched with glitter for days on end, and I loved it.

The trouble with the glitter is that Lush use plastic glitter and it’s really really really bad for the environment. Quite apart from the manufacturing processes, and the moral issue of filling products with something which has no purpose at all apart from ooh! sparkly!, the glitter ends up in the sea and that’s harmful for wildlife.

Steve Trewhella has done a very good video about the glitter content of Lush products http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfsBTv7yWuE That much glitter doesn’t look like a lot – but that much glitter in thousands of products over a decade makes for very sparkly fish.

Customers were complaining about the glitter in 2008 and a Lush employee posted to say

Hi! All these bits have been discussed/are being discussed/will be discussed further at Mafia meetings by our lovely Green Ruth and myself!! Will keep the forum up to date on any further developments.
x, Bon.

Nothing seemed to happen between 2008 and 2013, but in February this year Lush posted this on their website. For those who can’t or won’t click, it says

We’re pleased to announce the end of plastic glitter in our products

Here at Lush we are known for our fizzing baths of fun and decoration. But some of the shine and sparkle in our bath products used to be from micro plastic glitters.

For some years now, because of our concerns about the accumulation of plastics in the environment, we have been gradually replacing these plastic glitters with new alternatives as innovations have become available.

We have kept fun and excitement in our baths by replacing glitter with edible lustres, rice paper confetti, popping candy, sugar decorations and even by developing our own confetti made in house by dehydrating honeydew melons and mixing with our custom, palm-free soap base.

We have been privileged to work with Surfers Against Sewage and Marine Conservation Society on public campaigns to raise awareness of plastic pollution and on beach clean up projects.  Being inspired by them has hastened our efforts to find solutions to the last few tricky products that contain glitter.

With over 50% of our glitter use being in just 3 long term best selling products, we had to ensure we found suitable replacements that would not upset our customers and make them disappointed with products they had long loved.

With new agar based glitters and other biodegradable options now coming onto the market we are happy to announce that Lush will be able to eliminate the last plastic glitter in our products in the immediate future, without any loss of the fun and decoration that our customers have come to love and expect from us. The result will be a cleaner people and cleaner oceans.

Dr Sue Kinsey Senior Pollution Policy Officer with the Marine Conservation Society said “Microplastics are a growing problem in our seas and oceans. This is a really forward thinking decision by Lush to phase out plastic glitter in their products. It’s a positive move by the company, who have listened to advice and clearly understand the threat that the continuing use of these type of products can do. It also sends out a clear message to their customers who will hopefully try and make the right choices in other areas of their shopping.  This is a great step forward and I hope it will encourage other companies to do the same”

Andy Cummins, Campaigns Director with Surfers Against Sewage said: “SAS are stoked to see Lush once more promoting the Sustainable Achievable Solutions!  Now Lush has proven how to reduce their impact on the environment SAS are calling on other companies to do the same.”

And yet, just three weeks ago, customers were still finding plastic glitter in the products. The Lush response was

Hello Moonshadow,

Unfortunately some products have taken longer to approve and find suitable alternatives to the glitter used and as you can imagine we didn’t want our customers to be without their favourites while not wasting the glitter we had in stock.

Sweetie Pie Jelly, Space Girl and Ultimate Shine glitter free versions are currently in production. We are waiting upon new ingredients for our Sunny Side bubble bar, which means we will be able to start production very soon.

However, there are a couple of products we are still finalising; Twilight, Dragon’s Egg and Shimmy Shimmy. We want to make sure they are just right and endeavor for the glitter free change not to affect customer experience.

Nicolas

Leaving aside the terrible grammar, for this is not an English lesson, it appears that Lush announced the end of plastic glitter in their products well before the end of plastic glitter in their products. Does anybody else think that’s a bit – stupid? Steve Trewhella isn’t impressed either, according to his twitter feed.

And then there’s this on the Lush website, and there’s this on the Lush facebook page. Again, for the non-clickers, it says

Have you ever dreamed of what you’d do with a tonne of glitter?

Lush has spent the last two years removing plastic glitter from our products. Now we have one tonne of leftover glitter… Can you create something permanent with it?

We’ve done it! After two years meticulously removing all plastic glitter from our product lines we can announce that no Lush products will contain plastic glitter (our friends at the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage will tell you why that’s important).

We are proud because we’ve found some extraordinary planet-friendly alternatives, including rice paper confetti, coloured mica, agar-based sparkles and popping candy, to replace the glitter micro-plastic with. We are finally able to switch the last of our glitter products to the new materials. Look out for plastic glitter disappearing from our shelves forever!

Only … WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFTOVER PLASTIC GLITTER?

We don’t want to use it. We don’t want to send it to landfill (in case it ends up creating the world’s first flock of sparkling gulls). CAN YOU HELP?

From today, Lush is launching “I DREAM OF GLITTER”, a competition to find the individual, project, artist, designer or group with the most fabulous plan for turning one tonne (£40,000 worth) of coloured glitter into a permanent plastic monument.  We want to make sure that our leftover glitter is enjoyed whilst never (ever) being released into the environment.

The winning proposal will receive the glitter, delivered to their address anywhere in the world, free-of-charge.

Send 150 words or a sketch describing how you would use the glitter to tamsin.omond@lush.co.uk

The glitter must be captured permanently.

To read our original statement ‘Lush hasn’t lost its sparkle’ click here

For fuck’s sake. *facepalm* *headdesk*

How can the glitter be captured permanently? At some point whatever is done with it will come to an end – it will be destroyed, by age, time, wear and tear, weather, or nuclear holocaust, and the glitter will be released back into the wild. Nothing lasts forever, apart from (apparently) cockroaches. Someone’s going to have to breed a race of mutant glittery cockroaches.

Now, I am not a cosmetics manufacturer. I have no idea about supplies and stock and that sort of thing, but here’s the thing: Lush tell us they’ve been working to abolish the use of glitter in their products for a couple of years, and they’ve been replacing it with alternatives during that time. So wouldn’t you think they’d be reducing how much glitter they buy during that time? How in the name of fucking sweet glittery baby cheeses have they ended up with a tonne of glitter left over? Microplastic glitter is incredibly light. A whole tonne of the stuff must be the size of Haddington. What on earth is anyone going to do with a Haddington-sized pile of environmentally harmful glitter?

Oh, and the fact that Lush are running a competition to find a use for it suggests to me that they have no idea at all how to dispose of it safely (or they do but they don’t want to pay for it) so they’re trying to offload the responsibility onto someone else.

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9 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 20: a glittery turd is still a turd

  1. Hello,

    For years and years and years we asked them to get rid of the glitter on the international forum. There was a big ‘disco muff’ thread once about it, detailing how the glitter seems to invade the female genitalia which can lead to embarrassing encounters with gynaecologists or family planning nurses. Many people worried about how long glitter could stay up there (didn’t someone find a star in a mooncup once?) and if it could do permanent damage. Nothing was done. Suffice to say, if they aren’t arsed about the effect on the human body, why would a small thing like marine animals bother them?

    The glitter thing is, as many past & current customers will know, it adds NOTHING to the product whatsoever. What it adds is hassle; the hassle of cleaning the bath, the hassle of having children covered in glitter for weeks, despite them bathing every day. There was no benefit to the customer whatsoever and definitely no benefit to the oceans into which this toxic plastic was going; this means the benefit can only have been to the retailer. That is, to say, it’s commercial. They have always known that plastic glitter is not environmentally friendly, and they could have stopped buying it and throwing it into products years ago. They didn’t have to ‘work hard’ to find alternatives, no alternative is needed, they could have just got rid of it. It’s not an essential ingredient is it? It doesn’t stop something working, it’s not like getting rid of citric acid in bath bombs, for example. No I believe the struggle to find a replacement was that they didn’t want to dent profits by changing a best selling product. For years, the glittery products have had ‘best seller’ pinned next to them in the Lush Times, so it is my opinion it was nothing to do with finding an alternative but everything to do with laziness and not wanting to upset the profit apple-cart.

    No one NEEDS glitter. It does nothing for the bathing experience, it does nothing for the body, the skin, or the hair, it does nothing for the oceans. What it does do is make a product stand out in a shop and make it incredibly commercial to children (I take it Lush’s main customer base has to be children, right? No sensible adult buys it since it became such poor value and so ineffective, I’m sure).

    In addition to the palm in SLS, the propylene glycol (antifreeze, isn’t it?) and the glitter-gate, what about the azo dyes (I saw mentioned in another comment) and the REACH thing? I thought REACH came into law recently, so although Lush have made a big old song and dance about their “Fighting Animal Testing” prize, REACH is now a law they have to comply with, so are they breaking the law or are they using ingredients which have now been animal tested as per REACH regulations? I would love someone from Lush to tell us more about that. I would love all cosmetics companies to tell us about that, actually. And food manufacturers too. The link below tells us a bit about REACH and what it means for animal testing. Whilst testing of cosmetics in the EU was banned earlier this year (which is ace), REACH is still law which means constituent chemicals still need to have their safety re-evaluated. Which means a whole load of things for consumers may no longer be cruelty free. So yes, I would love Lush to tell us about how REACH is affecting their ingredients. I find the silence deafening despite big songs & dances previously made about opposing REACH.

    http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/laboratory/testingchemicals

    It’s all a big turd isn’t it? I agree. But as long as it’s a commercially successful unicorn shaped turd in rainbow colours and doused with glitter, who cares?

  2. Wow, you are a bitter person. You really need to find a hobby or better ways to spend your time. Lush might not be perfect, at least they’re trying. If all companies would make efforts like Lush does, the world wouldn’t be such a messed up place. Every effort is good, small or big.

    I guess you are perfect and never did / do anything that might be bad for the environment. Very hypocrit.

    • I’m not perfect, but I don’t claim to be an environmentally friendly company either – and I certainly don’t have a tonne of microplastic I don’t know what to do with. Also, did you mean “very hypocritical”? Is it your typing or your spelling you struggle with?

    • I dont think this is bitterness. This post was made out of passionate ethical concerns about the environment. The fact that people believe in Lush’s falsities is the reason posts like these need to be made to expose the issues. Otherwise they would continue on their way of deceiving customers and people like me who are trying to be ethical consumers.

  3. Ah, but – to the first respondant – Lush isn’t making an effort – they are giving themselves a lot of kudos for not doing something to fix something they were NEVER supposed to do in the first place! It’s like a chef in a vegetarian restaurant, saying that he has come up with the best veggie soup dish ever, after serving everyone leek and potato soup made with chicken stock for the last 10 years (and was only discovered when one of his sous chefs spoke out) – only he has another 100 litres of chicken stock left that he needs to use up first (while still keeping the chicken stock on the supplier order).

    No amount of backslapping, and self-congratulation isn’t going to take away the hundreds, if not , THOUSANDS of tonnes of glitter, dumped into our waterways because they wanted to make their product sparkly. How can they say that they give a toss about the environment, is Lush really lacking in a little foresight, or really that stupid?

    Considering that Lush’s founder frequently casts stones at other companies for their sometimes dubious ethical policies *coughs Tar sands* *Cough Fair Trade/Fair Trade/Fairly Traded* *Coughs sexual exploitation of staff for a poxy make-up campaign*, maybe he should sort out his own back yard first before casting the first stone (or tonne of glitter, in this case).

    Lush’s founder also asks his customers to scrutinise and research on a regular basis, just I don’t think Lush ever thought that they might be the ones under the microscope. You might call us bitter, I prefer “informed”.

  4. Mark doesn’t drive because of environmental reasons. This is why he has a driver to chauffeur him around in a big posh car. And a few years back he bought Mo a massive vintage gas guzzling car which she roars round Poole in. But I’m sure that ever ethical Mark won’t even get in the car with her. Surely he cycles beside her.

  5. Thank you so much for this article. I’ve been curious about Lush’s claims if natural and fresh and ethical practices. It does seem all good in the store but whats actually happening needs some exposure! I hope they get their shit together because they have a great concept for a company. Its upsetting how deceiving “eco” brands are.

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