A cosmetic company claims it has developed the first ‘carbon-positive’ packaging in an attempt to reduce plastic waste.
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British company Lush is to begin using cork for its packaging, which is biodegradable and requires trees to be planted for its use.
These trees are not cut down for their product, and are harvested every ten years for bark, remaining alive.
This means that to produce cork, one has to plant more trees, meaning that carbon is absorbed from the atmosphere.
Nick Gumery, creative buyer for packaging at Lush, said cork may be the answer to the plastic packaging crisis.
Miles King, a nature writer who works with the company, explained: “Cork is a natural product, made from the inner layer under the bark of the Cork Oak tree (Quercus suber). Traditionally used to make corks (as in stoppers for wine bottles) Cork is actually a remarkable material – anti-bacterial, fire-retardant, water-resistant, flexible, strong, easy to work; and at the end of its life, it can be composted.”
“Harvested from a living tree, it also has an exceptional ability to sequester carbon, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change chaos. The [Lush] team’s calculations suggest that each cork pot sequesters over one kilo of carbon dioxide gas (and this is a very conservative estimate). This compares with an aluminium pot which releases 9kg of CO2 for every kg of Aluminium created,” Miles continued.
Cork plantations also help animals, with creatures including the famous black pig of Spain, which produces jambon iberico, grazing underneath the trees.
Lush plans to buy half a million cork pots for its products in a years’ time, and wants to ensure that the pots it buys are produced from forest which is also being restored. This means it will buy at a high enough price to cover the cost of a forest restoration and regeneration programme.
In order to reduce carbon emissions from the transport of the product, the company is trialing bringing it to the UK by sailboat, and just received its first 6,000 pots this way.
Mr Gumery hopes the cork pot initiative will start a global packaging revolution, and said: “It is a serious test of logistics and whether it makes business sense.
“Business would not change if it is solely done charitably. Lush is interested in its impact but wants to show, as an ethical business, it can still make a profit,” he continued.