LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A biodegradable yoga mat and an eco-friendly dog bed are just some of the items on show at the immersive “Naked House” exhibition in London that aims to challenge throwaway consumerism.
The five-floor house, curated by British cosmetics company Lush, features a history of packaging from banana skins to Victorian-era glass bottles and 1950s metal tins to futuristic plant-based bio-plastic containers.
Lush also showcases its own range of “Naked” products from hair conditioners to shower gels and essential oils, all sold without packaging to boost awareness of environmentally sustainable consumer alternatives.
The exhibition comes as almost four in five Britons say they are concerned about the amount of waste produced, a survey to mark the start of this week’s Zero Waste Week, found.
The survey revealed that women are more anxious than men about waste, with almost eight in ten expressing concerns, while those aged over 65 were more likely to be concerned about household waste than younger people.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Great British public is growing more and more concerned by the amount of waste that ends up in landfill or at the bottom of the ocean,” said Rachelle Strauss, founder of Zero Waste Week, an annual campaign that aims to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill.
Sitting on small woven benches made of strengthened paper, rather than plastic chairs, tourists and Londoners take in the low energy blue-lit ocean room at the Naked House, while facts about plastic pollution in the ocean float across screens.
“The whole exhibition is based around the fact that a lot of plastic is being used for packaging in cosmetics,” said Jen McAllister, Project Manager at Lush.
“Although plastic takes many, many years to break down we’re using it for things we only use for five minutes and then throwing it away.”
Marine experts fear there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a UK-based charity working to end waste in the economy.
From fishing lines to flip flops, there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the oceans, according to a 2014 study published in a Public Library of Science journal, with debris found littering the seas from the North to the South Poles and around remote Pacific islands.
Other items at the Naked House include a circular shampoo disc, equivalent to three normal plastic bottles of shampoo, thin soap “wash cards” that handily slip into wallets and potato starch balls that replace polystyrene foam for postal packaging.
“I think some people will always go for the bottled versions but a lot of people will experiment and will want to see if they can be more ethical with their cosmetics,” said McAllister.
At another Zero Waste event in London, the leader of the British opposition party Jeremy Corbyn, a long time vegetarian and environmental advocate, spoke of the importance of animal rights and cutting down waste, and hinted at turning vegan.
“Sea pollution knows no bounds ... You can only achieve a cleaner, better environment by international cooperation,” he told a crowd on Monday.
In Scotland too, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday the introduction of a deposit return scheme obliging consumers to pay a deposit on bottles and cans that is refunded once the empty items are returned, to cut litter waste.
Similar schemes are in place in Scandinavia, Australia and Canada.
An increasing number of small businesses globally are offering consumers environmentally sustainable alternatives.
London opened its first zero-waste supermarket this summer, which sells foods in bulk and products made out of waste and durable alternatives to typical throwaway products such as plastic cutlery, razors and sponges.
Similar, package-free shops have opened across the world, from Copenhagen to Montreal, as a response to mounting concerns about plastic pollution and food waste.
London’s Borough Market, a 1,000-year-old food market which was the target of a deadly militant attack this summer, recently introduced water fountains as part of a move to phase out all sales of single-use plastic bottles over the next six months.
None of the market’s rubbish goes to landfill while all packaging used by the 114 traders aims to be bio-degradable and compostable. Surplus produce from many food stalls ends up being handed out to charities, rather than being thrown in the bin.
All remaining food waste is sent to an anaerobic digestion plant that uses microorganisms to break down organic material and turn it into power, fertilizer and water, Borough Market said in a statement.
With an estimated $80 billion to $120 billion of plastic packaging material lost to the economy each year, according to a 2016 report by the World Economic Forum, there is a financial incentive for business to reduce and reuse plastic.
“Our commitment to naked products is ... not driven through pure commercialism,” said Giles Verdon, Head of Lush’s Earthcare division. “It’s actually about our belief about packaging being bad and that goes to the core of the business.”
Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org