Cosmetics retailer Lush has banned all staff from using plastic water bottles in an effort to help the environment.

Lush, a cosmetics and beauty company well-known for taking a stand on animal, environmental and human rights issues, has turned its ethical eye on plastic water bottles and partnered with not-for-profit environment group Take 3 for the ‘Refill not Landfill’ campaign.

Providing staff with a new aluminium drink bottle (also available for customer purchase in-store) and turning stores into ‘refill stations’ for customers, Lush is encouraging staff and customers to reuse and recycle to cut down the use of plastic bottles.

“We obviously aim for no excess packaging in stores, which incorporates what we call ‘naked products’ like bars of hair shampoo,” says Emma Hart, Ethical Campaigns Coordinator for Lush. “And the plastic that we do use in our packaging is recycled. Basically we don’t want to bring any more plastic into the world.

“We also have a system where if customers bring in five of our black pots they receive a free fresh face mask, so that way we know they’re getting disposed of properly and not ending up in landfill.”

Add to this the new initiative, which sees a staff ban on plastic water bottles in stores, warehouses and offices, and Lush is practically a plastic-free zone.

Co-founder of Take 3 Tim Silverwood says the reduction of plastic bottle use would have a significant positive impact on the environment.

“We only recycle on average around 40 to 50 per cent [of drink containers] and that means somewhere around eight billion beverage containers end up in landfill or in our environment,” says Silverwood. “If we had something simple like the ten cent refund scheme like they have in South Australia all around Australia, then we would see a doubling of the collection rate.

“Some of the most horrific instances of animals dying in our oceans is because they actually feed on the plastic waste that we think will just go away – they see it as a food source. So we could drastically reduce the amount of pollution and inherently save so many innocent sea creatures by stemming the tide of plastic to the ocean.”

With 266 bottles and cans littered or land-filled in Australia every second, it’s no surprise that our annual use of bottled water generates more than 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

To demonstrate the sheer amount of waste generated, Lush is filling eight flagship store windows (including the Queen Street Mall store in Brisbane) with plastic bottles in fishing nets.

“They were all collected from the streets by team members,” says Hart. “Which was a real eye-opener for us, that we could find so many in just a week.”

The Lush campaign asks customers to take three steps of action to help reduce consumption: purchasing a reusable drink bottle and topping up at the refill stations in Lush stores; taking three pieces of litter from wherever you are and disposing of it properly (as per Take 3’s ethos); and signing an in-store petition to implement a national scheme of 10 cent refunds on beverage containers.

“By refilling bottles in-store and purchasing reusable bottles we can hopefully start the culture shift we need to prevent this obscene consumption,” says Silverwood. “With those three things we can make a massive difference to the health of our natural environment.”