You don't need to look far to find people talking about reducing plastics. The problem is colossal and we live in a society where their is a culture of "let someone else do it, my actions/effort won't make a difference". The truth is simple, it is everyone's problem and time really is running out to deal with it. Take a look at Blue Planet II, if you missed it https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p04tjbtx/blue-planet-ii.
We went plastic free 18 months ago after joining up to The Final Straw Campaign, http://finalstrawcornwall.co.uk/ and have had quite a few businesses approach us over the last year to see what we have done, who we went to, the pitfalls, etc. which is good to see, so I thought it was time to share some information. As a business we have responsibilities and if we can reduce our carbon footprint & damage to the planet then we should, wherever possible. Living on the coast its easy to see the impact on the oceans when taking the dog on beach walks and seeing the increased amount of plastic.
The cost of converting to plastic free packaging is considerably more per package than plastic packaging, even recycled plastic packaging. It is in the ballpark of 8 -10 times more expensive per parcel. That's when it becomes a decision based on conscience and to take that profit loss per sale because it's the right thing to do. Many customers think postage is just about the actual postal charge and its easy to understand why. An average £3 postal charge is based on time to - pick, cut, wrap, pack, document, transport, queue and then the postage cost. It's comparable to gift wrapped presents - by the time you give the present, so much more time has gone into it than you probably thought would.
So why plastic free, why not just use recycled plastic? Plastic free to eliminate the use of plastics at all because of the following questions ... Would all the bags get recycled? Would all the councils schemes accept them? Would customers put them with recycling? Too many chances for them to end up in land fill. Paper and boxes were the way forward but the problem with that is that sizing is tricky (now I understand why Amazon have boxes that are too large). The bags went through some pretty tough testing - dropping in puddles, being moved a lot and handled roughly to try and mimic postal system to see if they'd tear, even putting office dog in to see how strong they were (they did hold a then 9 kg Ted).
We use thick recycled brown paper for the inner and then double walled paper bags that are treated with a non toxic membrane to make them shower resistant. We also use white boxes in 2 sizes, which we use less of in the UK but they work well for European orders, along with paper tape that is can go on the compost pile. Cards are on a non coated plain card stock, which again can go straight in the compost bin. We also don't use address labels, hand write on each parcel. Never with the thousands of parcels that we have posted have we received a complaint about damaged contents.
Finding the right ones isn't easy as their are so many options out there. Anything coloured, unless stated otherwise, will have colouring's that are toxic. Labels leave residues - why we don't use address labels. Paper tape can be left on packages, no need for pulling off before recycling. It is a minefield but things to look out for are:
Compostable - it will break down but possibly only on industrial sites, the green recycle logo is an easy way to spot it but don't be afraid to ask.
Eco-friendly and environmentally friendly is NOT a guarantee it's not harmful - check. Some plastics are deemed "friendly" because they break down!
PVA free - tapes and glue strips have them in them, worth looking out for.
BPA free is another pitfall to avoid.
Only today when waiting to post something I saw 3 other businesses posting parcels - 1 in brown paper like us and 2 in cheap plastics. It is disheartening to see so many still using plastic and not thinking about the bigger picture. I understand the reasons but it is disappointing.
So what can each and everyone of us do? Recycle and reuse packaging where you can, do a Google or Safari search and have a look at what comes up - their is a lot more that each of us can do to make a larger impact on the problem and not just with packaging. Ask businesses to go plastic free or use recycled packaging - chances are they have an amount of current packaging to get through but they are probably already thinking about it but haven't found the time to look into it - your enquiry could be just the nudge they need. Don't think that the drop-in-the-oceans worth that you have won't make a difference - everything and anything you can do, no matter how big or small will make a difference for future generations and that is a legacy worth leaving.
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