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Five ways eco-friendly packaging can help combat the plastic pollution plaguing our oceans

2017-05-23 | Jason Poxon

Did you know that more plastic was made in the first decade of the 21st Century than in the whole of the 20th Century?* It’s an alarming statistic, but when you stop to consider the amount of plastic we encounter in our daily lives, it perhaps becomes a little less surprising.

Look around you: what you’re sitting on, what you’re drinking out of, what you’re reading this blog on – plastic is everywhere. We take it for granted, much like the throwaway convenience items that make up around 50% of plastic usage* such as plastic cutlery, coffee stirrers, yoghurt pots, water bottles – they’re used once and then discarded. And, as diligent as some of us may be in recycling our plastic, much of it ends up in landfill and, inevitably, a percentage ends up in our waterways and heading out to sea – around 8 million tonnes enters the world’s oceans every year*.

Once plastic makes it out into open water, it can drift for thousands of miles, eventually reaching one of the five ocean Gyres, where the rotational currents draw in debris. As plastic isn’t biodegradable it causes multiple problems, from abandoned plastic fishing lines in which sea mammals and birds become entangled and drown, to the tiny pieces of broken plastic being ingested by all forms of sea life and, eventually, onto our dinner plates.

A small change can make a big difference

It might seem like an impossible issue to tackle but recent figures show how a small change in habits can make a huge difference. For example, the 5p carrier bag charge, introduced in England in October 2015, has already brought about a 40% reduction in the number of bags washing up on Britain’s shores*. While a lot of the focus in the news is about consumer packaging waste, we all have a part to play in reducing plastic pollution.

One way is to look at your commercial packaging use and how you might be inadvertently contributing to packaging waste and plastic pollution. Could you perhaps reduce the amount of packaging you use or switch to eco-friendly packaging? Here are five ideas for you to consider:

1. Don’t overuse packaging

Only use the amount you need to do the job. There has been a lot of coverage in the press about companies using too much packaging material. As well as having a negative impact on the environment, too much packaging can also affect a company’s bottom line through taxes on waste – landfill charges can be up to £82.60 per tonne for businesses.

2. Use packaging materials that can be recycled easily

In the UK, businesses making or using packaging have a legal obligation to ensure that a proportion of the packaging they place on the market is recovered and recycled* so make sure your packaging can be recycled and that you understand recycling policies. Ensure those who are disposing of the waste are fully aware of what can be recycled and how – try to create a recycling culture across your business. Set yourself up to store and recycle – if enough waste is accumulated it can also be sold on to recycling companies. Use printed messages on your packaging to make it clear to your customers that your packaging materials can be recycled.

3. If you don’t think you can avoid using plastic packaging altogether then look at ways to minimise it
          
Reinforced Stretch Films have a greater yield and are stronger than standard films so the roll goes further and wastage caused by rips and tears is reduced.

4. Look for alternatives – here are a few ideas:

  • Switch polystyrene void-fill for air-cushions – they are easier to recycle and once deflated take up minimal space. And as air-cushion film is inflated on demand it also takes up less storage space in your warehouse.
  • Consider using bespoke boxes – a well-designed, bespoke box can remove the need for plastic and polystyrene void-fill altogether.
  • Switch bubble wrap for Geami – Geami is an eco-friendly alternative to bubble wrap, which also does away with the need for tape.

5. Opt for reusable products

As an alternative to plastic bags, offer your customers reusable bags. Or consider Notbox – an eco-riendly, reusable box that is great for carrying, storing and filing products.

If you would like to discover more about how you can minimise packaging waste, ask us about our free Smart Audit – one of our packaging specialists will assess your current products and systems and identify areas for improvement for your business.

*Source: http://news.sky.com/feature/sky-ocean-rescue-10734494#the-problem

*Source: http://www.ecowatch.com/22-facts-about-plastic-pollution-and-10-things-we-can-do-about-it-1881885971.html

*Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/billions-fewer-plastic-bags-on-the-streets

*Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-waste-and-recycling/2010-to-2015-government-policy-waste-and-recycling

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