We've done A LOT of research into 'eco' packaging options, and to be honest it's just confused the hell out of us.
It's not just that the choice is overwhelming, but also that the information can be very misleading. Unfortunately all of these complicated choices have made our journey to be more eco a lot harder and a much longer process.....
We've complied a quick list of all lots of the things we've learnt along the way, we hope you'll find useful in your journeys to be more eco too.
Did you know:
'Eco' packaging is usually a lot more expensive to buy, and can add up to £1 onto every order, depending on the item. That's why many retailers are put off. Spending an extra £1 on a high value order is fine. But not so easy to absorb on a £5 order. We could spend thousands of extra £s in a month just in extra packaging. At the moment our postal rates only just cover courier costs, so we don't have much money to work with.
That's why you may spot a few trials of eco packaging options over the new few months.
But the more retailers that choose eco options, the cheaper it will eventually become. Fingers-crossed soon eco packaging will be cheaper, and the standard option for all retailers.
Many options aren't actually 'better'The whole world of plastic alternatives is very confusing, and often one product isn't that much better than the other:
- Bags made of 'bio' plastic still have to be recycled in a similar way to poly plastic mail bags. If they end up in land-fill they are just as bad as regular plastic bags. But they do generally have a cleaner manufacturing process, and do not use fossil fuels which are a rapidly depleting resource.
- Not all compostable bags can go in your compost! Some can only be composted via an industrial process. So unless they undergo the correct recycling process, they'll still end up in landfill and won't compost naturally.
- You can actually recycle the poly plastic mail bags and bubble wrap that most retailers use. Unfortunately not all councils adopt kerbside collections for this type of product, but you can recycle them in many supermarkets or other places where you can recycle plastic bags. So be weary when people say they use 'recyclable' mail bags - because that's not really anything special or different.
- Biodegradable products are problematic! Yes they will degrade unlike real plastic, but it can take a very long time. They degrade as they react to sunlight and oxygen, but if buried deep in landfill it won't get much of either so won't degrade. Plus when it does degrades it doesn't disappear completely, it just turns into smaller pieces - which can still cause issues. So yes it is better than plastic, but not by much.
In conclusion, paper, cardboard or plastic alternatives that compost naturally are the only real eco alternatives to plastic. As these will degrade naturally by themselves within a few months or years max.
Having gone through all the various options, we then had to figure out what actually works for us. As a retailer we send a huge variety of items to our customers; from a pair of socks to large wooden toys. Some things fit in a box, others don't. Some are light, some are very heavy. Some are delicate, some are not.
We have to make sure your order gets to you in one piece. Bubble wrap was invented to protect items, it's perfect for the job! But it's plastic - b*gger! Paper and cardboard products may be best for the environment, but are not always ideal for postal items. They are terrible in the wet and they can rip or damage easily.
Over the last 12 months we've spent a lot of time trying out plenty of packaging and bubble wrap alternatives such as tissue paper, scrap paper, compostable packaging chips, cardboard and much more.
It's taken us a long time to figure out what works and what doesn't but we're getting very close to working it all out......but we'll save that for another post!
It's almost impossible to get away from plastic!
A lot of the products that we buy in come wrapped in plastic, even the 'eco' clothing brands come individually wrapped in plastic bags. Unfortunately plastic is still the cheapest and most efficient way to wrap products in order to keep them clean and dry in transit, so most manufacturers won't be moving away from it any time soon.
So we have a question for you: What would you prefer us to do? Send items out without plastic and recycle it all here. Or send it out with the plastic to add a level of protection and you recycle it yourself?