Have you ever bought anything online and been dismayed at the amount of packaging that it arrives in? Do you shop from ethical and eco-friendly companies and despair when your goods arrive in a plastic bag? You are not alone!
One evening towards the end of last year I had an email from a customer. She asked me the very simple question “why, if you are an ethical small business using eco-friendly fabric, do you send your clothing out in plastic bags?”
It made me stop an think. I had carefully researched my packaging - choosing acid free tissue paper and grey recycled plastic mailing bags as I thought they were the best and most cost effective way to send my products. I figured the bags were strong and wouldn’t get ripped in the postal system and if the postman dropped them in a puddle they wouldn’t get wet.
I stuck a sticker on them reminding people to reuse them where possible. Job done. Eco conscience clean.
I'll admit that this was not the first email that I had been sent asking if there was a better way for me to package my product. Something needed to change…
This blog post looks at the choices I made when looking at how to package my products and how, if we all ask for our goods to be sent in plastic free packaging, we might just make a difference…
A Sea of Plastic
When it was invented, plastic was designed to be long lasting and never break down. It has so many uses and it became part of our everyday lives. Bags, boxes, bottles…all designed to be used once then thrown away.
In today’s society, plastic is not the wonderful invention it perhaps was once hailed to be.
The final episode of Blue Planet II at the end of last year focussed on the impact that our society is having on our oceans. From Albatrosses feeding their chicks plastic to the dying coral reef, it is clear that our actions are having a huge impact on our planet.
We dump around eight million tonnes of plastic into the sea every year. Plastic, designed never to wear out, then remains in our oceans where it is eaten by fish mistaking it for a healthy food, or becoming tangled around the head and necks of turtles and other sea creatures.
To save our planet we all need to think about the amount of plastic we use in our homes and businesses and find a way to use less.
My Packaging Problem
There are pretty poly mailers that you can recycle, grey polymailers made from recycled plastic and there are biodegradable bags made from cornstarch. Last year, after some research, I decided to use grey bags made from recycled plastic.
I wrap every order in acid free tissue paper and pop it in a grey, recycle plastic, polymailer. Super. Strong, unlikely to get wet and recycled. The perfect solution.
But it turns out that although they are made from recycled plastic the bags themselves are non-recyclable so you – the consumer – have to put them in landfill bin rather than the recycling bin.
I thought about buying bags you could recycle at home. Except most councils don’t offer a curb side collection and recycling them involves a trip to the recycling bank…which is why the majority of bags end up in the bin I guess. We want something we can easily recycle.
I looked at the possibility of using degradable polymailers but found that a large majority use genetically modified cornstarch and also have an element of polythene (plastic) in them so are not 100% degradable. They also only come in massive quantities which just isn’t practical for a small business such as mine!
Reducing the amount of plastic I use
There is really only one way to reduce the amount of plastic in my packaging and that was to stop using it altogether. It seems obvious – and now I have written it down I can’t quite believe it has taken me this long to implement it!
Cardboard boxes are the way forward – these are easily and widely recycled at home and are a much better way to send your clothing to you.
From now on all orders are wrapped in lovely tissue paper and packed in a cardoard box. No more plastic. Simple!
Reusing the plastic we already have
I had the idea that I could offer the option of sending orders in repurposed packaging i.e reusing the plastic mailing bags that I had received things in for your orders. This idea was well received when I tested the waters over on Facebook – but after counting up the bags I currently have to reuse it became clear this option wasn’t going to be sustainable in the long term.
However, I do recommend that we all keep our plastic bags and reuse them where we can. If you are sent something in a plastic bag, open it carefully and save the packaging. Next time you need to post a package - like when you resell your children's outgrown clothing - you can reuse the bag! I hope that many of you reuse your packaging when you receive you clothing from me. If we are careful we can reuse a bag a few times before it is not longer useful.
Recycle your packaging…
Now that all Tutti Frutti Clothing orders will be in cardboard and paper the packaging will be 100% recyclable. And easily recyclable too. If you can’t reuse it then pop it in the recycling bin at home.
And if you get other parcels in plastic then keep all the bags together and take them to your local plastic recycling bin – my local supermarket has one so I save my bags and take them when I do my grocery shop.
No more plastic!
I am really excited that Tutti Frutti Clothing packaging will soon be plastic free. It is important that we all take responsibility for our planet and this is one way which we can all make a difference.
Thank you to the customers who pushed me to change my ways too – it just goes to show that we can make a difference! Maybe if we all emailed the big retailers they might just change their ways too…