The Great Plastic Packaging Challenge
Posted: 17 Sep 2019
Caring for our planet and preserving its future is not a new concept. Never, though, has it had more urgency. With television series such as Blue Planet II and Drowning in Plastic giving us a hard-hitting insight into the impact plastics are having on our oceans and ecosystems, it’s no wonder that consumers are concerned and determined to do their bit to cut down or eliminate their use of single-use plastics and recycle more.
While the government acknowledges it has a huge responsibility when it comes to delivering solutions - ensuring our recycling efforts are not in vain and working with those importing plastics -many consumers are appealing to retailers, stating that it is up to those generating so much plastic packaging to cut down and find viable alternatives, so that we all bring less plastic into our homes.
At Keylink we have been rolling up our sleeves and working out how to tackle what is undoubtedly a tricky issue, but one we also feel could be a real opportunity to be innovative. We’ve written this article to update you on what we’ve been doing so far to reduce single-use plastic and help you make more informed choices when shopping with us, as well as being transparent with you about the challenges involved. We believe it is important to have a healthy and ongoing dialogue on this subject and as always, we welcome your feedback! Here is our long-term plastic mission as it currently stands:
- We want less single-use plastic in our packaging.
- Where plastic is used in the packaging we sell, we want it to be recyclable.
What are we currently doing to reach these goals?
- We work with a number of packaging suppliers across Europe. To date we have contacted all of those suppliers to ask them a) what their plan is with plastic use, and b) what they currently have in their ranges that we do not currently stock and that is in line with our goals.
- We are working with suppliers to develop new options in recyclable and recycled packaging.
- In this, our 2019/20 catalogue, we now have a symbol system in place so you will be able to easily spot which of our products are:
- (a) recyclable,
- (b) biodegradable,
- (c) made from recycled materials, and
- (d) plastic free*
This will be clear both in our catalogue and on our website. As our customers are not usually the end users of our packaging, we believe it is key to establish efficient ways of communicating about how to dispose of our packaging, so that you in turn can label your chocolates clearly and pass on that information to the party who will be doing the disposing. This information will also accessible in the form of new filters on our website.
- With this mission, however, comes questions and challenges.
- There are a lot of misconceptions around recycling, and what constitutes environmentally-friendly packaging. While eradicating single-use plastic in our packaging ranges is the dream, at the moment there are few viable options for materials that meet all of the needs of chocolatiers. For example, many prefer their packaging to have a plastic window so that customers can see the product before they buy. This window needs to be separated from its cardboard box to be recycled. This packaging is only environmentally friendly if the end consumer is prepared to do this. In addition, many environmentally friendly materials have limitations. We currently sell biodegradable, compostable bags made from Natureflex™, a transparent film made from plant cellulose which is environmentally friendly. But Natureflex™ doesn’t like moisture, so the bags will start to break down in humid or wet conditions.
- Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ packaging. Some of the processes used to create environmentally friendly alternatives to plastics actually cause the environment harm in other ways. For example, growing plants to make jute and hessian bags can lead to increased use of pesticides and fertilisers. Land used to grow such crops reduces land available for growing food crops – not ideal when there is a global food shortage. It’s important that we understand these issues and make informed and sensitive decisions going forward.
- There are no consistent recycling or composting collection systems in the UK to help people easily and efficiently recycle plastic. Many consumers are confused about what they can and cannot recycle in their local council area, and what happens to that waste once they have taken it to a recycling facility.
- There are certainly challenges ahead, but we are hugely encouraged by the growing increase in demand for alternative packaging, as this drives designers and manufacturers to experiment with new and exciting materials that can be used in the mass market and bring about sustainable, long-term change. You can be sure that we will keep you posted as we continue to investigate and test out environmentally-friendly packaging options at Keylink. We’ll welcome your input and ideas!
* It is industry standard practice to treat packaging as ‘plastic free’ as long as it contains no more than 1% plastic. This is to allow for the tiny amounts of plastic found in glues, labels and inks.