During the first week of June 2020 here at Comply Direct we conducted a Sustainable Packaging week in conjunction with World Environment Day on 5 June. Many of our staff took on the challenge of attempting to be more conscious of the packaging waste produced from home, aiming to reduce the amount of waste produced, and searching for more sustainable alternatives to what they usually use day to day.
In the run up to the week we published multiple articles relevant to the topic which explored different areas and highlighted why this is such an important issue in the current climate, for both households and businesses.
- Net Zero Blog highlighting some alternatives to plastic packaging may have unintended more unsustainable consequences
- The Roadmap to sustainable businesses. Ideas and case studies for how businesses can tackle the single-use plastic issue
- Zero Waste Warriors - extreme case scenarios of consumers who have manged to significantly reduce their household waste
- Waste increases due to COVID-19. Highlighting how the current pandemic has impacted waste and recycling
- Inconsistencies, mislabeling and confusion with recycling in the UK. Discussing the issues with the current UK recycling system
- World Environment Day interview with OSO Environmental. An interview with OSO Environmental discussing recycling and the introduction of the plastics tax
Sustainable Packaging Week Blog
Nine of the Comply Direct team share their experiences and findings:
" I think there’s a lot to be done on a consumer level to make much more informed choices about the items we choose to purchase, and how we deal with the waste we produce. Taking part in this challenge opened my eyes to how many alternatives there are available, and how accessible these can be. Although circumstances are more restricted currently due to increased hygiene concerns and measures in place, I still managed to find more sustainable alternative options to what I would normally purchase on a day to day basis.
At the supermarket, I bought only loose fruit and vegetables, as well as buying items in cardboard cartons, jars or tins which can be more easily reused or recycled as opposed to anything packaged in single-use plastic. This also had the added benefit of a week of more healthy eating! However, the amount of food wrapped in unsustainable and excessive packaging was noticeable, and I had to restrict myself on what I could buy and cook for the week to avoid these items.
Under normal circumstances, some takeaways allow customers to take their food in their own containers, however due to hygiene concerns this was less available as an option, so I sought out a takeaway which provided food in more sustainable packaging, supplying the order in a paper bag, 100% compostable paper tub, and a compostable lid.
There was a surprising amount of alternatives for toiletries and cosmetics which help to reduce packaging waste, which can be found easily in high street shops or online. I purchased a shampoo bar and bar of soap eliminating the use of single use plastic bottles, which worked great and smell amazing! I bought a bamboo toothbrush which has the benefits of being more sustainably produced and being fully biodegradable as opposed to plastic toothbrushes. I also bought a reusable makeup pad and some micellar water in an aluminium bottle, the pad can be washed and reused over and over again, and the bottle easily recycled, again this worked great and felt much better for my skin than the single use makeup wipes packaged in plastic wrappers."
"These are some of the things that I tried; very small steps but all worked quite well so I will be maintaining!
I bought bars of soap for the kitchen and bathroom which came in recyclable paper rather than using hand wash from plastic bottles, even though we used refills this still generated a lot of waste plastic. I put a sponge for washing hands and face after meals in the kitchen, this stopped us from using baby wipes/kitchen roll.
My friend bought me reusable face wipes for make-up removal and cleansing some time ago but I had reservations and avoided using them as I thought I’d need to use loads each time/wouldn’t be able to wash them in time etc., but I started to use them and they were really absorbent, easy to wash and dried quickly so I was able to use them almost all week, rather than using cotton wool.
I keep yogurt pots, egg boxes, jars etc. for craft, but having a stock pile, I’d started recycling but asked friends if they needed any and passed quite a few bits on this week.
I didn’t get round to it this week but I am intending to order some bees wax covers and there are a couple of locals shops in Skipton that do refills – one, Steep and Filter is still open, so in time I intend to start going there at some point especially for cleaning products which are currently a source of plastic for us – it’s great that there are some local options and I would encourage others to see what there is in their local area.
We are currently doing one shop a week to avoid going to the shop too often and sometimes the usual things I’d buy aren’t available – I ended up buying dishwasher tablets which were individually wrapped."
"Last week I purchased a shampoo and body wash bar from Gruum, and ordered some re-usable food wraps. I always make my food from scratch and there are so many benefits to doing this alongside the environmental ones I’d say!
I’m keen to adopt some other measures moving forward such as always buying loose fruit and veg where possible and taking my own container (I take my own bags for life when I go to the supermarket) to fill up with certain items. This is a bit tricky at the minute as I’m trying to do all my food shopping online so haven’t been going to the supermarket."
"At home we’ve been segregating soft plastics/wrap/films/bags from residual waste for a while and it’s fab. I’d estimate it cuts at least 50% of the residual bin volume, can be easily washed, and crushed down into small bags for the supermarket front of store film drop-offs. I’d suggest we should film segregate in the office!
Some problems I encountered were that multi material and metal laminates are not widely/easily processed, I fall into the optimistic recycler there so they all go in.
I have been making aluminium foil balls (size of a golf ball minimum) so they are big enough to be picked out of the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) as smaller pieces are often lost to Energy from Waste/landfill. One the kids can get into!
Another thing I’ve been doing is cutting tubed cosmetics/toothpaste in half when nearly finished, and you can then get another weeks’ worth of facewash that is still left in the tube which won’t otherwise be used. This reduces contamination and saves money, but maybe makes some plastic parts then too small for the MRF plant but it’s a minor trade-off!".
"On Friday I had a barbecue for my mum’s birthday which would normally involve using single-use paper/plastic plates. I realised we host quite a few parties/gatherings over the year and most of the time use single-use plates as there is always kids there and we don't want any breakages! So I invested in some full size plastic plates which can be used forever more and are very strong!
I also invested in a mint and strawberry plant which in time will produce mint and strawberries so we won’t need to buy these in plastic. The mint is already there and we used it in drinks at the weekend.
I spoke to my neighbour about growing veg as we haven’t ever really done it. It turned out he has grown too many so we now have our own lettuce plant which we used the leaves from on Friday, Saturday and Sunday! So no more buying lettuce in plastic! He also gave us a tomato plant and I read the bigger pot you put it in the more tomatoes you get – so let’s see if this happens! Again will have to buy less pre-packed tomatoes!
I needed some pine nuts for cooking and would normally get these in a plastic pack, but last week I went to our very own packaging member Keelham Farm Shop and got as much as I wanted in a compostable bag."
"I wanted to get involved in this so I could raise my own awareness of how sustainable my behaviours and habits are when it comes to packaging. I am a firm believer that the first step to positive change is to understand and accept where you are currently, that way you can be really honest about what it will take to get from where you are to where you would like to be. Being in lockdown, working fully from home and with my daughter home schooling, its been much easier to avoid excessive packaging relating to the food we eat, we can prepare food at home as and when we need it, which eradicates the need for things like pre-packaged sandwiches as well as bottles of water or things such as fruit which we may need to wrap in plastic so we can take lunches with us to work and school. As and when we do resume going out of the house to work and school, I will ensure where possible to prioritise reusable options for transporting sandwiches, fruit and water etc. That said, on the occasions that bottles or pre-packed items cannot be avoided, the main thing I have taken from this week is that I can pledge to remain the custodian of such packaging until I can send it on its way to be recycled. One of the privileges of living in a developed country is that we do have options for recycling many different types of packaging. Where I feel we need more help as consumers is in the form of clear and consistent labeling on packaging to empower us to purchase packaging that is genuinely recyclable so that we can be the guardians of our empty packaging before we send it on its way for recycling – real recycling in to a new product that can be used again. Because of the job that I do, I am more informed than most on this front, over the years I have visited numerous recycling facilities and watched waste packaging undergo the transformation from ‘waste’ to ‘resource’, so knowing that aluminium cans for example can be and are recycled widely, I am comfortable purchasing a drinks can, safe in the knowledge that I can take the responsibility to place it in a recycling bin. I am of course aware that there are other ‘custodians’ of the packaging from there, I am trusting that the waste management company responsible for the recycling bin will ensure it gets safely to where it needs to go in the right condition and I am also trusting that the bin will not be spoiled or contaminated by anyone else.
Having reflected on food and drink packaging, I turned my attention to something we have probably all been buying more of lately – soap. Rather than just putting my normal hand wash in the online shop basket (the one with the pump that comes in a plastic bottle), I searched something alternative and I discovered that I could get antibacterial hand soap in a bar or refill pouches of liquid soap, it’s worth me mentioning that although I did find expensive options, I was also able to find alternatives that cost no more than the soap I would usually buy. From there I found a shampoo bars and conditioning bars that look and feel just like soap, needless to say I am now on a new discovery journey as to what I can use to reduce the amount of packaging that is generated from my bathroom and kitchen from hereon in. So the biggest learn for me is that just by noticing and being aware of what choices are available to me, I can form new habits, which allow me to implement ‘sustained’ sustainable packaging purchasing patterns! In summary, having focussed on what packaging I bought/used last week I am now on a revived journey to discover how I can play my part to reduce, re-use and recycle and as technology continues to advance and more innovative solutions are brought to market, I vow to search for the best options, try to stay informed and always remain the custodian of the packaging I use until I can dispose of it in the best way possible."
"As a household, we implemented the following changes to reduce our packaging waste: I’ve now bought reusable muslin cloths to remove my makeup instead of using makeup wipes (they are the devil for your skin too apparently!). I bought mesh bags from the supermarket to put loose fruit/veg in, rather than buying packaged fruit/veg. Where there isn’t loose fruit/veg available, we’ve tried to buy it in cardboard containers instead of plastic. Instead of buying new jars of coffee and anti-bacterial hand gel pumps, we’ve been buying refills only.
My Mum works in a school and has been taking empty fruit/yogurt pots into school so they can use them for putting glue in for crafts. Along the same theme, we tried reusing a large butter tub as a container for putting sandwiches/packed lunches in for my Dad when he goes to work.
In terms of challenges, I really love grapes and haven’t been able to find an alternative to the clear plastic containers they come in from a supermarket. I guess going to a market fruit stall could resolve this issue, but at the minute obviously it’s hard as they’re not open."
"I think we realised when doing the shop and when we were trying to cut down on buying products without sustainable packaging just how much plastic there is covering most products.
We use a lot of freezer bags, something we definitely need to cut down on and try to use more Tupperware. We tried making our own bread most of the week so that we didn't buy the plastic-coated bread at the supermarket.
We bought as much loose fruit and veg from the supermarket as we could. We did notice though that it was usually cheaper to buy the packaged fruit e.g. a net full of limes was £1.50 and holds a minimum of 5 limes (there can be one or two more) whereas the loose limes were 30p each. Also, we bought a big cardboard box of cherries and it still had a plastic film over it when really it didn't need one on.
I don't think that there's a re-fill station local to me in Ilkley, there definitely is in Morrisons in Guiseley and we use the one at Keelham Farm Shop, but we haven't really been travelling much whilst in lockdown.
I have an electric toothbrush and am conscious that you can't recycle the heads. I've found one from Bower Collective and I am going to give them a try.
I am also going to order some razors from Gruum as they recycle the razor heads. I got an order through from Fitflop for some new Sandals and I didn't realise but they are a Carbon Neutral company and have been since 2010 which is good news, however, they still sent them in a big plastic bag which didn't say it could be recycled.
I found it really insightful just noticing how much packaging isn't recyclable but also how much stuff we usually buy in packets because it's convenient or is on offer without thinking about the bigger impact and the affect it might have on the environment."
"I moved in with my in-laws at the beginning of lockdown some 12 weeks ago now and we have been living as three generations under the same roof. This has really opened my eyes to how many of the older generation were raised, to buy quality items, make use of what they have, to look after things better, and to re-use things. Some key take home messages for me:
Follow the waste hierarchy – reduce and then reuse before recycling. My father in law has an allotment, and he finds great amusement in re-using all sorts of household items as bird scarers, slow watering devices and groundcover. My two year old daughter just loves playing with boxes, shoe boxes can be made into guitars, milk bottles into elephants and egg boxes in caterpillars with a little imagination!
Form habits – I’m pretty sure my in-laws wouldn’t consider themselves to be eco-warriors, rather, they are conscious of resource use and have formed habits over long periods of time to re-use and recycle. One example is plastic bread bags – which they collect, feed the crumbs to the birds and re-use as freezer bags. Eventually, once their usable life is older, than can be taken to the supermarket for recycling alongside plastic bags (some councils now collect them at kerbside too). This is definitely something I will be taking home with me!
Barriers – something which has really been highlighted during this period is moving between Local Authority areas and the differences in kerbside collections. I am often consulted as the in house “recycling expert” as to which items can be recycled and which cannot. The differences in the local kerbside collections and materials you can/cannot recycle make it difficult to give clear and consistent advice. Hopefully this will all change with the ongoing consultations on clear labeling and consistent kerbside collections
Retailers are doing their bit – having discussed the issues around black CPET trays not being picked out in many recycling centres, my mother in law commented that she had noticed increasingly take-away style meals from supermarkets were arriving in coloured CPET which we can recycle. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that my favourite shampoo is now delivered in a bottle which is made of 100% recycled material and is 100% recyclable. Many of our online orders are arriving in mail order bags which are made of bio-based or recycled plastic and are recyclable at end of life. Normalising recycled content and recyclability in this way makes it so much easier for people to make conscious choices, and I do believe many retailers and manufacturers are beginning to do their bit."
And we end the insightful summaries with a further comment from Liz:
"My favourite mantra on recycling, which I can’t claim credit for coming up with but love to spread is: We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly. Don’t beat yourself up as a consumer if you can’t reduce your waste entirely, but make small steps, and form new habits, and you can make a difference."