The use of plastic has come under scrutiny over the past few years, with a growing number of retail brands reviewing their entire supply chains to make them more environmentally friendly. However, treating it in isolation and eradicating plastic as a knee-jerk reaction could in fact lead to negative and unintended consequences.
Although many retailers have made promises to become ‘plastic-free’ in the coming years, it’s unrealistic to expect the industry to expunge plastic altogether. The fact is, plastic is resource-efficient, flexible, hygienic, durable and lightweight – and other materials available don’t match those functional properties. Instead of getting rid of this valuable material from the supply chain, let’s take a holistic view and find ways to make packaging more sustainable, design it so it is reusable and improve the infrastructure for it to be easily recycled on a national scale. “We’ve been working on just that,” said Anthony Brimelow, Commercial Director at Duo UK, which manufactures plastic mailing bags for major retailers including JD Williams, JD Sports and Tesco. “Since 2015, we’ve been manufacturing mailing bags from GreenPE – plastic derived from sugarcane, which is a renewable resource. GreenPE mailing bags are chemically identical to regular plastic, so they have all the exact same properties and can be recycled the same way, but they avoid the use of finite fossil fuels. What’s more, sugarcane absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows, helping to reduce global warming.”
Naturally, recycling is a primary concern. While there are limitations when it comes to end consumers recycling plastic, Duo UK has made strides on the industrial side. With its closed-loop recycling scheme, it’s working with retailers to help segregate their waste polythene, bring that waste back to its factory, where it’s recycled and made it into new packaging, ensuring as little as possible goes to waste.