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The proposed UK plastic tax 'positive' but not without challenges

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In the October 2018 budget, Philip Hammond announced a plastic tax to help tackle plastic waste. The government proposed to introduce a new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging which contains less than 30% recycled plastic in the hope to transform the economics of sustainable packaging.

Zoe Brimelow, Brand Director at Duo UK was asked to give her view on the government's plans by Packaging News "The announcement of a plastic tax is a positive step towards making the polythene packaging industry more sustainable. However, it's not without its challenges for manufacturers.

"Plastic is resource-efficient, flexible, hygienic, durable and lightweight, and other materials don't match those functional properties, but there is growing concern surrounding its impact on the planet. As an industry, before the new tax law was introduced, positive changes had already started to make packaging more sustainable. At Duo, we have our own polythene closed loop recycling facility where we recycle waste polythene scrap created in our manufacturing process and also waste from our customers sites. The recycled content is used to manufacture new products reducing dependency on virgin products used. Together with our clients we have re-engineered products, eradicated excess material and a vast number of our clients have started to segregate waste polythene on-site and return it to us to be recycled and made into new packaging through our closed-loop-recycling programme.

"A challenge we're facing is that much of packaging waste is heavily contaminated which makes it difficult to recycle. For example, paper labels can result in a low-grade recycled pellet which limits what new product it can be used for and the inclusion rate without effecting the performance of the product.

"As a leader within the industry, we're doing all we can to keep valuable material in the economy and out of the environment. We are already geared up for this change - we've invested in the relevant equipment to ensure that we can keep waste material to a minimum and recycle where possible. The stumbling blocks will be contaminated plastic and whether the industry can source enough good quality feedstock to consistently meet 30 per cent inclusion in all new products."

*Featured in Packaging News November 2018

Are Re-usable Shopping Bags really reducing the Environmental Impact?

In October 2015 England introduced a single-use plastic carrier bag charge to reduce the amount of single use bags in circulation and encourage people to reuse bags,

Since the introduction of the charge the number of 'single-use' plastic bags given out by retailers has dropped from 140 to 25 for the average person each year*. In response to the introduction of the charge many retailers have introduced 'bags for life' in a range of styles and prices at till points.

But just how many times does a 'bag for life' need to be re-used to provide the same environmental performance of the average (LDPE) single use carrier bag?

RECYC QUEBEC, and The Danish Environment Agency have carried out independent studies to assess how many times a 'reusable' bag should be reused to provide the same environmental performance of the average LDPE carrier bag and the results have proved very interesting.

According to their findings, a non-woven polypropylene bag must be 6 times, woven polypropylene 5 times and cotton bags 52 times to equal the environmental impact of an average 17-micron carrier bag used just once. How many times do you re-use your 'bags for life'?

Shopping Bag Infographic

The conventional 'single use' plastic bags have several environmental and economic advantages; they are thin, light and the production requires little material and energy. Not only that, conventional 'single use' plastic bags can be re-used and are commonly re-used for bin liners. This second use avoids the production and purchase of bin liners reducing overall material use.

Top take always from the research:

  • Re-use all styles of carrier bags (even the ones dubbed as single use!) as many times as possible before disposal.
  • Prioritise functionality when designing your packaging product. The main aim is to maximise volume and weight holding capacity whilst minimising the amount of material needed and minimise the final weight of the carrier bag.
  • Recycle where possible at the end of use.

Source:

https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/the-science-is-clear-the-conventional-plastic-bag-is-the-best-for-the-environment-682165391.html?ispopup=y

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/05/drop-in-plastic-bags-littering-british-seas-linked-to-introduction-of-5p-charge

https://monsacintelligent.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ENGLISH_FINAL-Quebec-LCA-Highlights.pdf

Delivery & Returns: Are you meeting customer expectations?

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As featured in Drapers Report Chapter 6: Getting Sustainability Wrapped up

The only consistent thing in fashion retailing is change. Today retailers find themselves being led by, rather than leading, the consumer, who dictates how they want to browse, buy, receive and return. You might be meeting customer expectations now, but are you looking ahead and asking, 'how will I meet those needs tomorrow?'

Duo were asked to share their expertise in Drapers exclusive report which identified some of the business critical trends online retailers need to know about, here are the highlights:

Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their purchases. A 2015 study by research company Nielsen of 30,000 consumers in 60 countries revealed that a brand's commitment to the environment has the power to sway the likelihood of a purchase for 45% of consumers.

As scale of distribution of online orders grows, online retailers are under pressure to try to reduce the environmental impact of their online order packaging - as required by their corporate social responsibility commitments. Aside from the volume, type and durability of the packaging needed for home delivery and returns, they are also concerned with the potential waste produced by each order. Consequently, CSR action plans and changes to online order packaging are being put into force.

At the beginning of the supply chain are the packaging companies, who work closely with online fashion and lifestyle retailers to ensure their packaging is sustainable and reaches environmental goals, without impacting processes and productivity.

"Environmental goals differ, depending on the brand's goals, whether reducing waste to landfill, reducing carbon footprint, encouraging customers to re-use packaging, or reducing the volume of packaging used to distribute their products," says Zoe Brimelow, Brand Director for packaging company Duo UK. She adds that a defined environmental target or focus and a team engagement plan often attribute to goals being achieved.

Packaging for online orders should be functional and durable and now thanks to innovations in packaging materials it is possible to also minimise an etailer's environmental footprint. 

Zoe Brimelow explained,"Key innovations in the packaging industry are those that don't pollute the waste stream and [are] easy innovations for companies to adopt. The environment is an emotive topic that can create deeper, loyal relationships between consumers and brands"

Here are the latest innovations in sustainable packaging which will help your brand achieve its sustainability goals.

GreenPE - A sustainable alternative to oil-based polythene, created from sugarcane, can be manufactured in the same way as polythene and is 100% sustainable, 100% renewable and 100% recyclable.

100% Recycled Packaging Material - Made using UK scrap polythene that would otherwise be sent to landfill, the recycled product range is completely odour neutral meaning it can be used to distribute porous products like clothing

Closed Loop Recycling - There is a huge demand for recycled polythene but there's also a shortage of waste material so we've made it easier than ever to reduce, reuse and recycle using our UK - Based closed loop recycling system.

Delighting today's shoppers is no mean feat, but retailers who transform their delivery and returns processes - with convenience at the heart - are those who will have the most success.

 

For the latest innovations in sustainable packaging visit DuoGreen

Drapers, the number one source for breaking news, business advise and expert analysis for the fashion industry.

To read the full report, Delivery & Returns: Are you meeting customer expectations click here

 

Source * http://guides.drapersonline.com/4341.guide

6 Ways Packaging Can Help Reduce Your Company's Environmental Impact

6 Ways Blog Header

Packaging is a critical business necessity, but it doesn't have to put a strain on the earth's natural resources and can actually help improve your company's environmental performance.

Download our handy chart to find simple, tailored, solutions to improve the eco-credentials of your packaging here.

H&M's 'Conscious' effort keeps clothing in the loop and out of landfill

Last year 350,000 tonnes of used clothing ended up in landfill and a huge 95% could have been reworn or recycled. This is estimated to be worth £100 million of clothes going to landfill.

Global fashion giant H&M have launched their strategy 'Towards 100% Circularity' to create a better future for fashion. One strand towards achieving their vision is to extend a garments life and send zero waste to landfill. Fabric recycling is achievable using a closed loop recycling system and is arguably the best option for garments than can no longer can be used. H&M have successfully used 20% recycled fibres without the loss of quality or durability in their range 'Conscious'.

H&M Conscious Collection

What is Closed Loop Recycling?

Closed loop recycling is the process where waste is returned back to its original raw form and this recycled material is then used to make a new product.

This recycling process is used to recycle many different types of material from fabric to polythene packaging. At Duo we're committed to creating a future where it's easier than ever for companies to close the loop when it comes to their waste polythene packaging. To achieve our vision, we invested in a polythene closed loop recycling system. Demand for packaging made from recycled content is on the increase as companies are actively adopting a more sustainable business model, however, there is a still a shortage of waste polythene. We've made it easier than ever to reduce, reuse and recycle waste polythene by introducing a waste polythene collection service for our customers.

 Closed Loop Recycling Process Flow Diagram

 For more information about closed loop recycling please click here

Every year more than 2,500 tonnes, which is equivalent to 500 pallets of polythene scrap material, is recycled using Duo's closed loop recycling system. This results in 2,500 fewer tonnes of polythene waste going to landfill and less oil used for polyethylene production!

Thanks to polythene closed loop recycling it has been possible to produce 100% recycled content mailing bags - the perfect solution for companies looking for an economical, sustainable option for their ecommerce packaging requirements. The quality and performance of a recycled content products compared to 'new' used to questionable. However, thanks to advances in recycling capabilities and better quality scrap, recycled material can now be used for critical applications such as mailing bags and can also include an intricate print design.

H&M's commitment towards 100% circularity is proving to be a great success as in 2015 12,000 tonnes of fabric garments were collected in their stores and recycled saving them from a destiny in landfill - that's equivalent to more than 60 million t-shirts! H&M also produced 1.3 million garments which were made using closed loop material - that's an increase of over 300% more garments than in 2014.

We're committed to helping promote sustainable alternatives and reduce our own and our customers environmental impact. In 2015 we launched DuoGreen as a platform to celebrate new environmental innovations and to share ideas to help packaging users achieve their environmental goals.

Be inspired and learn how packaging can help you to achieve your environmental goals visit DuoGreen.

It’s that time of year again – Packaging Waste Regulations

It's that time of year again

Does your company turnover more than £2million per year or handle 50tonnes or more of packaging material in a year? If so the time is almost here to submit your packaging weight data to the Environment Agency. 

**The UK generates 13 million tonnes of packaging waste every year** much of which can be reused or recycled. In 1997 the Government introduced packaging waste regulations for 'obligated' packaging producers, which aim to manage and reduce packaging waste in the UK.

In the UK more than 6,000 companies are classed as an 'obligated' packaging producer, it's easy to find out if that includes you just by answering yes to these two simple questions:

  • Did you handle* 50 tonnes or more of packaging material or packaging in the previous calendar year?
  • Do you have a turnover of more than £2 million per year (based on financial year's figures)?

*Handle means you:

Carry out one or more of these activities AND own the packaging on which the activities are carried out:

  • Produce raw materials for packaging manufacture
  • Convert raw materials into packaging
  • Put goods into packaging or put packaging around goods
  • Supply packaging to the end user
  • Import packaged goods or packaging materials outside the UK
  • Supplies packaging by hiring it out or lending it
  • Supply packaging or packaging materials in any stage in the chain or to the final user of packaging

If you are an obligated packaging producer you need to take these simple steps to meet the Government guidelines:

  • Complete an annual data submission detailing the amount of packaging handled (you can contact your packaging supplier who will provide you with the weight per packaging type delivered the previous year)
  • Register with the Environment Agency before April
  • Calculate your obligation (this is how much packaging waste you will need to pay towards being recycled)
  • Show evidence of the recovery and recycling of a specified amount of packaging waste with Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs) or Packaging Export Recovery Notes (PERNs)
  • Prepare an Operational Plan detailing how compliance will be achieved
  • Submit a Certificate of Compliance and you're done!

It's not just the Government trying to reduce the amount of excess waste that goes into landfill. In 2015 Duo launched DuoGreen to help brands wanting or needing to improve the environmental credentials of their packaging, learn about the new sustainable packaging products and solutions available.

 ** The Guardian 4 January 2016**

 

Make your packaging all part of the selling point

As featured in Retail Packaging

Claudio Lugli

Zoe Brimelow, Brand Director at Duo UK, explains how…

The four key elements of retail packaging design used to be:

1. It must be seen

2. It must be engaging

3. It must communicate a message

4. It must sell.

However, with e-commerce named as the fastest growing retail market in Europe, consideration must also be product protection and customer convenience which is specifically relevant for online retail packaging.

Here at Duo UK, we've seen a significant shift in attitude to packaging over the past couple of years. Mail order companies used to see packaging as nothing more than protection and opted for the lightest, most robust material that was functional and fast to pack outbound goods into. Design, aesthetics, customer convenience and usability were usually a secondary concern.

However, design enhancements such as carry handles, twin glue lines and engaging branding that captures the attention of passersby, as well as the shopper, has transformed the mailing bag.  The mailing bags has transitioned from a practical item to a marketing tool that can increase brand awareness as well as improve the customers shopping experience and increase likelihood of a repeat sale and recommendation.

MY BAG

Navid Salimian, Marketing Manager at luxury Italian clothing brand Claudio Lugli agrees the design of the packaging is critical to the success

Absolute attention to detail is essential of e-commerce brands. Navid said: "When we were preparing our online store launch, packaging was high on our priority list - we were looking for packaging that reflected the luxury and heritage of our high-end Italian tailored products. Our customers are buying luxury garments and we want them to feel excited by our packaging - it creates a first impression that lasts a long time and reaffirms the brand ethos and values. Our products are renowned for their loud prints and we're not shy about making a statement, but for that reason our packaging design is very minimalist, sleek, and professional. This way, the product does the talking and the excitement builds as the customer opens the package to find their purchase."

Mailing bag designs have become more elaborate as retailers capitalise on the increased visibility these bags get outside of the home through the rise of click and collect services. From new product launches to seasonal trends reflected in the colour of the bags, packaging items are now embraced by marketing teams to promote the brand and key marketing messages.

Marketeers and designers are so tuned-in to the clout social media has with certain audiences, packaging designs are now frequently seeing the inclusion of social media icons to encourage customers to engage with the brand online.

FIRST BITE

Get your packaging pitch right for e-commerce.

Sales success is about first impressions and reflecting a brand's ethos in the way it wraps its products - a luxury brand for example, may require elaborate luxurious packaging materials so the opulent customer experience begins from the minute they collect and touch their parcel or leave a store with their newly purchased products.

We carried out a study that showed a clear link between how luxury items are packaged and repeat purchases. The study found that 61% of men and 63% of women felt that receiving a professionally gift-wrapped product made the item 'extra special'. Among 18-24 year olds this figure rose to 72%. Consumers also associated a number of positive halo effects with gift-wrapped purchases including:

  • An increased propensity to repeat order (35%)
  • An improved perception of value for money (25%)
  • Improved brand image (25%)
  • More likely to recommend to a brand to a friend (20%)
  • A belief that a brand invests more in customer service (20%)

In the same vein, for the growing number of eco-conscious customer (a report by Perception Research Services showed that 65% of UK consumers welcome environmentally friendly packaging), brands are keen to operate in a more sustainable way and promote their environmental credentials. Responsible retail giant, and Duo UK client, JD Williams, are always looking for ways to conduct business in a more socially responsible way and have incorporate this commitment to sustainability in their packaging design by communicating to the consumer how to recycle or reuse the product. This sort of direct call to action is an effective way to engage with consumers on a subject they're passionate about.

SUS IT OUT

Advancements in packaging materials, and in particular in polythene make it possible to use a 100% sustainable packaging material that is also carbon negative (GreenPE), and we've found many brands want to share this commitment to the environment in the design of their packaging. In the competitive retail environment, brands that connect with their audience through shared beliefs and values plus offer a customer centric purchasing journey can benefit from an increase opportunity for repeat sales.

Download the full article here

Featured Article: Impact Protection

Featured in Retail Packaging

Anthony Brimelow, Commercial Director at Duo UK gives us his take on the green trend and discusses how his long-established firm has reacted…

Many of our customers have been keen to operate in an environmentally responsible manner for many years, but over the past 18 months there's been a real intensification of this. Our retail customers tell us that they are reacting to consumer demand and these on-the-ground observations are backed up by the figures from the statisticians.

A report by Perception Research Services tell us that, broadly speaking, UK consumers welcome environmentally friendly packaging, with 65% noticing the associated messaging and 71% willing to pay more for it. This puts the UK consumers ahead of Germany, India and USA, in terms of environmental sensitivity.

These figures add to the genuine desire 'to do the right thing' that many of our customers have and make investing in environmentally friendly packaging a business imperative; and that's before we even look at the impact of EU legislation.

GOING DUOGREEN

 

Footprint reduction in a bag: Green PE

Footprint reduction in a bag: Green PE

The EU has signalled its clear intention to impose a 40% legally binding reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2016 which, coupled with predictions that electricity prices will increase by half over the same time span, will have a major impact on many businesses. Many astute business leaders are acting now, and at Duo we are acting in tandem to help them prepare for this change.

We have always taken a responsible approach to minimising the environmental impact of the products we produce, but in April we took this a step further and launched our new offering: DuoGreen. DuoGreen helps brands wanting or needing to improve the environmental credentials of their packaging learn about the sustainable, environmentally low-impact, packaging products and solutions available. As well as putting the spotlight on 'green' products and services, developed using Duo's expertise, we also hope DuoGreen will become a hub for sharing expertise and promoting new sustainable technologies.

Key for a business looking to reduce the environmental impact of its business is to review the packaging they use. Not just the packaging itself, but consider its entire lifecycle, which begins with the packaging's design and ends with how used packaging is processed. However, we often find clients just aren't sure what alternative packaging options are available or which innovations are credible. The lack of certification of the products or services which claim to be green has resulted in a nervousness to make a change, but that's where we can help.

REDUCE, RECYCLE

At Duo, we minimise a packaging product's lifecycle impact by offering clients regular onsite packaging audits where we analyse the packaging used and product range shipped, then we advise on the best range of packaging to minimise waste, environmental impact and cost. We also implement pro-active stock management which, combined with the short lead times of our UK-based manufacturing operation, means we can forward plan transportation to deliver products in bulk, thereby reducing road mileage.

When it comes to helping customers dispose of used packaging, we've built on our existing investment in closed loop recycling and introduced another closed-loop recycling machine. We pick, up, weigh, and pay for used packaging when we drop off new supplies and return it to our plant for processing. The recycled polythene can be used in several ways - it could be included in the middle layers of co-extruded (or layered) polythene, thus reducing the amount of virgin polythene used, or it can be used to make 100% recycled content packaging products.

Previously the uses for 100% recycled polythene were restricted because of the smell (think bin bags) associated with it. This smell is caused by contaminates, but research and development conducted in our quality control lab has allowed us to eliminate this and we can now offer odour-free 100% recycled content packaging products. This makes the product suitable for distributing porous goods such as clothing, which means brands that previously wouldn't have been able to use polythene with such a high recycled content, can now do so and reduce consumption of natural resources.

PE TEACHERS

A ground breaking new innovation which delivers substantial reduction to a brand's carbon footprint is Green PE, a thermoplastic resin made entirely from sugarcane ethanol. We have recently become the first UK-based manufacturer to produce mailing bags using Green PE, meaning we can now offer customers a product which is created from 100% renewable material and is also 100% recyclable and reduces greenhouses gases in the atmosphere.

Planet-saving packaging

Planet-saving packaging

What is particularly exciting about Green PE is its environmental credentials extend all the way down the production chain, with each kilogram of green plastic produced using this method saving over 2kgs of CO2, when compared to the production of conventional oil-based polythene.

These new technological developments, coupled with a thoughtful approach to product lifecycle offer a real opportunity for retailers to work with their packaging suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging. The business benefits of this are significant, allowing companies to prepare for the legislative changes which are coming over the next few months, communicate a positive message to their customers and help towards achieving their environmental targets.

 

Client Case Study: JD Williams

Objective:

Help JD William's meet Corporate Social Responsibility objectives by empowering the firm's customers to recycle old and unwanted clothing. Specifically, this will be achieved by designing a collection sack that can be included within JD William's outbound packaging.

Duo UK solution:

Clothing giant JD Williams has signed up to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) and pledged to play its part in reducing the carbon, waste and water footprints of the clothing they supply or receive in the UK by 15% by 2020.

As part of this commitment, senior managers at JD Williams were keen to develop a scheme aimed at encouraging customers to recycle old and unwanted clothing.  The clothing collected will be given to leading textile recycler Triad which fundraises to stop the exploitation of people and the environment caused by the global clothing supply chain.

The recycling scheme is designed to use JD Williams' existing distribution network and aims to reduce the amount of clothing that goes to landfill and will work by placing a specially designed collection sacks within all outbound mail order packages . This will allow customers to bag up unwanted clothe before arranging a collection by the firm's delivery drivers giving JD Williams' customers comfort that their unwanted items are collected by a brand they trust.

With this in mind, JD Williams approached Duo UK, which currently designs the company's outbound mailing bags, to develop the collection sack concept.  Andy York, Ethical Trading Manager for JD Williams, explained: "As a responsible retailer we are always looking for ways to conduct our business in a more socially responsible way. The recycling bag scheme is a simple yet efficient way to do just that - at no cost or trouble to our customer."

Duo advised on the most appropriate polythene material blend to achieve a lightweight but strong sack and helped develop a design to communicate user instructions, whilst also aligning with the JD Williams brand image.

Devising an efficient logistics and delivery strategy was another area of consideration and Duo was able to dovetail delivery of this product with deliveries of outbound packaging, ensuring JD Williams benefit from a seamless, cost-effective service and eradicating any additional road mileage. 

Is the future of polythene surprisingly green?

CLOSED LOOP_4

 

As the EU debates introducing a mandatory charge on single use plastic bags, Anthony Brimelow,  commercial director of polythene manufacturer Duo UK, takes a look at how technology is helping to 'green'  a material that's often viewed as an environmental L'Enfants terribles.

Although the EU proposal to introduce a mandatory plastic bag tax is unlikely to receive the unanimous backing it needs, it is the latest in a series of measures designed to curb the use of single use plastic bags, which are often perceived by politicians and the general public as being environmentally harmful.

Setting aside the 'science' behind the proposals for now, what seldom seems to be recognised is the fact that single use polythene bags are just one, relatively small, incarnation of the world's most common plastic. Polythene is deeply ingrained in our world - it's used in everything from shampoo bottles to medical equipment to bullet proof vests, - so it seems a fair bet that it's going nowhere fast. Given this state of affairs, I'd argue that it makes far more sense to minimise the environmental impact ofallpolythene, rather than concentrate so much effort on trying to dissuade the public to use just one polythene product. (And for the sake of clarity, no, single use carrier bags aren't a significant part of our business!)

In truth, a lot is already being done within the polythene industry to firstly make the production process of polythene as efficient and waste free as possible, and then to recycle used polythene in better and more creative ways. There's also promise of more improvements on the horizon, including switching from oil - the raw ingredient of polythene - to a sustainable alternative.

Measures such as gravimetric dosing used during the production process, are instrumental in cutting waste and reducing the amount of virgin material required. The technology works by weighing the raw materials of polythene as they are dosed directly into the extruder, thereby virtually eliminating the need for 'pre-mixing ' from the process.  The result is a more accurate blend which generates less scrap and uses less energy.

As well as improving the manufacturing process, responsible manufacturers have realised the good business sense of working with clients to reduce the amount of packaging they need - thereby saving them money - and to implement effective recycling processes.

At Duo we do this by offering clients an annual onsite packaging audit where we analyse the products used and goods shipped and advise on the best range of packaging to minimize both waste and cost. We also implement active stock management which, combined with the short lead times of our UK-based manufacturing operation, means we can forward plan transportation to deliver products in bulk, thereby reducing road mileage.

Recycling is another area where we work closely with our clients. We predict the demand for recycled products to increase dramatically over the next few years, driven largely by consumer demand and by improvements in technology.

Previously recycled polythene could be less consistent than its virgin counterpart and its smell - think bin bags - limited its application. Both these problems are caused by contaminants  in  the polythene blend, but work we've done in our quality control lab has helped to eliminate these problems, so much so that we've just launched an 'odour free' recycled mailing bag line.  In addition to being used in standalone products, recycled polythene also has numerous other applications including on the inner layers of multi layered -or co-extruded - polythene, which itself has various benefits.

We've seen so much growth in demand for recycled products that we've recently invested in a second closed loop recycling machine and we're working with clients to encourage them to make use of it. We collect waste from our customers and pay them per tonne, however despite these steps we still need to go to third parties to buy more scrap to meet demand.  We know many companies which are otherwise keen to recycle are hampered by waste contracts and this is one area where concerted industry-wide effort is badly needed.

On top of the measures which have already been implemented, there are also exciting developments on the horizon. Just a few months ago we signed an agreement with international polymer distribution company Resin Trade Ltd, to be the first UK-based manufacturer to produce mailing bags using Green PE, a thermoplastic resin made entirely from sugarcane ethanol.

Green PE itself has been developed by petrochemical producer Braskem, and means we can now offer customers a product which is created from 100% renewable material, which is also 100% recyclable. What is particularly exciting about Green PE is its environmental credentials extend all the way down the production chain. The raw ingredient sugarcane is a water efficient crop that also captures carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and is planted and grown in accordance to strict ethical guidelines. Further CO2 is sequestered from the atmosphere by the ethanol used to make Braskem's green polyethylene. As a consequence, each kilogram of green plastic produced using this method saves 2.15kg of CO2, when compared to the production of conventional oil-based polythene.

Meanwhile, from a manufacturing point of view, we can use the same processes and machinery we use to create standard polythene products, which makes it a very practical product.  Having said that, there is no denying that Green PE, like many new technologies, is currently more expensive than its standard equivalent. Nonetheless it is a great example of how technology can radically reduce the environmental impact of a product, assuming that there is the appetite to do so.

Of course, so far we've discussed how the environmental impact of polythene can be lowered both now and in the future, rather than comparing the environmental impact of polythene to other packaging materials. Given legislators' ongoing determination to crack down on single use plastic bags compared to other forms of packaging, it's entirely understandable that the average consumer would think plastic bags are particularly environmentally damaging, however the science simply doesn't support this. 

An Environment Agency report* which was published in 2011 compared seven types of bags,  and found that single use carrier bags had the lowest environmental impact in nine out of 10 impact categories. The same report showed that paper bags would need to be reused four times and cotton bags 173 times, in order to ensure they have lower global warming potential than a normal single use carrier bag.

Given these facts I would argue that placing so much emphasis on reducing single use carrier bags is a red herring.  The science simply doesn't stack up and of course it does nothing to address the vast quantities of other polythene being produced for other purposes.  A more productive approach would be to encourage the industry to maximise efficiencies and minimise waste in producing all types of polythene and to explore, develop and commercialise new technologies. Given these parameters, I'd say yes, the future of polythene is green.  Whether it's 'surprisingly' so, depends on where you're coming from.

 

* Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags, Dr Chris Edwards and Joanna Mehoff  Fry https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/291023/scho0711buan-e-e.pdf

Article featured on: http://www.edie.net/

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