By Andy MacInnes, Commercial Director
A lot has changed over the last few weeks. COVID19 has taken over the headlines, businesses have been hit hard and there isn’t a single person in the UK and in many other countries across the globe who hasn’t been affected in some way by what is going around us.
However, although it has slipped down the agenda for the time being, we can’t forget the environmental and sustainability agenda that was gathering pace before our lives were turned upside down. From Greta Thunberg to Extinction Rebellion, the issue was being taken seriously worldwide at the highest levels and momentum for change was gathering.
Whether we are in the grip of a pandemic or not, some things remain the same. The European Directive on single-use plastics is still due to come into force next year and despite plans to leave the EU, the UK has pledged to honour the single-use plastics directive. As well as this, the UK is set to ban the supply of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds from April this year in the UK. The Welsh Government is also currently consulting on a wider ban due to come into force next year. As a responsible business we have been working hard over the last few years to make our products plastic-free and sustainable – from our cardboard balloon holders, winners of the Save the Planet Award at the European Carton Excellence Awards in Malta, that have been developed to replace single-use plastic versions, right through to our sustainable bunting, we are working to innovate and remove single-use plastics from our business.
There are some great examples all around us that should be inspiring business owners to think about alternatives and we thought we would summarise the best we’ve seen as they represent a real sea change in thinking. Although these examples are big brand names, it doesn’t mean that as a small business, you can’t rethink your products and reinterpret them to make them more sustainable.
- One UK supermarket has pledged to make all its own brand packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 in a bid to reduce plastic within its stores and has a labelling system asking customers to recycle, reuse or return packaging to their stores if it can’t be recycled at kerbside.
On a smaller scale, we have spent a lot of time talking to our clients about the changes that they felt would make our products work better for them. The concept of a cardboard balloon stick came about directly as a result of client feedback regarding single-use plastic balloon sticks and these are now widely in use by McDonald’s in the UK with our biodegradable balloons.
- Other brands improving their sustainability credentials include the fast food market. One major brand is ditching plastic-free toy giveaways for children. In a further step, the brand has installed amnesty bins in every one of its restaurants across the UK, where people can drop off any free plastic meal toys, including those given away with sweets or within children’s magazines. They have said that the plastic will be transformed into new play areas and restaurant items. By focusing on their children’s offer, fast food brands are certainly tapping into the mood of a whole generation of young people who see the environment as a top priority and are ready to make changes that older generations are more resistant to.
It is not only global brands that can innovate and find new ways of making their existing products more sustainable. We have found that with a few changes, a number of our own products that were once only available in plastic can now be manufactured without the need for plastic. For example, here at B Loony, our team has developed new eco-friendly bunting products, one of which contains printed paper pennants which are hole punched and threaded onto a string line made of wool. Both components are therefore sustainable and eco-friendly. We have now replaced plastic sticks on our flags with paper ones.
Additionally our rubber balloons are biodegradable and our cardboard balloon holders are recyclable. In the space of one year they have already saved more than 100 tons of plastic from landfill. With more and more large brands and event companies insisting on only working with suppliers and contractors that can demonstrate sustainability, this is an issue we continue to prioritise.
Whatever, is going on the world now, we must all look to the future of our businesses and where we will stand in our customer’s eyes when this pandemic is over. With society becoming more eco conscious and the business world following that lead, we must all be aware of the responsibility that our decisions now will mean for future generations. There is always an alternative, it just takes a bit of innovation and creative thinking to find it. Let’s see if we can start a change in the industry and encourage all businesses to think more sustainably and decrease their reliance on plastic.