By Tamra Booth, Keeeps
It’s World Environment Day this week, and this year we are being encouraged to “grow trees, green our cities, re-wild our gardens, change our diets and clean up rivers and coasts”. On Earth Day, we discussed why pottery promotes green living. This week, we focus on how Keeeps and other small businesses can be part of generation restoration and help clean up our waterways with a few simple changes!
Sustainability is a major consideration to many businesses now with many planting trees to offset their carbon footprint and providing accessible recycling points. An easy way for small businesses to do their bit is to use plastic-free packaging. Yes, it is marginally more expensive, but the benefits to the planet are huge.
To back this up, let’s start with a few facts! 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year which is “roughly equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the oceans every minute”. But did you know that 40 percent of plastic produced is packaging?. So, whilst switching to plastic-free packaging seems a small step, if there are enough of us doing it, it will really go a long way.
The Problem with Plastic Packaging
The issue is that plastic packaging is largely single use. Whilst some people may hold onto it to reuse, usually it ends up going straight to landfill. The only time Keeeps uses plastic packaging is when reusing any received from third parties and suppliers. We use it for storage or moving stock around and we reuse it until it is old and unusable. We never buy new plastic.
In Deloitte’s sustainability survey, 64% of consumers said they needed better ways to reduce plastic and packaging to live more sustainably, with the ease of disposal/recycling being a concern. I totally understand. It is so annoying when you receive a parcel filled with bubble wrap and polystyrene. It can’t be recycled from home and so you feel bad about throwing in the general waste bin! We do not want our customers feeling plastic guilt, so we wanted to address those issues from the start.
Packaging pottery – A real poser
Whilst pottery is sturdy (although we would not advise dropping it on a tiled floor!), it is of course fragile. As such, most postal services specifically exclude ceramics from their damage policies, so excellent protection was essential from any sustainable packaging alternative.
After a bit of research, paper packaging was clearly the way to go. Not only because paper and cardboard are lightweight to keep the weight down on postage costs, but because they are renewable materials, relatively inexpensive, look fantastic (rustic and artisanal vibes galore!) and they are accepted in household recycling collections making disposal easy.
Prior to launching Keeeps, we spent a few weeks buying and trying different paper and cardboard types, wrapping and boxing and testing and testing again! We also receive lots of deliveries and can see what works and what doesn’t work in transit. The key to it all is in protective padding and adequate cushioning from impact. Taking time to pack and not rushing the process is also important.
So with all this knowledge gained, this is how you can expect your Keeeps pottery piece to be sustainably packaged and how it smashes (not literally) its plastic alternative out of the park:
1. Double wall cardboard boxes
Double wall means extra sturdy but also means they can be reused by customers. All our boxes are made by FSC certified suppliers, meaning the wood they are made from is responsibly sourced.
2. Paper vs Plastic bubble wrap
Bubble wrap certainly performs well and prevents breakages, but this is another plastic item which is not locally recyclable and ends up in the same place as polystyrene. One paper alternative, paper bubble wrap, has little bubble impressions in and is 100% recyclable and manufactured from recyclable and biodegradable materials. We would recommend this for wrapping less fragile items that you send, plus it looks nice. However, as we package pottery, we go the extra mile and wrap our pottery tightly in recycled, single-faced corrugated paper. This conveniently comes in a huge roll that you just cut according to size and the raised fluting perfectly protects the pottery and wraps easily around handles, spouts, and corners. It’s a wrap!
3. Starch peanuts vs Polystyrene
Filling the gaps in the box is all important so next up is ‘void fill’. However, the only way to recycle one popular choice, polystyrene, is at designated collection points and these are limited. Who has the time to pack up polystyrene and take it to the recycling centre? No one. Which explains why so much ends up in landfill.
We therefore use ultra-light ‘EcoFlo’ loose fill chips from Kite Packaging to fill all the gaps between the wrapped pottery and the box. Made from a maize(corn)-based starch, they are 100% biodegradable and once used (although you can re-use them of course), they can either be thrown on the compost heap or dissolved in water – a job that your kids or grandkids will love, trust me. Hours of fun.
Top tip: If there is a lot of space to fill in the box, then we bulk it out with other cheaper biodegradable ‘void fill’ at the bottom such as reusing scrunched up paper from deliveries we receive. Then we fill the gaps and rest of the box with corn starch packing peanuts to the top to stop anything from moving in transit.
4. Paper tape vs Sellotape
Plastic parcel tape is such an eyesore. It doesn’t scream luxury or handmade at all! It’s yet another piece of plastic which cannot be recycled easily and ends up in landfill. It is also a pain to remove and tends to mean grabbing the scissors and slicing away at risk of damaging contents within.
Paper or ‘Kraft’ tape is 100% recyclable and is just as effective as plastic tape. We don’t hold back on taping to ensure it is well and truly secure. It also looks professional and clean and is much easier for our customers to remove when opening their parcels.
5. Paper vs Plastic Document wallet
Instead of a plastic sleeve to insert the packing slip, we use a paper alternative to stick to the top of the box. It is made of transparent tracing paper instead of plastic so the address can still be read. Genius!
None of the plastic packaging options we mentioned above can be recycled in the average UK roadside collection. By using plastic-free packaging, that is five pieces of plastic per delivery saved from landfill and potentially our waters – a great example of how you can make a difference. We hope this inspires you to do the same with your packaging, whether for your parcels to friends and family, or for your business. It really is easy, we promise. Just buy some cardboard boxes, paper tape and corn starch packing peanuts to get you started.
And, added bonus, we found that as long as we packed it all together tightly so there was no room for manoeuvre (we do a little test ‘shake’ of the box every time), we were overjoyed (and relieved!) to find it also provides fantastic cushioning – keeping the wonderful Keeeps customers happy. Tick, tick, tick!