With the seemingly continual media and political rhetoric around the issue of the plastic epidemic there is a real risk we might now, as a society, become numb to the subject of plastic waste. Are we in danger of missing the point that a long term and sustainable plan to effect behavioural change is needed in order to implement permanent and direct environmental action? It’s not enough that a small percentage of the population acts against rising plastic pollution; everyone has a part to play if we’re to make a paradigm shift towards a sustainable future. First and foremost an independent acceptance of commitment to the fight against single use plastic is needed, once society abides by an increased producer responsibility and a reduced plastic dependency, improved eco-friendly practices can become the norm.
Over the last fifty years, plastic production has doubled as the material’s ever popular, cost-effective properties have struck a chord with cost-saving manufacturers around the globe. Undeniably, plastic is a necessary part of our lives but as a nation mass consumption has seen us travel, unknowingly, in the wrong direction with both businesses and consumers alike feeding the problem of overuse of plastic. To encourage a change in behaviour, companies need to be instilling a systematic approach that lays the foundations for environmental rehabilitation. Within a new eco-friendly proposal there are four key values to include: a replacement ideology (recently adopted as a key strategy by UK based Kite Packaging) followed by a reusable ideology, a recyclable ideology and a reduction ideology, all of which were initially proposed by WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme).
Sometimes when companies fall in to a fixed routine with particular processes it can be hard to break the mould. This is the same for businesses using the same everyday packaging products. Organisations can be reluctant to change their pick, pack and despatch process, often deeming it too challenging or expensive to explore viable alternatives. For example, when posting lighter goods, polythene mailing bags are the most popular, traditional option; however a useful alternative for these would be paper mailing bags which offer a 100% environmentally friendly, recyclable solution for a range of postal needs. In terms of internal protection, instead of standard bubble wrap businesses can use new eco-friendly paper bubble wrap or invest in automated paper systems which produce eco-friendly void fill cushioning for goods throughout the storage and transit process.
The next factor businesses should be considering is whether it is possible to reduce the amount of plastic used by making better volumetric use of packaging. In a lot of cases, thinner plastic can be used and the correct amount of packaging can be ensured by carrying out assessments such as pallet wrap audits. With the professional support of load retention specialists, organisations can determine whether they have the right packaging in place and if they are maximising efficiency levels whilst simultaneously reducing plastic use. These tests can demonstrate how to save money whilst reducing environmental waste at the same time through the use of thinner, higher performance films. One effective, automated approach to ensure the minimisation of plastic wrap usage is stretch wrap machines. These come in range of options but all have in common a key fundamental solution – each is engineered to minimise the required amount of pallet wrap by wrapping at the optimum stretch point. The benefits of reduced manual applications keep the workforce happier and help businesses to continually improve efficiency.
Another key issue is the throwaway culture that at times seems endemic in society, and as we are now learning has profoundly impacted the environment. In contrast, what we should be doing is instilling a philosophy of re-usability. Companies should be investing in re-usable packaging that offers a sustainable solution for the future, instead of single-use packaging which is simply thrown away after one use. Materials that are particularly useful in terms of re-usability are metal, wood and even certain types of plastic. Thousands of tonnes of transit packaging are used every year in the UK and reusable packaging can offer significant business and environmental benefits. By investing in more reusable products like timber pallets or corrugated cardboard pallets, businesses can reduce disposal of recycling waste and sortation costs whilst achieving direct savings as a result of the repeated use.
The final key part to the puzzle is ensuring your company has a recycling procedure in place. By having a clear, systematic recycling approach, businesses can help reduce pollution caused by waste. Try to keep your average, unrecyclable waste to a minimum and encourage your workforce to take on a recycling mentality to maximise your organisations’ potential eco-friendly initiatives. To cement this recycling commitment, two particularly useful machines to consider investing in for the future are cardboard shredders and bailing machines. Cardboard shredders can turn your waste cardboard into an alternative protective packaging material to use for wrapping or void fill purposes and its 100% renewable energy resources composition is the perfect addition to eco-friendly packing operations. A bailing machine acts as a value tool in terms of simplifying recycling as it compacts cardboard, plastic film and shrink wrap which can allow effective, reformed waste management in the workplace.
By incorporating these approaches within your business, you can achieve a worthwhile and sustainable workplace culture which accommodates a circular economy philosophy and aids ecological improvements. To gain more insight into environmental change and to help other businesses make the necessary changes, Kite has introduced its mobile testing facility in which the Kite team can take eco-friendly solutions directly to the customer’s doorstep and give them a visual demonstration of the packaging in action. If you would like more guidance with your environmental practice of replacing, reducing, reusing and recycling, visit kitepackaging.co.uk.