Why we’re switching back to plastic packaging

Pollast!c packaging - 100% ocean bound recycled plastic

Well, let’s start off with a bit of myth-busting. When we talk about plastic the instinct is to think of the stuff derived from crude oil that takes a zillion years to break down in landfill and ends up in a turtles mouth in an evocative “we all need to hate plastic” photo.

Many brands have moved away from “plastic”, instead using compostable materials derived from plants instead of crude oil. In short, they (we) moved to “plastic”. Yup regardless of the source its still a polymer that we’d call plastic, and with some clever chemicals added it will compost over time too.

So to clarify we’ve decided to switch to “back” to plastic ultimately derived from crude oil. Well that doesn’t sound too smart.

This may seem a controversial decision and trust us not a decision take lightly. One of the challenges of doing 100% good is admitting when we’ve not made the best decision. We’ve gone through several iterations in packaging types and for the last two years we have been using compostable garment bags and mailer bags from Better Packaging. Which are both home compostable.

We thought they were great. Until we had a conversation with recycling industry specialist Alastair at Biffa which you can read about in our blog “I’m really unsure about your move to compostable plastic”.

It turns out that yes compostable bags might well be a better solution if everyone had a compost heap at home, or if all councils had “In Vessel Composting” infrastructure to deal with the bags. But that just isn’t the state of play at the moment.

Which means that a lot of the compostable bags will either make it into landfill, or will be incinerated. Those that do make it into the kerbside green waste for composting might well be pulled out of the compost still in tact as they aren’t given long enough to break down in standard composting setups.

Alastair had a few other issues with them as well:

  • growing biomass for packaging uses up precious resources
  • the LCA (lifecycle analysis) of compostable bio-based plastics show that they are significantly higher in energy use and emissions than recycled plastic, which we’re switching to
  • if they do are thrown into the soft plastic recycling streams the compostable plastics will contaminate that waste stream and make recycling difficult
  • if they make it into landfill they aren’t the easiest to break down due to the lack of oxygen in that environment so they will still last a long time in that instance

So what is a better option? That was our question to Alastair. His recommendation, which we’re following, is to move over to standard garment poly-bags made from as much recycled content as possible. Why? Because; they’re far more recyclable (and therefore valuable for recyclers); the soft plastics recycling schemes are all over the UK and beyond, so are more accessible than home composting; and, they have the lowest embodied energy and emissions of any packaging type we’ve found so far. And in two years time they’ll be collected in kerbside recycling all across the UK.

So with that, we’re making the switch back to “plastic” packaging although with a difference. You know us though, at Presca we don’t like to do things by halves – we’re moving to 100% ocean bound plastic pollution which are recycled into packaging. They are 200% carbon offset and traceable to source.

Where can I recycle this new packaging?

The good news is, the packaging we now use can be recycled at anywhere that offers soft plastic recycling, which is becoming increasingly more common in supermarkets. You can find your local recycle point on recyclenow where you can pop in your postcode and find the closest one to you, perfect excuse to run/cycle in your new garments to drop it off.

I received a mix of packaging, what do I do?

The new packaging will be easily identified with “POLLAST!C” branding, the mailer bags are also green instead of beige. Whilst we use up the last of the older compostable bags you may receive a mix of packaging types as re-packaging wouldn’t be the best move for the planet.

For the older comPost and comPoly bags, the best option is to put them in with your food scraps and garden waste and home compost and they will biodegrade in 3-6 months, they can also be commercially composted if facilities are available in your area. Failing that putting them in your bin is probably the next option.

Why not use cardboard?

Well, cardboard can also be problematic. If trees have to be felled for the paper or card (i.e. not recycled), and it comes from non-sustainably harvested forestry, then the environmental impact can be very severe. Virgin paper creates roughly three times more emissions than the plastic alternative, and weighs more too, thus generating more carbon emissions in transport.

Questions?

There’s no black and white in sustainability. We know this might be a challenging decision for many in our brilliant community, but we’re taking it because we genuinely believe it’s the right one. We’d love to answer any questions you have on this so we encourage you to drop a comment below.

 

Rob Webbon
CEO & Scientist


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