Plastic is everywhere
As you probably know, plastic is one of the most useful materials ever created and we use it every single day. Whether it’s the plastic wrapping on your fruit and veg or the packaging of your latest clothes order – plastic is constantly around us. Even the new waterproof £5 notes use plastic.
Most plastic isn’t biodegradable, so it doesn’t rot or disintegrate, meaning it stays in the environment for hundreds of years. The issue we are focussing on is single-use plastic, which refers to all plastic which is used only once before it’s put in the bin – think drinks bottles, carrier bags, food wrapping and so on.
Why is plastic packaging an issue?
A lot of single-use plastic ends up in our oceans due to littering and loss in transit on the way to landfill. As a consequence, various wildlife ingest the material and die as a result (each year millions of marine animals are killed). Due to our rapid introduction and use of plastic (it was only invented in the early 1900s), little was done to mitigate this waste problem. Even closer to home, plastic is now in all parts of our own food chain, for example in the fish we eat.
Even so-called recyclable plastic isn’t as great as it seems. Whilst new forms of plastic are being made that can, in theory, be recycled, the infrastructure doesn’t exist to actually recycle it or it’s simply too expensive to recycle it appropriately. Only 9% of all plastic is recycled, so clearly we still have some way to go.
How is plastic used in industry?
The textile industry produces nearly 65 million tonnes of plastic every year. On average, the plastic in the textiles industry is used for five years before being discarded. This is across the industry as a whole and not just for the final products which consumers receive – this is still quite a long time compared with other consumer products and general packaging, where the average use ranges from 6 months to 3 years, before the plastic is put in the bin. Plastic for consumer products and packaging make up more than half of the world’s annual usage – most of it never gets recycled or incinerated. It is dumped into landfill, rivers and oceans.
Obviously we couldn’t just rely on scientific articles during our research phase. So, we decided to go out onto the high street and observe the problem firsthand. What we found was disappointing, but unfortunately not surprising. We found that over 70% of the well-known high street retailers that we visited package their bedding with plastic*.
We knew we wanted to do something about this issue, so we spent a lot of time investigating recyclable plastic and alternative materials. We quickly realised that a lot of the packaging industry revolves around marketing gimmicks (which industry doesn’t?!). As mentioned, recyclable plastics sound great in theory, but aren’t really a ‘be-all and end-all’. Due to limitations in recycling plants, even recyclable plastic is usually processed in the same way as ‘normal’ plastic – that is, put into landfill and forgotten about.
Our solution to plastic-free packaging
The only solution for us was to avoid plastic altogether in our packaging. All of our bedding is sent in FSC-certified cardboard boxes. Rather than wrap the product in plastic, we put it in a lovely cotton tote bag, which can be re-used indefinitely for a spot of shopping (and hence saving you a plastic carrier bag).
Although we were committed to a zero plastic policy, we thought we could take it a step further. With the help of a local supplier, we are able to fill our cushions with pads that are each made with more than 17 recycled plastic bottles.
At this point we ran into the issue of shipping our cushions – we tried a box, but that ended up being the size of a small house! So, after some further research we came up with the perfect solution: All our cushions are now delivered in bags made from sugarcane. They have the same feel and protection as regular plastic wrapping, but they’re much better for the environment, and of course 100% recyclable.
What else can be done?
Here’s a few suggestions to reduce your plastic consumption you can do in your daily life:
- Don’t buy carrier bags every time you go to the shops – buy a ‘bag for life’ or simply use our Tom & Dick’s tote bag which comes with every order.
- Rather than buying plastic water bottles, why not buy a reusable water bottle? They’re prettier and better for the environment. We love these stainless steel water bottles by Chilly’s.
- When buying fruit and veg, don’t use the plastic bags they provide in the shop. Purchase a reusable grocery net instead. Buying loose fruit and vegetable is also usually cheaper than buying pre-packaged.
- Re-use plastic before recycling it. For example, yoghurt tubs can be used to start your own little herb garden, rather than buying plastic pots from your garden center.
- Actively support business (and restaurants) which are committed to sustainable packaging. Whether it’s your takeout container or the packaging your brand new bedding comes in…
So, you can rest easy knowing your purchase from Tom & Dick’s doesn’t just improve your personal wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of the planet. We’re continuously looking to improve our efforts around sustainability, so please get in touch with any feedback or recommendations.
*We visited John Lewis, White Company, Primark, H&M, Debenhams, Next, Feather & Black and M&S