How we can change our perspective on plastic packaging

Posted 28 April 2022 in Tips for Crafters

The good news for all those businesses in our Craft Insurance community selling handmade crafts online is that online shopping as a whole has exploded over the last decade and online retail looks set to grow as people continue to look for a convenient, time efficient experience.

Unfortunately, this upward trend is not good news for our oceans. The majority of online orders arrive in plastic packaging, and recent research suggests that a staggering 32% of plastic packaging escapes collection systems and enters our natural environment.

The following scary statistics are enough to get all of us reviewing our usage of plastic packaging!

As far as plastic packaging is concerned, it’s in the news at the moment. This month a new UK tax comes into effect on plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into the UK that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. The aim of the tax is to provide an incentive for businesses to use recycled plastic in the manufacture of plastic packaging and to more recycling of packaging in general!

The UK Government is, in fact, aiming for a 75% recycling rate for packaging by 2030 whilst for our friends in Europe all plastic packaging has to be recyclable by 2030.

In addition to all this, customers today also believe that doing something good for the world should be part of any company’s core business plan. Customers want the goods delivered but they also want suppliers to be thinking about the impact their activities are having on the environment. This means that businesses who adopt an environmentally friendly approach with their packaging will not fail to enhance their brand reputation and increase their sales amongst a growing tribe of eco-aware customers.

So, what is the way forward then for businesses selling handmade crafts online such as fragile ornaments or delicate handmade pieces? I did discover 100% recyclable bubble wrap online which was very exciting (if a little dearer than its non-recyclable relative). Then I thought, although it’s the lesser of two evils, being recyclable, it is still plastic. What plastic free alternatives are there for packaging handmade, fragile items to ensure their safe arrival?

Well, there are quite a few companies out there that have found a way to use less plastic in their packaging by adhering to strict delivery policies. The Package Free Shop for instance, ships everything from health and beauty items to pet supplies in “100% post-consumer” boxes with paper tape and wrapping. All of its shipping materials are recyclable and compostable. Olive is a delivery company that offers package-free shipping.

Other businesses, rather than using bubble wrap or polystyrene to protect goods, use recycled paper or shredded cardboard with the result that even fragile items are perfectly safe as long as they are wrapped carefully and the void is filled properly.

There are a number of plastic free online shops out there offering a plastic free packaging alternative such as the Zero Waste Club, Life Before Plastik, The No Plastic Shop, The Plastic Free Shop and Anything But Plastic, to name a few (click here for a list of 34 online plastic free stores). Bristol’s first plastic free shop, Zero Green, has been offering a plastic free alternative to shopping since 2018, both online and through their South Bristol shop. Zero Green offer more than a thousand waste-free products online, from rice to reusable razors and they offer customers the option of using their own containers which they can drop off and get their order done on the same day!

So, if you would like to start thinking about your packaging and to change the impact you are making selling handmade crafts online, here are some ideas to help you get started:

Custom boxes are the largest and priciest element of packaging. Being able to eliminate boxes will dramatically reduce your shipping costs and environmental impact. If your goods are small, soft, or lightweight, cheaper packaging materials could be enough to fulfil your needs.

Try plant fibres such as jute and cotton. These make excellent eco-friendly packaging materials in the form of reusable tote bags to wrap your product in, provide a great gift with purchase to show your appreciation, and encourage eco-friendly practices amongst your customer base. 

Try inflatable air pillows – inflatable plastic film bags that can be used to protect products. They are versatile and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, while not adding much extra weight to a package. Air pillows are often made from post-consumer recycled materials, but aren’t able to be composted since they are often made from a plastic-based material.

Try corrugated bubble wrap if you need to cushion a fragile item, an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bubble wrap or styrofoam packaging peanuts is corrugated bubble wrap. This is typically made out of 100% recycled cardboard that’s derived from post-consumer and post-industrial waste. Corrugated bubble wrap can be both recycled or composted.

We can renew our perspective where plastic packaging is concerned and rather than seeing it as a necessarily evil, it becomes an opportunity to bring positive change and impact the planet!

P is for Pause – pause and re-think. Is there a better way?

L is for Love – love your planet and your people!!!

A is for Alternatives – there are many out there.

S is for Sustainable ways of doing business. Enhance your brand as you adopt them.

T is for Time! The time to act is now…

I is for investment – you are investing in our collective future.

C is for Change, and a true change creates a legacy for the next generation.

Why not join in the discussion on sustainable packaging in our Craft Insurance Facebook Group? Let us know how you have become sustainable, selling handmade crafts online. What ingenious solution have you devised to avoid non-recyclable plastic packaging? We’d love to hear from you.