🌱 Plastic Free July: What are the options?
Featuring Ocean Bottle, Daye, Fiid and more...
8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year. UK supermarkets alone use 114 billion pieces of single use plastic, every year. Less than 10% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled.
Plastic Free July is a global campaign to reduce single use plastic waste and plastic dependency. To support this, this week we take a look at...
What are bioplastics, and how can brands use them?
How Ocean Bottle are working with coastal communities to collect 80 million kilograms of plastic by 2025.
In case you missed it: Daye's determined to leave an impact, not a trace - featuring Valentina Milanova.
> Good News This Week
🎯 Fiid announced that all their products are now climate neutral, partnering with ClimatePartner to become the first carbon neutral ready meal in the market.
🎯 Too Good To Go announced their partnership with Planetly to assess it’s carbon footprint and offset unavoidable emissions.
🎯 Vivobarefoot announced the ULTRA BLOOM, the world’s first shoe made using algae removed from waterways around the world.
⭐️ Canada Goose announced that it will stop buying fur by the end of this year, and cease manufacturing fur products no later than the end of 2022.
⚡️ A report by WRAP revolved an estimated 92,000 tonnes of surplus food was reshaped through commercial and charitable channels in 2020, marking a 45% year on year increase and a national record. Read a breakdown.
⚡️ Scientists are calling for a global treaty to regulate plastic pollution, and the movement is gaining momentum.
> Click on each link to read more.
> Quick Take
Bioplastics For Brands - A Practical Guide:
With customers’ aversion to plastics forcing brands to reconsider their packaging, bioplastics are an increasingly popular alternative. In theory, they offer the best of all worlds; boasting the same physical properties of plastics, they fulfil packaging needs while lowering carbon footprint and promising a happier end-of-life than the inside of a whale’s stomach. It’s no wonder they’re seen as a potential packaging panacea to the world’s plastics problem. Even some of the world’s biggest brands (read: polluters) Coca-Cola to Heinz and Unilever are taking notice, uniting with WWF in forming a ‘Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance’ to support growth of the plant-stock raw materials. But what exactly are ‘bioplastics’? Are they truly sustainable? Are they suitable for your products? Crucially, are they worth investing in?
Bioplastics are “plastics made from plant or other biological material instead of petroleum”. The most familiar commercially is PLA, seen in takeaway food containers and coffee cups produced by the likes of BioPak. Used by coffee shops and chains (such as Leon) across the country, this is bioplastic in the mainstream. However, the term ‘bioplastic’ can be widely applied, and here-in lies a potential minefield for businesses. A ‘bioplastic’ can refer to a material that is biobased but not biodegradable, a biodegradable plastic derived from fossil fuels or even ‘oxo-biodegradable’ materials, which are conventional plastics supplemented with oxidants.
The environmental impact of these different types, to put it diplomatically, varies. This is where Coca-Cola went wrong. Their infamous ‘plant-based PET’ bottle - heavily marketed as a ‘green option’ - was no more biodegradable than regular plastics. They quickly faced backlash and accusations of greenwashing. In their keenness to offer a marketable eco-plastic, Coca-cola arguably leapt on the bandwagon too soon; before the technology was ready and before they knew what was suitable for their product. Just as there are many forms of plastic for different purposes, so too are there many forms of bioplastic. Water-soluble films, cling-film alternatives and hard tubing are just a few different forms suitable for commercial application. To truly understand what’s best for your business’ products and reap the benefits of eco-plastic, there’s no better way than to get stuck-in to R&D. Here are a few options…
1. Do your homework
Full immersion in new product development isn’t for every business. The risks associated with investment, both in terms of capital and in terms of time, may mean you might prefer an off-the-shelf option. To make an informed decision (avoiding Coca-cola’s green faux-pas) make sure you really understand the properties of the product you’re procuring.
Say you’re a food and drink outlet - consider the following questions:
Are those coffee cups recyclable, biodegradable and/or home compostable?
Will consumers understand how to dispose of them?
Do councils in the area of purchase have the infrastructure to support them?
Choose a supplier based on their transparency on the end-of-life properties of their product, and ask questions. Here are some further resources:
For a more overall critique of the different types of bioplastic available, see Columbia University’s take, or our cousin organisation The Climate Venture Collective’s recent article. Additionally, take another look at this week’s article on how startups can harness the power of Research and Development to learn more.
2. A step further: get bespoke products
The beauty of using new materials is that manufacturers are excited to work with you. They’re researching new applications, methods and opportunities as they go, which means there’s a good chance that your brand can end up with a truly unique product. Just like any partnership, though, you need to find the right fit for you.
Depending on your brand’s needs, here are a few great UK-based manufacturers:
Solutions4plastic - One of the UK’s leading bioplastics manufacturers and suppliers, they collaborate with brands closely to create the best solution for your specific needs. Particularly enthusiastic, helpful and ambitious, they’re a great option if your brand has an idea for a product that isn’t yet available in the market.
Biome Bioplastic - Excellent if you’re looking for cutting-edge research. Consistently working with universities whilst partnering with brands on development projects, this is an exciting way to go if innovation is part of your USP. If you’re a regular Following the Footprints reader (if not, why not) then you’ll know why more and more brands are moving in this direction.
The Magical Mushroom Company - The trendy option. Recently launching wide-scale production of its mushroom-based biopackaging, MMC already boasts high-profile partnerships with Lush Cosmetics and Seedlip. If you’re looking to make eco-packaging a big part of your marketing strategy, this is well worth a look.
Find a comprehensive list of bioplastics suppliers here.
Keen to learn more? Learn more about the applications of bioplastics here.
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> Brand Spotlight
Ocean Bottle: 80 million kilograms by 2025?
Ocean Bottle, a UK-based social enterprise and B Corporation, are admirably ambitious. They’re on a mission to collect 80 million kilograms of plastic (equivalent to 7 billion plastic bottles) by 2025. Ocean Bottle want to make one thing clear, they’re not vague in their impact. For the sale of every bottle, 11.4kg of plastic will be collected by Plastic Bank and their network of plastic collectors. How? We take a look.
The impact of plastic pollution is felt most in coastal communities, many of which are less economically developed. Through their partnership with Plastic Bank, Ocean Bottle works with 4300 plastic collectors, who collect, sort and recycle the world’s plastic waste. Together, Plastic Bank and Ocean Bottle go one step further than most by formalising payment to these vital collectors using IBM blockchain technology. This offers better financial protection to collectors, who often can’t rely on local authorities to regulate the unequal and informal waste sector.
On World Ocean Day, Ocean Bottle teamed up with two of the world’s first Blue Carbon projects - the Mikoko Pamoja and Vanga Blue Forest projects. Blue Carbon, put simply, is carbon captured by global ocean and coastal ecosystems, like mangrove forests. Coastal ecosystems like mangroves are highly efficient carbon sinks, and their protection can stabilise coastal erosion, provide nesting ground for essential wildlife and offer food security and income for coastal communities.
With 141,400+ bottles sold to date, collecting 1,607,000+ kg of ocean bound plastic (or 11 blue whales, if that’s easier to visualise), Ocean Bottle are on their way to achieve their ambitious 2025 goal.
What can brands learn from Ocean Bottle?
Mitigate your business’ use of plastic. Packaging is often a good place to start, and bioplastics can help. If you can, certify as ‘Plastic Free’.
Collaborate with organisations already doing the work and building the infrastructure needed to tackle this systemic problem: