#LeonPaulgoesgreen? Yes, that's our aspiration for the years to come. We're currently implementing a series of measures in order to improve our company as a whole and make it (even) more ecologically and socially responsible. The first step of many? The packacking of our products. As a matter of fact, if you buy regularly from Leon Paul, in the next weeks and months you may start noticing a change in our plastic packaging. This sounds simple, but it gets complex fast... read on for some guidance by none other than our director Ben Paul.
I AM COMPOSTABLE! DON'T RECYCLE ME…
by Ben Paul
After watching the amazing informative program from the BBC "Drowning in Plastic" we decided to try and rid ourselves of all single-use plastic packaging within 12 months. I did think we had been relatively forward thinking company as for years we had bought "recycled" plastic that was "bio-degradable." It turns out that the confusion around what the different terms mean has meant that we were nowhere near where we wanted to be an ecologically responsible company. We have many different types of products and packaging, so I want to focus on one type to keep our story of eliminating single-use plastic packaging as simple as possible: packaging for white fencing clothing. You ready?
Where we started from
Traditionally we have used plastic, as they are very strong, waterproof and transparent, so you can see the item in the bag is actually a right-handed FIE item without opening the bag. As I've mentioned before, we always got "recycled plastic" that was "bio-degradable".
I thought that this meant that all the plastic had been reclaimed from maybe a plastic bottle or two and turned into our plastic bag. Then, after it has been used and disposed of, it decomposed and was no more. In fact, it meant that the company that produced the bags have recycled around 20% of their plastic products and that after many years the bag would become lots of tiny bits of plastic…. that then end up in the sea or in the food chain!
So we needed to change.
Old vs. new - spot the difference
“It must be simple, this is a huge problem and so loads of people will have looked at this and made it very simple”
I hear you cry….. well apparently not.
"Biodegradable" and "compostable" are not the same thing
Many people (me included) confuse "biodegradable" with "compostable". "Biodegradable" broadly means that an object can be biologically broken down, while "compostable" typically specifies that such a process will result in compost. Compost seems great as it will just go back into the soil and be used again for growing something like a tree. Everyone wins… but there are 2 types of compostable!
There is home compostable, where if you stick your plastic bag in with your leaves and your old grass cuttings after a few months it is one, and then there is industrial composting, where (often organized by governments or local authorities) someone collects the food waste and garden waste and takes it to a composting facility. They add heat and churn it all up and turn it into compost very quickly. If you don’t have compost facilities than they will compost but after a few years. Home composting bags generally are very weak and degrade even in dry conditions very quickly so are not suitable fr storage of longer than maybe 1 month. This is no good for clothing where you might need to hold it for 6 months or more, so obviously we went for the industrial composting solution.
Our new packaging
The consumer's role
For the recycling system to work properly, one step is crucial: the plastic has to be put into the right bin. Because what happens if you put compostable bags into a traditional plastic recycling facility? It damages the “recycled” plastic and makes it rubbish….again.
This means we need people to be aware of what packaging they have and how to best dispose of it. An international colour-coded series of symbols seems like a sensible option and some universal standard seems logical but nothing comprehensive exists yet. (An overview over some current symbols can be found here)
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
So, for now, we have to make the best decision we can, with the information we have. I think that as people become more aware of the problems that plastic poses, especially when used for short periods of time (like packaging), more facilities will open that allow industrial compostable. These will become the norm and people will learn the correct methods of disposing of the packaging and in the end, my view is that it is the right step to take.
Our solution... and a user's guide
Once we decided that we wanted compostable packaging suitable for industrial composting, we needed to write the text that clearly showed how to dispose of this.
I secretly tested this on my family and after taking four different versions of the bag out of the plastic recycling bin four times we came up with our current solution, which looks like this.
Compostable clothing bag
For now please remember the following:
- Any Leon Paul packaging with a green symbol on is compostable.
- Either put this into an industrial composting facility bin
- put it in your normal bin and allow it to degrade into soil in landfill
- Do NOT put it into plastic recycling
You can see load about the different opinions and options by googling “compostable vs recyclable”. We have made what we think is the best long term decision concerning plastic packaging and we hope you like the changes you see over the next 6 months to the plastic packaging of our products.