Thinking inside the box

Doing our Christmas shopping has highlighted to us the gap that still exists between us as a company doing our bit to minimise waste and the companies who, at times, seem oblivious to the cause.

It’s now over a year since we saw Hugh Fearnley-Whiitingstall confront Amazon for the BBC documentary ‘War on Waste’ over the amount of packaging they use when sending out goods.

Amazon announced at the time they were introducing a pilot scheme with new box-fitting technology to allow them to use a more extensive range of box sizes so items were despatched in more suitable sized packaging. Gone would be the days of a single keyring being despatched in an A4 box full of packaging! Or, so we were led to believe.

But a year on and here at KJS towers, we’ve been busy placing our Christmas orders Christmas shopping, and we’ve noticed that we’re still receiving large boxes full of, er, not very much!

Just how do Amazon (and the like) get away with it? We’re all now in the habit of reusing carrier bags when we go shopping, or taking our bags for life, yet we seem to turn a blind eye to our environmental ethics when it comes to shopping online.

And, whilst we’re ranting, it doesn’t just stop with online companies. What about everyday commodities such as food? Take a look around when you next walk down the fruit and vegetable aisle of your local supermarket. The majority of items are wrapped in polythene, and/or on plastic trays. Think of all the packaging that’s used there, let alone the fact that much of it is imported and the impact that has on the environment. Gone are the days of seasonal, UK grown fruit and veg sold loose!

Perhaps we’re maybe more sensitive to the subject of waste at KJS since we work in an industry that gets so much bad press for the impact our products (allegedly) have on our environment.

But is direct mail really that bad? It’s an aged old argument that will never go away. So maybe now is a good time for us to defend our position:

1.      Direct mail is not junk mail.

If handled correctly, it should be targeted information that is sent to people who want to receive it. If they don’t want to receive it, all they need to do is notify the sender. Marketers want to spend their budgets wisely and ensure their direct mail is effective. To send untargeted, or irrelevant information to the masses doesn’t achieve either. Whilst the new GDPR regulations are going to have an impact on how companies can send out marketing communications, one positive is that it will ensure they know the people they are contacting are those who want to receive the information.

Recent research suggests that we do value direct mail with 83% of respondents valuing mail that keeps them up to date and 80% of adults keep some mail that companies have sent them in the last 4 weeks.

 2.      Direct mail can be produced in a sustainable way.

We all know Direct mail is printed on paper and that paper is made from wood, which comes from trees. But, like many other commodities, the virgin resources are now predominantly sourced from environmentally-responsible resources. And it’s now relatively simple to ensure this process is entirely carbon-offset and more trees are planted to replace the ones used. All of the paper stock we use at KJS are FSC and PEFC accredited. Even the polywrap we buy is biodegradable. And, once read the vast majority of end-users can use their home recycle bins to dispose of the mail.

Our environmental policy at KJS stretches far beyond to only thinking about the materials we use. We are one of only a handful of printers who have invested in an LED UV print press. Without getting too technical, with this state of the art press ink is dried instantly by UV frequency of light rather than heat, using far less energy (and improves print sharpness and quality). It also removes the need to use starch powder sprays to aid separating wet sheets, which can contaminate the air, which most other traditional presses need to use. 

Royal Mail are doing their bit too. They encourage companies to think more about their green credentials with the introduction of their Sustainable Advertising Mail rates. This offers advertisers further discounts on postage costs if their mail meets the required environmental standards. And, this year we’ve seen Royal Mail start to test 3.5, 6 and 7 tonne fully electric trucks to transport mail between mail and distribution centres across London as well as, just this month, deploying their first batch of 100 zero emission electric delivery vans. Look out for these down your street!

We firmly believe the waste generated by our industry is no worse than any other and in many ways, we’re able to have far more control to minimise the impact. Yes, some print or mail houses may not have the same ethics as we have. But like everything in life, you have to make informed choices.

So, that’s it, rant over! We’ll step down from our soap box and carry on doing what we know is right for us, our customers and our environment. All we ask is that everyone else does their bit and, together, we can all help live in a better world. Now, what was I going to order from Amazon…?

PS. As it happens, since writing this article, we haven’t received any extremely bad examples from Amazon or other online retailers… typical! If you’ve had any you’d like to share with us, we’d love to see them.