The facts on poly wrap

We're not going to condone single use plastics but we do want to make clear it's not always the material that's the problem...

We all know how the overuse of plastic is damaging our environment, and we'd like to think we're all taking on the responsibility to reduce this impact as much as we can.

Plastic consumption has grown over the years, and way too much is ending up in landfil or at the bottom of our oceans, but a lot of this isn't down to the material itself but rather the information (or lack of) that's given on how to dispose of it, coupled with the lack of facilities in many local authority areas to recycle.

Let's take polywrap for example, something that is close to our hearts. It's a material that's been used for many years to wrap magazines catalogues. And there’s good reason for that, polywrap is light, strong and weather resistant, making it extremely effective at the task it is required to fulfil. But the problem is, it's a plastic product which is increasingly being frowned upon. Public perception is that this poly is going to end up in the graveside that's the bottom of our oceans.

But, what many people don't realise is low-density polythene, like our standard polywrap, is one of the most recyclable materials on the market (code LDPE 4) since there are no degradation additives in the film.

So, what's the catch?

The trouble is many local authorities don't collect films and similar plastics in kerbside recycling bins because it’s so light. Of the 391 Local Authorities in the UK, just 67 collect film, of which 26 specifically state they only accept empty carrier bags for this service – just 7% of the total number of Local Authorities in the UK. The other 41 accept all types of film, which can include bread bags, breakfast cereal lining, cellophane, cling film, bubble wrap, magazine wrappings and shrink wrap (to package multi-pack bottles). Luckily for us, Peterborough City Council, our local authority, are one of these. 

So for the majority of UK residents, to recycle film requires them to take it to recycling points or to large stores. Clearly, this requires more effort which not everyone will be willing to make, no matter how much it will help our environment.

And the other problem? Most consumers see poly wrap and just assume it's plastic and cannot be recycled. The only way to change this perception is to better inform them with clear messaging on the mailing pack. We're trying to encourage as many of our customers to include clear instructions to ensure the end recipient is fully aware of how to responsibly dispose of it and ensure the film won't end up in landfill. And if you're a company using poly wrap, good messaging will only help protect your reputation.

FACT: As a general rule, if you can stretch the film then it can be recycled.

As a result of film not being collected by most local authorities in kerbside recycling, and the stigma attached to using polythene wrapping, more and more companies are looking for alternative ways to wrap their magazines, catalogues or brochures. Therefore, if you are unsure about using traditional poly wrap, we can offer the following alternatives:

Bio-based polywrap

- 100% recyclable - but again this is subject to each local authority so in most cases this will be a recycling points or large stores.

- Original developed as an oxy-degradable polythene at a time when everyone thought this was the way to go. However, it was soon realised that our atmosphere simply turned it to flakes and particles. Therefore, rather than being oxy-degradable, this new material is bio-based. Made from sugar cane it’s the process of photosynthesis as the plant grows that makes this product carbon neutral. The sugar cane actively captures CO2 from the atmosphere, while at the same time releasing oxygen – making this material not just green, but proactively green.

- An ideal alternative option to regular polythene offering the opportunity to further improve your ‘green’ credentials, meet legislative requirements and deliver improved environmental solutions.

FACT: Using a bio-based material at 60% in film reduces CO2 emissions to 0%, even taking into consideration the energy used for manufacturing and shipping.

Potato starch

- Produced using biopolymers consisting of starch originating from potato products and waste from the food industry.

- Fully compostable in just 10 days, it is designed to break down in a composting environment by natural means into simple elements; carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.

- Can be placed in home composting or food waste bins. There is no need for it to be recycled. If it does go to landfill, through biodegration, it will simply return to nature instead of creating a visible litter trail.

- Certified as being fully biodegradable and compostable according to the European Standard` EN13432.

- Frosty and silky finish is noticeably different to clear polythene.

Paper wrapping/envelopes

- Paper is a sustainable and renewable resource. It is 100% recyclable with all Councils providing kerbside collections.

- Paper enclosing can take the form of either envelopes or a wrapping which would be similar to our current polywrapping service.

- We can print the outer in full colour to create a striking and eye catching appearance, or replicate the front cover of the magazine/catalogue inside

- The main downsides of using paper as the outer is that it isn't as durable as potato starch or clear wraps, which can be a bigger problem if the catalogue or magazine is heavy, and it isn't water repellent. 

Naked mailings

- This is when the item is sent out unwrapped so could be considered the most environmentally friendly option available.  

- However, without an outer wrapper, it does  reduces waste and would be more environmentally friendly, ‘naked’ mailing has its own considerations.

- If doesn't allow for magazines or catalogues to carry third-party inserts, which could have financial implications for customers.

- Without the added protection of being wrapped in an outer, there is a greater risk that catalogues/magazines could could damaged when going through the postal system.

Ultimately, there are lots of factors to take into consideration. The environmental benefits is certainly one, which companies are putting much greater emphasis on, but cost is still very important. Like most things in the life, there are pros and cons of each option. We encourage all our clients to speak to us so we can fully understand what their main objective is. We're always happy to provide costs and offer advice. If, they decide to use clear poly, this doesn't have to reflect badly on their environmental practices. The main thing is to let inform their readers that, actually, this piece of clear plastic, doesn't have to harm our environment. And, hopefully, an increasing number of local authorities will start to recycle it!