How our long-term vision influenced our choice of packaging materials – VILDNIS

How our long-term vision influenced our choice of packaging materials


As a small sustainable fashion brand, we love engaging with you, our customers, and getting feedback as it helps us tailor our products to your needs.
This is also the reason why we were really happy to correspond with a number of customers recently regarding alternatives to the outer packaging we are using; our grey plastic mailing bags.

It may sound strange that a sustainable fashion brand ships its orders in plastic, albeit 100% recycled plastic, and I would like to share the reasons why with you.

One of the things that we have learned on the road to building a sustainable fashion brand is that there are few truly sustainable options at the moment when it comes to materials. Almost every time we make a decision, there is some trade off to be made as well.

When it came to the outer packaging, we had the choice between mailing bags made from recycled plastic (polythene), boxes made from recycled cardboard and multi-use mailing bags from RePack.

Earlier this year, I gave a talk on sustainability at a university, and one of the things that I discussed with the students was the pros and cons of each packaging option. Below is a matrix I used during the talk:

PROS CONS
MAILING BAGS IN 100% RECYCLED POLYTHENE

Protects goods against rain.

Takes up little space in transport.

Goes through most letterboxes = convenient for the customer.

Polythene can be reused 7-9 times.

Can be recycled.

Plastic sticks around forever.
BOXES IN 100% RECYCLED CARDBOARD

Biodegradable.

Looks great
Reusing material = saving natural resources.
Cardboard can be reused 4-6 times

Can be recycled

Risk of damage to product (mould, water damage).

Can’t fit through letterbox.

Takes up more space in transport than mailing bags = 55% higher carbon emissions from transport (and potentially higher delivery costs).

Reuseable mailing bags in 100% recycled polypropolene

 

Protects goods against rain etc.

Goes through most letterboxes = convenient for the customer.

Takes up little space in transport.

Repack mailing bags can be reused approx. 20 times.

Can be recycled/upcycled.

Customer has to return mailing bag.

Double number of courier journeys = increased carbon emissions.

Plastic sticks around forever.


As you can see, none of the options are straight forward.

 

Fortunately, the packaging market is changing constantly and it is probably one of the most exciting and innovative industries at the moment, meaning that there are lots of other options out there. Many of these have been hailed as the future of plastic, such as biodegradable plastic, yet when you look closer, you realise that they too have downsides.

We are great believers in the concept of circular economy where materials are reused over and over again without losing their value, and this is partly the reason why we have singled out the above three options. Partly because we haven’t seen anything better – yet.

We love the aesthetics of a nice cardboard box, but having personally been on the receiving end of a fashion purchase that arrived damp and mouldy (yuk), I vetoed this. The RePack concept is brilliant, but it requires all customers to make the effort to return the bag, which is unlikely. Both options have a higher carbon emission than the recycled polythene bag due to volume and return journeys respectively.

For now, we have therefore settled on the mailing bag in 100% recycled polythene as it is the option with the least cons. It is not 100% sustainable, but it is a step in the right direction and it supports our vision of a fashion industry with a circular economy.

It is my dream that one day in the relatively near future, someone will discover an eco-friendly material that can be easily recycled and reused either indefinitely or for a long period of time until a trigger is ‘pulled’, causing it to quickly decompose.

If you have any ideas to share (especially if you are a sustainable packaging manufacturer ;-)), please do get in touch – we would love to hear from you.

Ulla

PS: Just as I finished this blog post, we received an email from a manufacturer of compostable plant-based mailing bags. Perhaps a sign? Watch this space!

 


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