Category Archives: Zero Waste

Will You Make Your Next Trade Show Visit Zero-Waste?

An important part of the calendar for packaging professionals is attending trade shows.  it gives us a good opportunity to catch up with our industry colleagues, find out what is new from the exhibitors and to attend seminars given by industry leaders.  At the time of writing, it is just under two weeks to the next big Packaging trade show – Packaging Innovations, co-located with Luxury Packaging on 11th – 12th Sept 2019 at Olympia in London. 

Trade show tatt

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll come away with a couple of plastic carrier bags full of leaflets, brochures, pens and, to be frank, useless plastic tatt, which ends up languishing in a corner of the house.  I have a drawer full of average quality pens, lanyards that are too good to throw away and no end of plastic carrier bags, and even worse reusable carrier bags, with an industrial company logo that I wouldn’t want to be seen with in normal life cluttering up my kitchen.  At least the leaflets and brochures can go into the recycling when I’m done with them!  That was until February this year when I made the change at Packaging Innovations in Birmingham.  I now try to make my visits to trade shows zero-waste, it’s not that hard, it just takes a bit of remembering stuff.

This was my kit in Feb –

Trade show reuse kit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Lanyard – I was fully prepared to look a bit odd wearing last year’s lanyard, as it turned out, they were exactly the same.  Tbh I was a little disappointed that no-one could tell I was reusing an old one! 
  • Reusable bag, the older the better. Back in February I challenged my Linked-in contacts to do exactly that. Below is me with my collegue Dr Peter Cox from the Plastics Consultancy Network – mine was from just 2018 – Peter won with one from the 1980s!  It should be cool to use old stuff.  
  • Keep-cup – meeting up with colleagues for a cuppa means I must get through at least 4 cups a day – that means taking a reusable cup saves 8 unrecyclable paper cups from landfill/ incineration = smug feeling. 
  • Pen – I take my own(and a notebook) so I’m not tempted to take a free one.
  • Hankie – meant I used fewer single-use napkins
  • Business Cards – These are hard to give up, and unless your company specialises in zero-waste solutions, it seems really rude to refuse one.  I am also fully aware that mine are laminated on both sides which made them difficult to recycle.  Next time I order some I’ll change that.

Comparing old bags!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So did it work?  On the whole, yes I think.  I came back with a few free copies of Packaging News to give to colleagues, a couple of samples of novel materials and not much else.  At this particular show you’re given an RFID tag in your badge which means you can ‘check-in’ at stands, the exhibitors then send info over email, so no brochures/leaflets required.  I was, however, disappointed to see that I was only one or two people using reusables in any way – and was especially disappointed to see the number of single-use plastic water bottles being left on the tables at a certain NGO’s stand who should have known better! 

A report prepared by ThePackHub and recently published by the Packaging Innovation organisers Easyfairs highlighted that 43.2% of industry stakeholders are investigating reuse or refill options for their products.  If that includes you, will you put your money where your mouth is and join me on 11th-12th september (or whichever your next visit to a trade show is) by trying one or two of the waste-saving options above?

I plan to be at Olympia for the full two days – I’m especially looking forward to the discussions on compostable packaging, and will be on the IOM3 stand (H44) around about lunchtime on the 12th as part of the The Packaging Society‘s Packaging Surgery.  If you see me, show me your reuseable bag (or tweet me at @GreenwoodPkg) and I’ll buy a cuppa (in a reusable cup) for whoever has the oldest one, can’t say fairer than that!

 

 

 

 

Sarah Greenwood MSc(Eng) FIMMM APkgPrf is a Sustainable Packaging specialist.  She is currently leading a proof of concept study at the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield on reusable packaging. This is part of the UKRI funded project Plastics: Redefining Single Use . She is also an independent consultant www.scgreenwood.co.uk #plastics #RedefiningSingleUse #Reuse

Minty Feet

Classic Packaging – The Body Shop Boston

It is hard to describe exactly how exciting The Body Shop was when my school friends and I first discovered it as teenagers in the 80s.  Up until that point the most interesting event our health and beauty world had been the introduction of a Miss version of Matey bubble bath.  To us, luxury bathing products were either dubiously coloured bath salts in a jar or foil-wrapped bath cubes from the chemist or the Avon lady. 

That all changed with our discovery of the Body Shop – a whole shop devoted to cosmetics, with its risqué name (this was the 80s afterall), exotic, cruelty-free products and in-store social justice and environmental campaigns, it was the epitome of cool.  We swooned over Morello Cherry Lip Balm and Coconut Hair Gel, both in glass jars with black thermoset plastic lids, colourful shrink-wrapped soap bars and elegant bath pearls in plastic cartons.  There was a gift-wrapping station (no ready-made gift-packs then), an apothecarian perfume shelf, and before I get completely consumed by a Dewberry scented mist of nostalgia, hair and body care products sold in round semi-opaque HDPE bottles, the Boston.  These came with a black screw top and you could get them refilled once you’d used up the contents.  For me, these simple bottles defined The Body Shop and what they stood for.  Here is their story –

 

Humble Beginnings

According to her 1991 autobiography, when Anita Roddick opened the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976, she wanted to sell no-nonsense cosmetics without using what she saw as elaborate, unnecessary packaging or by making exaggerated claims about their effectiveness.  She chose the round off-the-shelf Bostons as they were the cheapest option.  Citing her own frustration at not being able to buy small amounts of cosmetics, she bought them in a variety of sizes.  Selling the products in multiple sizes also had the advantage of making the shelves look fuller (the business launched with just 25 different products).  The bottles were labelled with generic stickers branded with a £25 logo, the product title being written on by hand.   Further information was supplied on postcards and from Anita herself.   A refilling service was offered as she said there was not the money to buy enough bottles – customers could even bring their own containers to be filled.

 

Teenage Dreams

WOuld you use 20 year old moisturiser?

HDPE Body Shop Boston with unusal pink label – this would normally been Body Shop Green

By the time I was frequenting the Norwich store in the late-1980s, refills could only be made in their own bottles, and only for the original product for safety reasons.  Labels were now printed with the product with a simple design with the Body Shop logo and green background name.  Like most other cosmetics companies at the time the labels were made of paper and would rub away from the bottle when exposed to wet bathroom conditions.  Although there was not much difference between the packaging for different products, the shop assistants, testers and information available in store were used effectively to provide information to the customers.

 

Reuse Refill Recycle

Original 80s / 90s Body Shop Against Animal Testing Badge

Campaigning formed a large part of the company’s identity.   From animal rights, acid rain and preservation of the rainforests, to packaging, which included opposition to the use of CFCs in aerosols, and a Reuse Refill Recycle Campaign. In 1990 they were the first retailer to introduce a system where the bottles could be returned for recycling if customers didn’t want to refill them.  This was absolutely groundbreaking – there were no doorstep collections other than general refuse back then.

 

The End of the Boston?

mmmm pink grapefruit

New Body Shop bottle shape, 250ml with Boston miniature, 60ml

Over the years they stuck with the shape, making changes by using an embossed screw-cap, using high clarity PET versions and changes to the label design.   But in 1999, when sales stated to decline, it was decided to introduce more packaging differentiation and new styles were introduced.

Now the company that has managed to ‘own’ a generic packaging item, have moved almost completely away from their once-beloved Boston. The Body Shop was sold to L’Oreal in 2006, who in turn sold it on to Natura in 2017.  During this time, a new bottle shape was introduced without fanfare.  Stylish and modern it compares with those of competitors like Neal’s Yard and sets them up for the modern retail environment.  The Boston is now only used for miniatures. 

The refilling service ceased in 2002 due to lack of demand (ref WRAP).  Since then it has become easier to recycle plastic bottles; most local councils now accept plastic bottles in kerbside collections for recycling.

 

The Future

The Body Shop now has ambitious new targets set in 2016 to become ‘the world’s most ethical and sustainable business’ under their ‘Enrich not Exploit’ strategy.  Fossil fuel reduction is now the focus – a target of 70%, and a commitment to packaging innovation. 

I have to confess, apart from an emergency lip-balm purchase, I’ve not shopped in the Body Shop for years – there isn’t the sense of fun there now that there once was (although yes, I admit I’m no longer a teenager!).  Looking at the old Boston and new bottle side by side, going back to the old shape is clearly a retrograde step.  However, with the current rise of Zero Waste shops, and new owner Natura at the helm, I wonder if the time could be right now for them to have another go at the refill system, even just on one or two products, and bring back the magic that the Boston once held, if not the bottle itself. 

Did you used to get your bottles refilled at the Body Shop? (or did you do the refilling?)  What was your favourite product? Do you think they should bring back refills?  Let me know in the comments section below. 

 

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For help with your packaging development – get in touch or call 07826 791 045 to find out how I can help.

Sarah Greenwood

Fresh cucumbers

Do cucumbers really need to be shrink-wrapped?

Retailers are under enormous pressure to eliminate plastic packaging altogether.  Do cucumbers really need to be shrink-wrapped with plastic?  Read on to find out…

OK, so most people know that if you keep a cucumber wrapped it will stay fresher for longer.  If you are curious like me about by how much, here is an easy experiment you can do at home to see what difference the plastic shrink-wrap makes;

 

Experiment

Get hold of 2 cucumbers of similar size and the same best before date.  Weigh them both using kitchen scales and remove the shrink-wrap from one and weigh the packaging.  Put both cucumbers in the fridge and continue weigh every day (more often if you like) until the best-before date.  On the best before date, weigh the cucumbers one final time, take a slice from each and taste.  (For one way to use up your cucumbers at the end of the experiment, try this recipe for cucumber soup from Delia)

Cucumber being weighed

Cucumber being weighed

Here are my results, weight of the cucumber plotted vs time;

Weights of wrapped and unwrapped cucumbers vs. time in home fridge at 4°C

Weights of wrapped and unwrapped cucumbers vs. time in home fridge at 4°C

The wrapped cucumber lost just 1g during the testing period, the unwrapped 12g – 3.5% of its total weight on the day of purchase (day 0) on the graph above. The unwrapped cucumber was still fresh but less crunchy than the wrapped cucumber.

 

What does this mean?

Shrink-wrap isn’t just a barrier to moisture-lossAfter harvest all fresh produce continues to respire (breath) – its carbohydrate reacts with oxygen in the atmosphere and releases carbon dioxide and water (see here for more info).  Shrink-wrapping reduces the amount of oxygen available so the cucumber’s respiration rate slows down, less water is lost and it stays fresh for longer.  (Note a number of factors also affect the respiration rate – the variety, ripeness of the cucumber when picked, wax coatings and storage conditions). 

These particular cucumbers came from Greece, so were picked, wrapped and labelled in Greece, loaded onto a truck, travelled 2000 miles including a trip over the sea to a UK distribution centre and then from the UK DC to the local stores.  This can’t take any less than 2 days.  Even with temperature controlled transport the temperature the cucumbers are kept at will vary. In many cases (as with these) they are sold and stored at room temperature, so respiration and water-loss will be greater during the time they are on sale.   The shrink also physically protects the fruits from damage during transit.

OK, so the home-experiment above was just a bit of fun (yes I know, I need to get out more). However, the Co‑op, regarded as one of the greener supermarket retailers for packaging, performed a rigorous trial across the whole supply chain in 2012.  Their trials showed that the shrink-wrap prevented waste by two-thirds (See this article from Sky News). Extensive scientific research has also been performed – see this report from the Journal of Food Science and Technology.

 

So what next?

Just 2g of plastic means that a cucumber can be as fresh on its best before date as on the day it was purchased, not to mention the protection it provides during a 2000 mile journey to our fridges.  This doesn’t mean the industry should not act in order to reduce plastic usage, but until they find a workable solution, the best thing we as consumers can do is to keep the pressure on retailers to reduce plastic packaging where they can.  What about the wrappers on soap bar and tinned tuna multi-packs – are they really necessary?

If you are a brand owner and want help in removing plastic packaging from your products contact me for advice or call +44 (0) 7826 791 045

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In the meantime I’m off to eat some cucumber soup!

Chilled cucumber soup in a teacup