Our Packaging Journey: Transitioning to Compostable

We’re super aware of the impact businesses can have on the environment and so, since we opened in 2013, we’ve sent every item that’s ever been ordered with us in a recyclable paper bag. This year we’ve decided to go one better.

Paper Bags, No More.

In a recent customer survey, we found 57% of our customers took a clothing brand’s social and environmental practices extremely seriously. Even better, only 3% were not interested in their CSR programmes. 

The results put an enormous smile on our faces. 

Here’s why…

Since day dot, we’ve made every decision with our wider impact considered despite the norms of the fashion industry - infamous for its polluting tendency. 

We may not make the merchandise, but we curate it, so we’re equally accountable for it. Ultimately, we’re part of the problem unless we are proactive in taking steps to make a positive impact on this planet - both socially and environmentally. 

As a retailer, there are two angles to consider: our responsibility to audit and communicate a brand’s profile; and our own physical footprint. 

As a young company, we seek to continually develop our responsibility programme. 

From collecting rainwater for our office and store foliage and repurposing furniture for our stores to wrapping all our goods in paper and commercially recycling, we’ve been on a self-improvement plan since 2013.

We are aware that we’re only scratching the surface and there is lots more to be done. 

As mentioned above, up until now, paper bags have been our packaging of choice. Having done a life cycle analysis we found that not only were the paper bags often unrecyclable - the tape, adhesive stickers and their liquid sensitivity - but they didn’t have an endless recycling loop like we’re led to believe. Recycled paper typically has no more than five recycling loops before it loses essential qualities - meaning it cannot be repurposed and must go to landfill.

We put our research hats on and went to work on finding a better alternative for our packaging. 

It turns out compostable packaging is by far the best solution. On our packaging revelation, we were startled at what we uncovered…

Tested and certified compostable

biodegradation, disintegration, ecotoxicity and heavy metals tested.

Compostable at home

Our packaging is compostable at a lower temperature.

30% renewable biomass carbon

As well as being 100% organic material, over 30% of the material is made of biomass.

The Single-Use Plastic Problem

British Borough Councils differ slightly but for the most part, around 90% of councils don’t recycle the following plastics: 

- #3 - cling film, sandwich bags

- #4 - carrier bags, squeezable bottles (e.g. toothpaste), bubble wrap

- #5 - takeaway tubs, sauce bottles, plastic straws

- #6 and #7 - CD cases, plastic forks and styrofoam 

Worrying how much we don’t recycle, eh? 

There is some hope though. 

Supermarkets have taken some responsibility for the problem. I mean, they should do; 80% of products listed above are from the local grocery store turned superstore conglomerate. 

All Tesco superstores provide soft-plastic collection points which allow customers to return all their previously un-recycled soft plastics, such as the clear film used to wrap meat and fish, crisp packets, fruit and veg bags and sweet wrappers.

Co-op and Sainsbury’s are also running similar initiatives. Morrisons have just acquired a recycling plant of their own!

It seems supermarkets are taking advantage of their huge supply chains in tackling the plastic pandemic.

Credit where credit’s due.

Although we’re a small independent business owned and run by friends, just like the supermarket giants, we think that we have a duty to build robust, circular consumption systems. 

We’ve long known that the biggest issue facing us, in leaving the smallest possible footprint from our business activities, is the LDPE dust bags that over 70% of our goods arrive in. Whilst we’ve been delivering these goods in paper bags, until now we’ve passed these difficult to recycle bags onto our discerning customers. 

This is something that we’ve always felt uncomfortable about and it took nearly 12 months for us to source and manufacture an appropriate replacement solution. The beauty of us holding on to these LDPE bags is that we can dispose of them through our commercial waste contractor who melts them down to make floor tiles and compost bins.

So, what packaging do you use? Compostable.

Both our dust bags and our mailers are now fully compostable at home. 

Before we dived into the research, we were unaware of the stark difference between biodegradable and certified compostable packaging. 

It turns out all those biodegradable bags - you may have thought were wonderful - are not as eco-friendly as we’re led to believe. 

“‘Biodegrable’ means something much more limited than what most people would think, and people are more likely to litter items marked as biodegradable.” - Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Environmental agencies require landfills to block out air, moisture and sunlight - the three crucial elements needed for effective biodegradation. 

This means that biodegradable bags are not converted into good quality compost. 

What’s the big deal? 

Compost can regenerate land and help soil absorb carbon! 

The Marin Carbon Project, which began in 2008, sought to improve the environment through the covering of cattle-grazing land with half an inch of compost. 

What they found was amazing. 

The study showed that if typical household compost were applied to just 5 per cent of California’s grazing lands, “the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries.

Now that’s clothing packaging put to good use!

12 weeks to disintegrate, 6 months to biodegrade

Now, just like paper, compostable packaging comes in various forms with differing use cases. 

According to European Standard 13432, our compostable packaging has passed the necessary tests on:  

- biodegradation (chemical break down of the polymer of fibres)

- disintegration (physically falling apart of the product in small fragments)

- ecotoxicity (test if the composted product does not exert any negative effect on plants)

- heavy metals content. 

This means our packaging will disintegrate within 10-12 weeks and biodegrade within 3-6 months, leaving no physical or toxic trace behind

There’s more. 

Our packaging will decompose at home in milder temperatures.

Compostable bags are heavily regulated and for good reason. Composting relies on a few things; organic matter (our bags), moisture, oxygen and bacteria. The environmental heat has a big impact on what can be composted and how long particular organics take to decompose. 

A large proportion of compostable packaging can ONLY be composted through commercial means, where the temperature is around 55 to 60°C. 

Ours, however, is different. Welcome the TUV Austria’s ‘OK Compost HOME’ certification. Our packaging has been tested rigorously and has passed, meaning you can throw your bags in the compost heap and be confident you won’t find any remanence in 6 months time. 

Just. Like. That.

The Process - Summarised.

1. We take the time to remove LDPE dust bags from clothing,  transferring them to our plastic collection partner for upcycling into floor tiles and compost bins.

2. The clothing is wrapped with starch dustbags, No Issue paper and packed into fully compostable mailers.

3. The user removes the bag and either uses the bag in their food waste bin or disposes of it directly in their compost bin.

Check out The Owners Club

Given the clear lack of waste management solutions provided by the UK government, more has to be done by private enterprises. We must mitigate the mindless consumption of single-use plastic and further expand privately-run recycling loops. 

By transitioning to compostable packaging, we're playing our part in reducing the plastic problem we all face and providing our customers with easy, at-home solutions to managing their waste from any purchase they make from us. 

We want to unite a group of individuals who care about their 'stuff' - individuals who have a deep interest and respect for their belongings and the impact that they have on the world that they live in. 

If this is something you resonate with, The Owners Club could be right up your street. 

This, our fortnightly newsletter, sets out to dismantle the nonsensical consumer behaviour wired into society, specifically within fashion. 

Feel free to sign up through this link.

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