Plastic is an incredibly versatile material, able to be both rigid and flexible and provide lightweight protection to a range of products. However, plastic is made using fossil fuels and when it’s not managed properly, it ends up in the environment where it will stay for millions of years. In 2019 alone, 368 million tons of plastic was produced worldwide, adding to the 9.2 billion tons produced since 1950. Much of this plastic still exists in some form to this day.

In recent years, we have all become more aware of the impact our choices make on the planet, and most of us are even changing our buying habits. This has led to a range of innovation in packaging and materials in every industry and safety is no different. It has become increasingly clear that we need to reduce our dependency on this material and make sure the plastic we do use is properly collected and recycled. At Greenham, we aim to do this by sourcing products from suppliers that are working to remove plastic packaging and reduce plastic headed for landfill.

In the UK, it is estimated that plastic packaging will make up 67% of plastic of plastic waste by 2030. With just 46% of this currently being recycled, we all have a responsibility to improve our management of plastic.

In many cases, the plastic used to package PPE and workwear is made of soft plastic, which is hard for most people to recycle and can be challenging for businesses to recycle. To combat this, there are a number of suppliers removing plastic entirely and instead, they are choosing to use cardboard, paper and even QR codes to get the product safely to the end user with the relevant information.

Accounting for a potential 2/3rd of our plastic waste in the next 10 years, packaging presents an important opportunity for plastic reduction.

With the recent launch of Bollé Safety’s Go Green® Plan, Bollé aim to reduce their carbon footprint and minimise waste. Since 2005, Bollé has supplied products in recyclable plastic bags, but now they are taking things one step further by switching to recycled cardboard and silk paper and printing the user information inside the box, the result is 100% recyclable plastic free packaging that generates 30% less waste!

Bollé’s Go Green® Plan not only reduces demand for plastic, it also makes use of potential waste. In the production of Bollé’s Solis Go Green safety eyewear, the frames are made using nylon from recycled fishing nets and waste created from the injection moulding process is used to create colourful furniture. Their research and development is an ongoing process that aims to find greener material, products and processes. Call your local service centre to find out more.

Rock Fall are currently on a journey to be known as the sustainable footwear brand. As part of this journey, their footwear is beginning to be packaged in recycled cardboard and craft paper using bio-based inks and water-based glue to maximise recyclability. In an innovative step forward, Rock Fall are also in the process of removing all swing tags by replacing them with a QR code on the wash label; this change alone has resulted in a 960kg annual saving, equivalent to the weight of an F1 car! These small changes have enabled Rock Fall to remove plastic from their packaging, instead opting for solutions that enable less waste and reduce the demand for single-use plastic.

Like Bollé, Rock Fall haven’t stopped at the packaging. Ever pair of Surge boots prevents the equivalent of 5 plastic bottles from entering the waste stream, with the recycled polyester used throughout the boot construction.

There are now a number of hi-vis and workwear suppliers incorporating post-consumer recycled plastic into their products, preventing such waste from reaching landfill.

Leo WOrkwear’s EcoViz products® are manufactured using recycled post-consumer clothing or recycled plastic bottles that have been reprocessed into polyester fibre and woven into new fabric. So far, EcoViz® products have saved at least 350,000 plastic bottles, enough energy to power 24 family homes for a year and carbon emissions equivalent to planting 7,500 trees.

In addition to Leo Workwear, every garment in Regatta’s Honestly Made range is made from at least 15 recycled plastic bottles and MASCOTS®’s CROSSOVER range incorporates 40% recycled polyester. Polyester garments tend to dry faster, retain their shape and last longer overall, meaning that not only are they diverting waste plastic from landfill, they also keep their plastic in use for longer.

As plastic is such a widely used material, the biggest challenge is closing the loop on plastic production. Melba Swintex® have found a way to support this process, using at least 350 tonnes of post-consumer plastic in their manufacturing process every week by collecting their old traffic management products from customer sites and processsing them back into new products for resale. All Melba Swintex® product are 100% recyclable, using as much recycled plastic as each application allows – ranging from 100% recycled plastic in their signs to 20% recycled plastic in their barriers. By establishing a closed loop supply, Melba Swintex are leading the way towards circular economy.

Plastic reduction is just one of many ways we can all do our bit to be more sustainable and at Bunzl Greenham, we are proud to offer a near complete range of products that reduce the amount of new plastic entering the supply chain, you can show the industry that sustainability is important to your business and encourage more suppliers to change their thinking too.

Together, we can acheive Sustainability Through Safety.

Disclaimer: The information provided through Greenham Pulse is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Greenham Pulse is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.