Fast Retailing Group announced its intention to reduce by 85% single-use plastic in its stores and through its supply chain by 2020. It therefore expects to save around 7,800 tons annually. Fast Retailing Group’s stores will start switching to eco-friendly paper bags made of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper or recycled paper–apart from where they are already in use. Though it will also continue to eliminate all unnecessary plastic from its business and will start looking for and testing alternative packaging materials.
SI has asked insiders of the industry where the market is standing right now to impact as least as possible. While it is a widespread opinion that manufacturing more sustainable products is a must, not everyone is aware yet that reducing harmful packaging through the value chain is also necessary.
Aldo Liguori, global corporate PR, Fast Retailing, Japan:
“Beside shopping bags and product packaging, we are currently also reviewing, for instance, whether we need to continue to use plastic in Uniqlo’s collar inserts and clips to maintain the shape of certain shirts, and if so, what other eco-friendly materials such as recycled plastics could be used.
Looking at the entire supply chain, plastic bags are used as packing material when products are shipped from the factory to the warehouse. When a product purchased online is shipped, single-use plastic is used for the inner bag, for example.
We are prioritizing our measures on shopping bags and certain product packaging, which constitute the majority of plastic packaging handed to customers, but since this summer, we are evaluating the impact of packing strength and product quality, to be able to either eliminate plastic successfully or switch to eco-friendly materials.”
Anna Maria Rugarli, senior director, sustainability & social responsibility, VF Group EMEA:
“As one of the largest apparel manufacturers, we believe we have a responsibility to use our global scale to address shared industry challenges such as single-use plastic, and to positively impact our industry, our consumers and the planet. We believe the most effective strategy will include three key areas that are fewer packaging materials, reusable and recyclable packaging alternatives and the elimination of packaging altogether–where possible.
We have several proactive efforts underway within VF and throughout our brands, including polybag take-back and recycling programs as well as internal working groups across the company to determine packaging best practices and to address other relevant topics like biodegradability and microfiber shedding.
The issue of more sustainable packaging is fraught with tradeoffs; well-intentioned decisions can have negative consequences. VF uses the Materials Sustainability Index, independent Life Cycle Analysis data, and other tools to make thoughtful, well-informed, data-driven decisions using the best available scientific information.”
Javier Goyeneche, founder and president, Ecoalf, Spain:
“Since the beginning we have minimized the use of plastic in our company. We have never used plastic for our shopping bags as they are made from stone paper. Now we have decided to stop using single-use bags and replace them with reusable bags that we are producing with our leftover fabrics.
Our e-commerce packaging is sent in a 100% recycled box and the garments are wrapped in with a recycled paper. Our next step to eliminate single-use plastic from production as we are exploring and studying different options to remove it.
Though, by working on different alternatives, the options we’ve found are always more expensive. We know we must assume an extra cost and understand this is part of the business and we must do it. All the industry and technological centers are working in new materials and more sustainable initiatives, which gives us hope and probably in one or two years there will be more options and alternatives in the market. Therefore we expect better qualities, efficiencies and more competitive prices.
We have also developed our own alternative materials as for e-commerce. We´ve chosen recycled wrapping paper for poly bags (the bags that cover and protect the garments from the factory to the warehouse and stores) and we are testing one biopolymer, one biodegradable and one water-soluble. We are working along with a technology center to understand the best option in term of environmental impact.”
Elisa Riva, marketing manager, North Sails, Italy:
“North Sails has its roots in the ocean and wants to protect it by raising awareness on the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean. We want to transmit our passion for this cause and, step by step, we will make our company and our collection more sustainable. For instance, we replaced plastic bags with bags made of recycled plastic for shipping our items to our warehouse and to all our stores, and all our hangers are made of wood or recycled plastic. Also our garment labels and hangtag strip are made of recycled plastic. Concerning e-commerce, garments are delivered to our final customers packed in natural cotton bags which can be reused in daily life. Our commitment has been recognized and awarded with the ISO 14001 certification.
Thanks to our e-commerce cotton bags we stopped using 40,000 plastic bags per year, saving 1,200 kilos of plastic from ending up in the landfill. Moreover, the packaging includes a reusable steel straw to replace the plastic ones and a leaflet suggesting how to reuse plastic bags or how to recycle them properly.
We are also trying to find better alternatives to recycled plastic bags for the shipments to our warehouse and stores. We are indeed testing new biodegradable solutions to see if they can survive months-lasting transportations in bad environmental conditions on the ships.”
Simona Citarella, designer and consulting buyer, Italy:
“As I work for both companies and retailers, searching for alternative packaging materials and solutions is a hot topic today. The industry is looking for alternatives to plastic by testing, for instance, new recycled materials. Also designers are committed in finding new solutions for more essential packaging that uses less material, or that can be used for other uses and, in a way, give a second life to wrapping or containers once the purchase has been discarded.”
Martina Caselli, head of production and quality, Cadica, Italy:
“We have been introducing a vast selection of sustainable products in our range. We first started offering some articles and, about a year ago, we started our ‘The Ethical Choice’ project, that also originated a complete collection of eco-friendly certified packaging and labels, based upon a deep study of eco-friendly product, process and collaborations with research laboratories. Among items our clients like most there are special small plastic bags made with a bioplastic that is 100% recyclable and that entirely biodegrades. We also produce a series of labels and small bags made with organic cotton that is GRS, Oeko-Tex and GOTS certified. We also developed other wrapping materials like special papers and plastics made with R-Pet, a material made by recycling PET bottles. We can also obtain a special paper we use, for instance, for hangtags, by recycling denim remains and cuts. Also important is creating packaging solutions that can be recycled into other objects once the product is unwrapped like, for instance, a special paper bag that can be used as a small backpack, or labels that can become travel bag tags afterwards.”