Sustainability

Packaging: packages and polybags

Before ever being used, a finished product is put through the wringer.

First, shipping a product from the factory to the central warehouse (by cargo ship in our case) is long (approximately 6 weeks), humid, and often dusty.
Next, the product is manhandled, moved, stored, and then sent to its final destination, a retailer or your home, where it can still be bumped around and exposed to moisture or dust.
In short, the product needs to be protected from the moment it leaves the factory and until it reaches its final destination.

To do this, the plastic bag (known as a polybag) is widely used. It has the benefit of being robust, supple, and made with clear plastic for passing through customs.

The purely practical (and necessary) aspect of polybags often eclipses their negative environmental impact:

  • A polybag is usually made with polyurethane, a petroleum derivative, which requires a lot of energy to extract and participates in depleting the world’s fossil fuel resources.
  • A polybag is difficult to recycle. Very few options and channels exist for recycling soft plastic. In general, the end consumer considers plastic bags as non-recyclable waste.
  • Most polybags end up incinerated, buried, or somewhere out in the environment since they are lightweight and can easily fly away.
  •  
    When you come to realize that a relatively small brand like Picture uses 350,000 polybags per year, you start to understand the size of the problem.

    We have imagined and tested several possible logistical scenarios, including cardboard, to at least partially stop using polybags, but the results prove less than promising for most of our product range.

    We have decided to seriously address this problem by starting from the beginning of the process (the need for a polybag, how it is made) and work all the way through disposal.

    Here is our plan :

    1/ Making a polybag: bio-sourcing

    Our goal is to bio-source 100% of our polybags, and wipe out all use of conventional petroleum-based products.

    Creating a bio-plastic consists of using fermentation to transform a plant’s sugar (sugar cane, starch) into a plastic polymer.
    However, resolving this problem can create another one. Plants mean farming, and farming means the potential additional risk of deforestation. We will never make decisions that support or lead to deforestation.

    2/ After use: recycling or industrial composting

    Our goal is to control the process once a polybag has been used, either through industrial recycling or composting. We do not at all support the idea of using supposedly “biodegradable” bio-plastics.

    Certified compostable bio-plastics (industrial or home scale) are the most common.
    Did you know that in France, most plastic bags used by supermarkets for fruits and vegetables are home compostable (with supporting certification)?
    This is an appealing approach, but we still have a few key questions:

    • How many people actually have a composter?
    • Among those who have one, would they be willing to compost plastic bags?

    The viable green options for managing polybag disposal after use are still not clear.
    Collection and recycling services are limited for soft plastics, so we are back to square one: plastic bags that are incinerated, buried, or that simply fly away. We have yet to find an acceptable solution.

    To better manage polybags after use, we have decided to take control of the process ourselves.
     
    There are two situations :

  • Products delivered to retailers. At this point the product is no longer in our possession. This concerns 95% of our products. In this case, we can collect the polybags and work with local industrial composting or recycling partners. We will start this process in the fall of 2019.
  • Products delivered to you, the end consumer. In this case, we remove the polybag before sending your order, keeping it to be sent to an industrial composting or recycling service. In this case, your product will be placed in a cardboard box, since we know that by and large, cardboard recycling services are well developed, well organized, and work. We will start this process in the fall of 2019.
  • We believe in this approach, and while ambitious, our goals are realistic: bio-source and then compost or recycle 100% of our polybags.

    To succeed, this project relies heavily on cooperation between Picture, our retail partners, and our logistics service provider.
    Overall, we would like to see this approach implemented throughout the entire clothing industry.
     

    On our end, this means that we will make it easy for brands, shops, and professional composting/recycling services to connect and work with each other to be able to develop this viable option.

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