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Reducing Single Use Plastic Bags On our Dinosaur Toys
- Gaynor Humphrey
Taking bags off our dinosaur toys should be a simple enough task but it has required a huge amount of work in order to make sure that the details behind that one big task are all thought through properly.
The first question is why did we have plastic bags on our dinosaur toys in the first place?
Plastic packaging is only really a recent thing, especially in the scale that it is used now.
Originally if we used packaging at all we used paper to protect goods which definitely had it's draw backs, the most obvious being that it was porous and collapsed in the rain!
In comparison plastic was infinitely more efficient. There is no wonder that plastic packaging took off in the way it did. It doesn’t leak, its much cheaper and its lighter. It is also transparent so both retailers and consumers can see what they are buying.
When it comes to food, plastic packaging also has another benefit.It actually extends the shelf life of food, for instance in the case of cucumber it stays fresher by up to 14 days if wrapped in plastic.
So in order to take the pastic bags off our dinosaur toys we had to look at why plastic packaging was so good, and there are numerous benefits to using plastic over other materials.
Safe – plastic doesn’t shatter or break if dropped which makes it particularly useful for heavy or fragile items.
Clean- it keeps all dirt and contaminants off the product, especially useful in the case of medical or hygiene products.
Light – it doesn’t add to the cost or pollution of transport as its so light.
Secure – you can use plastic to make products tamper proof which is great for food as its obvious when its been opened.
Recyclable – many plastics can be recycled and recycled plastic can be as efficient as normal plastic
So plastic is very efficient at its job but do any of these benefits apply to our dinosaur toys? They are not heavy or fragile, they don’t need tamper proof seals. Originally we did try to look for different packaging for our dinosaur toys with all the benefits of plastic, but without the environmental repercussions. However by working through the process the more obvious question was why do we package them at all?
The simple answer is that it was expected of us. As plastic packaging became more and more widespread both consumers and shops expected to have products individually wrapped and so we did it.
When we polled our customers about whether they would be ok with receiving our dinosaur toys without individual bags only 2 people objected. However behind the scenes it was a different matter. Many people emailed offering support but also raising doubts about having their stock delivered without bags and asking for their shop to be an exemption to the policy. Interestingly it is internet shops who seem to be most bothered about keeping the bags, and more understandably those people who sell at outdoor events.
The main worry was about dirt. Would the dinosaur toys get dirty? Would they still be saleable?
This led us to review the toy’s journey from manufacture to customer to identify when and how it could get dirty.
We have been working with our Chinese production partner for over a decade and have visited the factory many times. Its spotless. One of things you look for when assessing a factory is their customer base as it indicates where their strengths are. If the factory does a lot of work for people like Primark you know that they will be able to produce vast quantities at accessible prices, but perhaps their standards may slip at times. Our factory does a lot of work for Japanese companies who have very high standards. They are the hardest of customers to keep happy as they require top quality work and attention to detail. This is great if you also value quality over volume which is why we work so well with them.
So with a few detailed conversations and a couple of additions to our written procedures we are happy that the dinosaur toys will leave the factory in pristine condition.
We have decided that the dinosaurs in each box will be sealed in one large bag so that there is no chance of water damage or dirt transference during their journey to our warehouse.
Once in the warehouse we have changed our policies to ensure that only one box will be opened at a time. Currently the dinosaur toys are all unpacked in to large bins so that the stock can be picked from several places. In order to keep the chance of the toys getting dirty down to a minimum the dinosaurs will be picked from the box. As we supply a lot of dinosaur toys every week the toys will be in an open box for a very short amount of time.
Our customers’ orders will also be sent out in waterproof packaging so that if they are left outside by a courier they cannot be damaged.
So we are as confident as a small company can be that our dinosaur toys will be clean when they reach our customers. However without a doubt having products without individual bags is going to cause retailers more work as they will also have to plan the toy’s journey from their delivery to the final customer.
Plastic has given us the convenience not to have to worry about things like getting dirty, and there is no doubt that removing plastic will entail more careful attention in things like storage.
The question we all need to ask ourselves is why is this an issue? Our dinosaur toys can be sponged if there is a mark and machine washed if really dirty so why are we all so bothered about this?
If we are to remove plastic bags from products, and not just easy things like dinosaur toys, we all need to challenge why we want products individually wrapped. Its not enough to pass the buck back and demand that someone else takes the problem away, we need to change our mindset and each of us needs to accept that removing packaging requires everyone to do their bit.
As the products we use become sourced further and further away from our own homes we have become suspicious about what could be in our food or what our toys may have come in to contact with before they reach us. We have used plastic as a way of making us feel secure that the product is clean and safe. If we are really worried then rinsing things before use would do the same trick!