Case Study: Reducing Single Use Plastics
“We want to be industry leaders in reducing single use plastic used in our packaging”
In 2018, we began our journey to actively remove single use plastic from our packaging in the drive to create more sustainable Celebrations, Gifting, Stationery, and Creative Play categories.
Lucy Regan, Supply Chain Controller and Sustainability Ambassador at DGUK, shares the journey taken by the teams across the UK offices.
How were single-use plastics used previously in our packaging?
Prior to 2018, our approach to packaging was very different! Looking back, we followed the standard, well established packaging formats which would often lead to unnecessary packaging and over packaged products. Very little consideration was taken of the environmental impact the packaging would have post consumer consumption.
Primary packaging previously used in greetings included PET lids on crackers and boxed cards, PP bags on cards, tags and multipacks, PET eurohooks on single bags and LDPE shrink film on our gift wrap. In our other categories, PVC was often used in licensed products, blister cards on writing instruments and stationery accessories and a large amount of shrink film was used on larger items such as frames and albums. This type of packaging was aesthetically pleasing and protected the products – but at what cost?
As the affect of our demands on the earth’s resources became more apparent, we became more environmentally aware and plastic pollution became a key concern.
What were the initial steps we took to identify the changes required?
We started our journey by reviewing all of our packaging substrates and formats to determine how much was made from recycled material and how much was recyclable, with a view to introduce sustainable alternatives. We then worked with our technical team to create a Material Classification using a ‘red, amber and green’ system. This would also form part of our Packaging Materials Policy launched in 2019.
We knew that to successfully make a change, we needed to better educate our internal teams and suppliers on how to develop sustainable packaging in line with the material guidance given and our customer’s own sustainability strategies.
The policy commits DGUK to further reducing the amount of packaging used, to increase the recyclability of it and to increase the amount of recycled material in it.
Tell us about the innovative solutions we have created to replace single use plastic packaging.
As a sustainability project team, bringing together a representative from each business function, we brainstormed new packaging solutions for all of our product categories.
Some areas were less challenging. For example, we very quickly changed all our plastic gift bag euro-hooks to cardboard and offered our single card customers a ‘naked’ card solution.
Cracker packaging took a little longer to develop, ensuring the board replacement was fit for purpose whilst also maintaining visibility of the product to the consumer.
Licensed stationery moved away from PVC and where possible, we have created keepsake packaging such as PET storage tubes.
All blister card solutions have been reviewed and have been replaced with cardboard packaging, also making the product look more premium.
One of our huge success stories to date has been the development of our first-to-market shrink free gift wrap solution. This involved completing extensive trials to be confident in the solution prior to presenting it to our customers. Our gift wrap rolls are now available with minimal packaging using recyclable paper labels, eliminating plastic from the process.
Where plastic packaging continues to be used, we have ensured that the material has a recycling stream whether its at kerbside or at a local supermarket.
Were any supporting initiatives used to help drive the importance of this task with internal key players and customers?
We are associate members of The UK Plastics Pact committed to delivering their targets by 2025. Many of our customers are also members and therefore we are driving for change together with a consistent goal.
To educate and make recycling simple for the end consumer, we have also implemented On Pack Recycling Label scheme (OPRL) for our own brands and on behalf of our customers.
What areas do we plan to continue to drive innovative sustainable solutions moving forward?
We have now successfully ensured that 98% of our primary packaging across greetings and stationery (own brand and customer branded) is fully recyclable*.
Our focus continues to be on creating new sustainable solutions for tertiary / transit packaging. In addition, we are keen to drive single use plastic out of our products, a project that has progressed alongside the packaging developments.
Our passionate employees here at DGUK really care about the environment. By implementing the changes we have already and continue to do, we are excited to be making a difference to the world’s future. This passion really drives us to keep moving forward at pace and be part of the solution.
*Based on 2021 ranges