A guide to student-friendly toiletries plastic reduction: blog post #4

Guest post by SDG Ambassador Julia Daly

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Welcome to the last blog post of this plastic reduction series. I’ve seen many undergrads already receiving their final results, and many postgrads, myself included, will soon be handing in (or have already handed in) our final dissertations. With this closure to the academic year, I will also be bringing this blog series to an end. But before I go, I would like to share two shampoo bar products that I have tried and loved. Shampoo bars that work for your particular hair type are, in my experience, the most difficult to find when it comes to plastic free alternatives, so I am THRILLED to have found two that both work.

Today’s focus are shampoo bars from two brands: Eco Warrior and Faith in Nature. Both are available from Holland and Barrett and Boots so very accessible. Eco Warrior are a British brand that make soap which is vegan, cruelty free and eco-friendly using recyclable packaging. Similarly, Faith in Nature are also UK based, cruelty free, vegan and reducing plastic use by using recyclable and recycled packaging. Eco Warrior are a purely soap bar company, whereas Faith in Nature provide a plethora of options: soap bars, liquid shampoo in fully recycled plastic bottles, the option of buying 5 litre or 20 litre bottles of liquid product to reduce plastic consumption and refill stations in stores across the country.

Eco Warrior – Shampoo Bar, Orange and Ginger Essential Oils, 100g for £4.00

A good size shampoo bar that lathered well when wet. As I’ve not had a great experience with shampoo bars in the past, I found that this one was the first to lather well and could be used by directly placing the bar onto my hair without leaving clumps of product behind. It does take a while to cover your entire head and get to the roots, I would say about twice as long as with liquid product. My hair didn’t need a lot of time to get used to the new product, perhaps a week or so, and after washing, my hair felt very clean and oil free. The only thing that wasn’t ideal about the product was that it seemed to half in size after every use, meaning that it only lasted about a month and a half. My hair, being thick and long probably expedited the use of the product so someone with thinner, shorter hair would definitely get a lot more use out of one bar.

Faith in Nature – Shampoo Bar, Coconut & Shea Butter, 85g on sale for £4.34, RRP £5.79

I have only just started using this shampoo bar but needed to include it in this post despite not giving it a full trial. Despite being a smaller bar, it doesn’t seem to use as much product per wash compared to the Eco Warrior bar implying it will last longer (picture shows new, unused bar on the left vs bar used for two washes on the right).

The thing I noticed which was consistent between bars is the necessary for patience to get enough product for a good lather. But once this is achieved, the result is squeaky clean. Both products weren’t particularly drying or moisturising, so you just achieve a neutral clean. Both bars had a pleasant, mild scent which does not linger in your hair once it is rinsed and dried which some people prefer. If you do like to have some scent to your hair or require extra moisturiser, I recommend following up with a conditioner but this is by no means necessary!

Shampoo is a product I personally use a lot of due to my hair length and type so it is great to find plastic free alternatives although they are not 100% perfect! These were definitely a step in the right direction and may work better for you than they do for me depending on your hair type.

Thus concludes my student friendly guide to plastic reduction series! I am so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Sustainability Kent blog as a Sustainability Development Goals Ambassador. Although I will no longer be a student in the very near future, I hope to continue sharing my personal plastic reduction journey perhaps through a newly created blog dedicated to plastic reduction. Thank you to everyone who has given me such wonderful feedback and I hope the series is helpful to students and non-students alike!

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. I purchased these items with my own money, they are not a gift nor is this post sponsored.

Check out Eco Warrior and Faith in Nature below:

https://www.ecowarriorsoap.co.uk/

https://www.faithinnature.co.uk/

Increasing recycling rates in the School of Biosciences

The Sustainability Champion for the School of Biosciences has led on a project that has seen recycling rates increase threefold. Alex Moore identified a problem in research labs where the layout of bins and lack of clear information meant that researchers were placing the majority of their recyclable waste into general waste bins (this waste goes to incineration with energy recovery).

On initial assessment 99% the waste in the general waste bins was recyclable. Due to the nature of the waste produced in a research lab and the lack of space Alex and colleagues from the Estates Department came up with a trial new waste scheme to test what would work for the lab users.

New small desktop bins were installed to help researchers with ease of correct disposal at their fingertips, without taking up precious desk space. The main lab bins were relabelled to ensure they were clear and to reflect how many recycling bins there should be to general waste bins. Clear communications through posters and labelling were designed to showcase the top ten lab recyclables that should be going into the green marked bins. All labelling was checked by the Safety, Health and Environment Unit to ensure that it was clear what to do with hazardous/contaminated waste.

The Kent Fungal Group were the test lab and the results after a month of trialling were extraordinary with recycling rates increasing threefold. Once the trial was successfully completed the project was rolled out throughout the School of Biosciences.

A guide to student-friendly toiletries plastic reduction: blog post #3

Guest post by SDG Ambassador Julia Daly

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Hello and welcome to today’s blog post! I know it’s cliché how Brits always comment on the weather but wow what a heatwave the UK is experiencing right now! Hopefully this week’s sustainability blog post can take your mind off of it for a couple of minutes! Today, I will be introducing Conchus: a small soap making business inspired by reducing waste. All their soaps are 100% natural, vegan, palm oil and cruelty free and they don’t use any plastic packaging.

Conchus are currently in the process of opening a physical store in Devon and have temporarily closed the shop on their website for the relocation and restock. You can still view their products on their Facebook page to see what they have available and keep up with the reopening on their Instagram. I highly recommend checking out the large range of products that they stock. Not only are there a bunch of shampoo and body bars to suit a vast array of skin and hair types, there are also accessories and skin care items available. With my oily hair and skin needs, I was keen to try out their products for people with my skin type. I ended up ordering the Beam shampoo bar (one of four shampoo bars) and the Conch facewash bar (currently their only facewash bar).

Stand-out product: Conch facewash bar, £4.30

Without a doubt, this facewash bar is worth a try. All of the claims in its description the website are absolutely 100% true. It lathers up slightly but not too much, you only need a tiny amount, making it last ages (I am still using the one I purchased in September 2019) and it doesn’t dry out your face too much but leaves you feeling cleansed. It does not have any exfoliation properties (which it doesn’t claim to do) so I used this in combination with the Ethique scrub bars once a day, in the mornings – a match made in heaven.

I took the facewash bar with me on two field trips, which were part of my degree, both of which required packing light for flights. For one of the trips, I only took one backpack as my entire luggage for a week-long trip! As someone who has travelled a ton, I can definitely say that carrying a facewash bar was way more convenient than the stress of finding a plastic container that was less than 100ml, and then transferring a liquid facewash into it which I have done many times in the past. The bar took up very little space and easily slotted into a pocket in my toiletry bag. Very low maintenance and effortless.

Something that is definitely worth noting and is mentioned in the description for every shampoo bar, is the necessity of noting the hardness of the water in your area. This made a HUGE difference in the way that the shampoo bar performed in my experience. Living in Canterbury and being a total newb to the shampoo bar game, I found the shampoo bar very difficult to use initially. It kept clumping in my hair and I would spend ages trying to get it all out. I was really gutted that it wasn’t working with my hair but suspected that the hardness was the culprit. There is a lot of guidance on the Conchus website on tips to make the shampoo bars work in hard water areas and they stock a rinse to combat its effect. Thinking about the realistic student situation, you really want to be streamlining your haircare routine and this extra step didn’t seem to fit into it, but there are definitely options to make it work if you’re willing to give it a go. When I visited Devon and stayed in an area with significantly softer water over 2019 winter holidays, I brought the shampoo bar with me and the results were a stark contrast. The shampoo bar worked like a dream and I didn’t even really need to condition my hair at all following the wash. If you live in an area with softer water, one of the shampoo bars would be an ideal trial product.

Devon is very lucky to have great countryside walks (me on one of them featured above) and two plastic-free soap shops – both Conchus and Soap Daze (see previous post) are now based there! I hope that you enjoyed today’s post and it helps you on your plastic-free journey!

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. I purchased these items with my own money, they are not a gift nor is this post sponsored.

Check out the Conchus

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/conchuslife/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/conchuslife/

Website: http://www.conchus.co.uk/

A guide to student-friendly toiletries plastic reduction: blog post #2

Guest post by SDG Ambassador Julia Daly

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Happy August! How was your #PlasticFreeJuly? I’m excited to continue my plastic reduction recommendations! Today’s blog post is all about the amazing Soap Daze. Soap Daze is a soap and skincare brand and all products are vegan and palm oil free. The soaps are handmade and can be purchased in a number of fragrances, textures and sizes. Can I just express how much I love the aesthetic of the brand? Simple and elegant.

When I first checked out the online shop, I was most drawn to the unwrapped soap range that come on a rope. To me, this screams convenience and reduction in wasted packaging. For my first order, I purchased two unwrapped soap on a ropes and received the order with a couple of free small samples which I used as regular hand soaps – very very useful. I should also say that these soaps on a rope are massive and last ages.

I made a second order of soaps during the initial couple of weeks of the pandemic and lockdown. Where I was quarantining, all that was available was regular liquid handwash which quickly dried out my skin. All soaps in Superdrug, Boots and grocery stores were sold out online. I ordered a couple of soaps from Soap Daze and received my order with some more free samples! Hands down, these saved my hands. They are much more nourishing, moisturising and kind to the skin than your average liquid hand soap, and better for the environment.

The owner has recently opened up a physical store in Devon which looks extremely inviting! If you’re in the Exeter area, you can buy products in store and cut both your carbon footprint and plastic consumption! Both the online and physical store sell a lot more than soap and have branched out into makeup, deodorant, skincare and haircare.

Stand-out product: Unwrapped Black Pepper and Ginger Soap on a Rope, Extra Large Soap, Vegan Soap £7.95

This was the one of the first products I tried and loved the light fragrance, pretty swirls and good lather. I used this in the shower and it lasted a good two and half months. The rope lended itself nicely to hang the soap effortlessly in my shower. The photo is of the full-size unwrapped soap and one of the free samples. I have tried two other fragrances of the large soaps but this one was by far my favourite. If you are looking for a soap that exfoliates as you wash, there are a few that have harsher textures.

For the price point, and how long it lasts, I would highly recommend the unwrapped soaps to students looking to reduce their plastic consumption. I personally love trying different fragrances and textures of soaps and like to mix it up. With the huge range of fragrances, you’re spoilt for choice! If you think friends or family would like the products, there is also the option to create your own gift boxes and give someone the opportunity to try a range of products. Another plus!

I hope you enjoyed the second blog post in this series! Stay tuned for the next post coming soon!

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. I purchased these items with my own money, they are not a gift nor is this post sponsored.

Soap Daze website: https://soapdaze.com/

A guide to student-friendly toiletries plastic reduction: blog series

A guide to student-friendly toiletries plastic reduction: blog series by SDG Ambassador Julia

It’s #plasticfreeJuly! There are so many reasons to start reducing your plastic consumption and join the plastic-free hype! Reducing your carbon footprint or plastic consumption may not be the first thing on your mind right now with a global pandemic afoot, but if this something you’d like to try out, this series might be of interest!

Having said that, there are many perks to going plastic free specifically with your toiletries at this particular time. I don’t know about you, but I am still finding that the regular pharmacies or drug stores still don’t stock my go-to products. Why not try something new in a time when we are literally washing our hands to save lives.

For the first blog in this series I’d like to introduce Ethique. I tried Ethique mostly because I had been following them on Instagram for a while and was super intrigued by their products (top tip: how do you find ethical/plastic free brands? Instagram). Their tag line is #giveupthebottle and according to their website, claim to be plastic free, cruelty free, palm oil free and vegan which checked all the boxes for my personal preferences. They are also more accessible as they are sold online at Holland & Barrett, both in store and online and are also now sold by Boots online.

My initial thought was that the pricing was way over what I would usually budget for these kinds of products, but I am willing to invest in a product if it lasts longer than something that I paid less for. I tried a bunch of products, purchased their trial pack for oily skin, a moisturiser and a soap container. I also tried to buy most products when they were on sale.

From personal use, I have two stand-products that I can confidently say they worked well for my skin type. This review is based on my personal experience with the products so I can’t speak for all skin or hair types! For reference, my skin and hair are both oily.

Stand-out product 1 – Star of the show

Ethique Gingersnap Face Scrub. Price: £12.99

I purchased the multipack of Gingersnap Face Scrub without realising it was already included in the trial pack that I had also purchased. I was annoyed at this until I tried one and instead, I was delighted. This scrub is very, very good. I used it once a day, in the shower as a precursor to the facewash and have continued to enjoy the multipack after the trial one was used up. It lasts a while as long as you don’t get it too wet in the shower and is very easy to use. I’d say each bar probably lasted about a month making the 4 pack last about 4 months but may not be as cheap. I have tried many an exfoliation product and this has to be one of the best ones. Considering you average about £3.25 for each individual bar in the pack, I’d say this is around the same price as decent scrub you’d get at Boots or Superdrug.

Stand-out product 2 – Honourable mention

Ethique Sweet Orange and Vanilla Butter Block. Price: £11.99

The butter block was the most luxurious product out of all the products. The scent is quite strong but not overpowering but is sweet smelling – definitely a win if you are a fan of sweet and fruity scents. The instructions say to use it right after showering but I found it would kind of slide off my skin a bit too much. If used on dry skin though, it worked much better. Storage-wise it is a bit tricky. Warm surroundings will cause the oils to seep into whatever container you keep it in so be sure to keep it in something substantial. It is very moisturising and I used it every other day or every two days on my arms and legs. I think for the price it is impractical to purchase this on the regular, but as a gift for a friend or if you find it on sale, a gift for yourself.

Overall, I enjoyed the products that I purchased from Ethique but found that some either didn’t work as well as other products I have used or I found them expensive for what they were and therefore haven’t included them in this budget conscious review. Thank you so much for reading this far and I hope you enjoyed the first post of this blog series. I hope to do a couple more brand reviews as part of this series so watch this space!

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. I purchased these items with my own money, they are not a gift nor is this post sponsored.

Ethique’s website: https://ethique.co.uk/

Ethique at Boots: https://www.boots.com/sitesearch?searchTerm=Ethique

Ethique at Holland & Barrett: https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/info/ethique/

Sustainable Development Goals Ambassador: Meet Julia

A bit about me: Julia Daly

Trying plastic-free toiletries so you don’t have to

In a simpler time – before the global pandemic – as the new academic year began, I had made it my personal mission to reduce my plastic consumption within the realm of my toiletries. It may seem a trivial place to start but even everyday toiletries such as shower gel can be really harmful to the environment and many are contained in plastic bottles which aren’t often recycled (We Are Drops, 2018). Shower gels can also contain microplastics which can harm marine wildlife (Rosney, 2016). Considering all of this and the nature of plastic itself, taking years to degrade, as a conservation student, I have challenged myself to reduce my plastic consumption.

From my reading of the topic over the last couple of years, from blogs to Instagram and speaking to others, it seems the main reasons that people haven’t already gone for reduced plastic toiletries is 1. the convenience of getting it at the nearest shop or pharmacy 2. the price as plastic free options are often more expensive. These are of course valid points especially for busy students who don’t have the time to be trekking to specialist stores to pay double or tipple what they could get with less hassle. Saving that coin for nights out or textbooks – I totally relate. Being a student ambassador and being part of the sustainability community at Kent provided a platform to feedback on putting these assumptions to the test and trying out some of these alternative products so that you can save your time, money and energy.

Since starting at the University of Kent in 2019, I have been purchasing a range of plastic free, or plastic reduced products from many different brands, both online and in store, to try and see if there are any good plastic free alternative toiletry products that are accessible to students and are worth the money. I bought and tried them so you don’t have to. The result of my experience will be a series of blog posts on the stand-out products that I recommend having weighed up their use, convenience, aesthetics, accessibility, and price. If you are looking to start your plastic free journey but have no idea where to start, are well on your journey but are looking to expand your toiletry bag, or are merely interested in the topic then watch this space!

Check these out for further information…

We Are Drops, 2018. Soap vs. shower gel: the final battle. Available from: https://www.wearethedrops.com/blog/en/2018/01/23/soap/ [Accessed 30 May 2020].

Rosney, D., 2016. BBC Newsbeat. Why microbeads in shower gels are bad for marine life. Available from: www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/35261018/why-microbeads-in-shower-gels-are-bad-for-marine-life [Accessed 30 May 2020].

 

The Zero-Waste Retail Revolution

Guest Post and infographic by The Cleaning Services Group

What Are Zero-Waste Stores?

A zero-waste store is designed in such a way as to comply with the principles of the zero-waste movement. It achieves this by eliminating as much waste as possible either through lowering the amount of waste produced or by changing how waste is managed.

Zero-waste typically feature bulk-style bins and dispensers. Customers bring their own containers and can select the exact quantities they need. This helps to cut down on unnecessary packaging while also preventing food waste.

The Rise of Zero-Waste Stores Around the World

Over the past few years, the zero-waste movement has become a worldwide phenomenon. According to the Bepakt Index, there are now around 150 packaging-free markets around the world. We are also now beginning to see some major players in the supermarket world, such as Waitrose and Lidl, launch their own waste reduction initiatives.

Zero-Waste: A Response to Customer Demand

On average, England generates 177 million tonnes of waste every year. The rising popularity of zero-waste stores indicate a growing customer interest in eco-friendly alternatives that help to cut down on this number.

The 2015 Nielson Global Corporate Sustainability Report shows that 73% of consumers would switch brands if there was something similar on the market that supports a good cause. Taking a more eco-friendly approach that emphasises sustainability has also been associated with greater transaction spends and increased brand loyalty.

Learn More About the Zero-Waste Retail Revolution

The below infographic from the team at The Cleaning Services Group investigates how these “zero-waste” stores aim to make consumers be more mindful of the environmental impact of their shopping habits. The graphic outlines the many business benefits of going zero-waste and also offers some practical tips to help retailers get started on their own zero-waste journey today.

It is time to talk about what we put down the loo…

With flushed plastics making up 8.5% of beach litter in the UK and a 400% rise in the number of wet wipes found on our coastlines and river beds, it really is time we stop treating the toilet as a bin.


Research carried out by the Marine Conservation Society during their 2017 Great British Beach Clean identified the shocking figures that despite filters in our sewage system 8.5% of the litter they collected were items that had been flushed. The fear is this number is rising with increasing sewer blockages and over 14 wet wipes being found per 100 metres of coastline.

The most common items found after being flushed are known as the Dirty Dozen by the campaign ‘Think before you flush’:

In the same way that when we place items in the bin we don’t often think about what happens to them next, we are turning a blind eye as to where our rubbish ends up after we flush it down the loo. Whilst the toilet may seem like a convenient way of getting rid of certain rubbish, these items do not just disappear and can cause a number of problems for our sewers and our environment.

1: Clogging up our sewers

Market research by the Absorbant Hygiene Products Manufacturers Association (AHPMA) found that we use 4.3 billion disposable sanitary products every year in the UK. This vast number is not surprising considering there are 15 million women of menstrual age, however it is estimated that a shocking 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet every single day.  It is estimated that blocked drains and sewers cost the UK around £88 million a year and is an issue we face here on campus.

The Estates Department has seen a recent increase in drain and sewer blockages causing maintenance and flooding issues across campus.

Turing sewage drain – blocked with wet wipes

But I thought wet wipes were flushable?!

Despite some products still being labelled as flushable unless they have the ‘Fine To Flush’ logo they should not go into the toilet. Water UK have stated that wet wipes labelled flushable do not break down and are behind 93% of blockages in UK sewers.  In order to gain the approved logo the wet wipes will need to pass strict tests. Manufacturers can have their wipes tested by WRc, Swindon-based independent technical experts who developed the specifications for flushability standards in conjunction with Water UK.

2: An ocean full of plastic

Everyone has seen the recent push to tackling the global scale of plastic entering our oceans however, whilst much of the focus has been on plastic bags, straws and packaging there has not been as much of a spotlight on the plastic entering our seas through the toilet.

Conventional menstrual pads contain around the same amount of plastic as four carrier bags, and depending on where it ends up as waste, it could have a longer life-span than the person who uses it! (City to Sea).

Wet wipes also contain hidden plastic that is often not listed in the ingredients. The material that forms many of our wet wipes is likely to be a woven blend of natural and synthetics fibres with the synthetic ones often being polypropylene polyester or polyethlene

As wet wiped break down in our oceans the microplastic fibres remain and they can be ingested by everything from zooplankton which make up the base of the food chain in the oceans, all the way up to seabirds, fish, turtles and whales (Marine Conservation Society.), with research showing that they can adversely affect the growth and reproduction of our marine species. Microplastics have also been found to have enter the human food chain.

What can I do?

First and foremost, remember, the toilet is not a bin. Only the three Ps should go down the loo and they are poo, pee and paper.

Secondly, try and refrain from using wet wipes if you can. Seek out alternatives and look out for the Fine to Flush logo.

Thirdly, if you use menstrual products please check out the ‘Plastic free Period’ campaign to learn about alternative products that could help reduce the amount of plastic you use each month as well as saving some money!

Printing the world to rights: how print firms are approaching sustainability in Kent and the UK

This is a guest blog from James Hale, a graduate of the University of Kent. Having studied English and American Literature, James now works as a freelance writer, penning his thoughts on anything and everything of interest. He’s passionate about sustainability, and loves helping to spread the word about how we can all factor it into our day to day lives.

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Print is everywhere; it is so ubiquitous that we rarely notice it. When we think about printing, we tend to imagine newspapers, books, magazines, leaflets and cards, but how often do we stop to consider the impact large format print has on the environment?

Large format printing – the process by which the enormous billboards and banners of our modern world are realised – is everywhere, a major industry that populates our bus stops, shopping centres, train stations and more with vast advertising images.

We live in an ever-more eco-conscious world, and while we may rarely think about this type of printing or the impact it might have, print companies are working to make sure they can deliver their products in a way that is kinder to the environment around us.

Getting interested

For printing companies, however, finding ingenious ways to offer ecologically sensitive products is only half of the story. The Image Reports Widthwise Report published in June this year reveals that seven out of ten British print service firms have never once been asked by their clients about their eco-friendly credentials, despite the fact that a recent global census conducted by Fespa reported that 76% of printing companies worldwide said that their customers were keenly interested in environmental issues.

What’s especially notable is that these businesses felt it prudent to plan their strategies with that environmental interest in mind. Whether the UK is really lagging behind the rest of the world in its awareness of the ecological impact of large format printing, or whether this might be just a statistical anomaly, the point remains that there is a fundamental problem still facing the industry: how should they sell a service to clients who aren’t asking for it?

Communication, communication, communication

It’s an issue that some businesses have put a great deal of thought into. The Verdigris Project is an industry campaign that aims to raise awareness of environmental concerns and initiatives in the printing trade, and is sponsored by a number of industry giants, including HP, Kodak, Agfa and Fespa (a global collection of national associations for professional printers). It’s also hoped that printing companies will seek their own ways to inform clients about the environmental impact of their projects, and to confidently offer them greener alternatives.

Substrate procurement

The UK reportedly uses 12.5 million tonnes of paper every single year, and any environmentally-minded printing firm should be concerned about using recycled and sustainable paper wherever possible, and this means they need robust procedures for obtaining recycled paper.

Modern recycling techniques mean that large format paper made from recovered fibre can be just as good a printing substrate as ‘virgin pulp’. As a result some companies have opted to commit to procurement policies that insist on recycling-based solutions.

Other substrates

Of course, when we get into the realm of specifically large format printing, the substrate in question may not be paper-based at all. Many large banners and signs are printed on vinyl and other plastics, not to mention the many other materials of varying environmental friendliness.

If a large format printing firm wants to lessen the potential negative impact of their work on the environment, finding alternative substrates that don’t involve plastic would be an excellent place to start; much has been said lately about the growing unpopularity of plastic following David Attenborough’s BBC show Blue Planet II and the discovery of a plastic bag 35,000 feet down inside the Mariana Trench, the deepest known part of the world’s oceans.

Some firms, such as Kent-based industry leader PressOn, have adopted new and innovative print solutions to alleviate the problem. PressOn were an early adopter of products known as Tension Fabric Systems, which involve a printed sheet of fabric suspended across an aluminium frame, creating a large printed piece that is ideal for interior environments such as offices, malls and shops.

The metal frames are endlessly reusable for other printed designs, and the fabric that serves as the substrate completely removes the need for plastic. Nigel Webster, PressOn’s managing director, explains:

“Although popular in the States for a few years, we first started using tension fabric frame systems in the UK two years ago for one of our largest US based retail clients. PressOn always strive to promote this more environmentally friendly system to our clients, and it’s reassuring to see that the demand for this type of system has grown dramatically.

Brands in the retail sector traditionally use a lot of self-adhesive vinyl on their graphics inside the store and the shop windows, with regularly changing campaigns and offers to promote. By switching to the fabric frame system and installing aluminium frames in stores, we can print graphics directly onto more sustainable polyester fabrics using latex inks. These systems mean we don’t need to print, install and then remove and dispose of vinyl graphics.

The demand for eco-friendly print solutions has now extended to other sectors, too. They’re popular in corporate branded office environments (we’ve recently completed a project for Sky to use these systems in their offices), hotels, restaurants, bars and even to event and exhibition graphics too. Along with tension systems, other options for non-pvc products include paper wallcoverings from sustainable sources and also self-adhesive polyester fabrics as well. It’s great news for the environment and the print industry.”

Choosing the right inks

It could be said that the use of plastic and the wastefulness of large quantities of paper are more obvious problems than the ink used to create the printed designs — particularly as some varieties, such as petroleum and solvent-based inks, can be a source of gases that are harmful to the environment. Fortunately, there are several more ecologically friendly alternatives.

Eco-inks – made from vegetable oils or soya beans from sustainable farming environments – are becoming more widely available, while some printers are turning to UV-curable (UVC) inks. The liquid in UVC inks is aqueous-based; after printing, the ink is dried (or ‘cured’) via exposure to strong ultraviolet light. Significantly, however, these types of ink aren’t typically used by the large format industry, and are usually preferred by businesses producing packaging.

When it comes to large format printing, the best option usually lies in latex-based inks, which also don’t emit any unpleasant chemicals or odours, and have the added advantage of drying almost instantaneously after printing.

The environmental issues with some inks don’t end there, however. In order for paper and cardboard to be properly recycled into a clean pulp that can be reused as new paper, it must first be subjected to a process of de-inking to remove anything that may have been printed on it previously. Water-based, hydrophilic inks can be resistant to the alkaline floatation de-inking technique widely used in Europe; this is designed to separate ink from fibre and cause it to float to the surface, where it can be completely removed from the pulp.

Paper recycling is also an enormous endeavour – around 90% of Europe’s newspapers are printed on recycled paper – so finding inks that can be removed easily and efficiently is of paramount importance for eco-conscious printers.

In the end, the large format printing industry’s ability to be environmentally conscious rests as much with its customers as its service providers. The technology is there to print and recycle in a way that minimises chemicals and waste products; it only remains for those who commission billboards and large signage to be open to new techniques and approaches.

Plastic straws are a scapegoat. It’s time for big companies to change

Guest post: Mark Roberts is CEO of Conscious Creatives, a group of like-minded individuals pursuing a greater purpose through our work. Saving the planet by producing branding and digital communications packages that place sustainability at their heart and deliver long term revenue.

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There will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.

That is the reality of the situation we find ourselves in after decades of plastic abuse.

Plastic straws, in particular, have hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Poignant footage of a straw being removed from a turtle’s nose highlights the problem in microcosm.

But of the nearly 9 million tonnes of plastic waste that hits our oceans every year, just 2,000 tonnes comes in the form of plastic straws. That’s 0.22%. So is banning straws the answer our environment is crying out for?

The demand for change

Recently there has been a wave of support for plastic-free alternatives and for the reduction of plastic use altogether. Organisations like Surfers Against Sewage are helping people turn their local communities into plastic-free zones and companies like Costa Sunglasses are turning plastic waste into sunglasses.

This awareness is fantastic and it helps consumers understand the importance of why they should pay attention to this scourge of the sea. One comment I heard recently though was “I didn’t ask for my products to come in this kind of packaging, it’s not my fault”. Infuriating as the lack of responsibility was at the time, I actually understand why the comment was made.

At a time when climate change has become more and more evident and we have documentaries like Blue Planet 2 highlighting the over-consumption of plastics it now goes beyond the consumer to governments and corporations to do their part.

The role of politics and industry

At the highest level, the United Nations and its member states are working towards the Sustainable Development Goals. These include 17 major areas of sustainability that go far beyond just plastic, seeking to eradicate hunger and social inequality as well.

The corporation part comes from the work done by the UN Global Compact, which partners with businesses all over the world to collaborate on the agendas set out by the UN. Some of the largest businesses in the world are part of this group and in theory this is a great step towards the highest authorities taking responsibility.

However, Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director for the UN Global Compact explained at a recent sustainable business summit that we need to be spending around 2 trillion dollars per year to meet these goals. At the moment, we are well short of that target.

To most of us, 2 trillion USD sounds like an awful lot. Here in the UK, the high street banks pull in 12 trillion GBP per year, with a shadow banking sector adding another 2 trillion GBP. It’s not that the money is not available to solve all of these problems — the reason we have not solved them is that they are simply less important than profits for the elite. If one sector from one country could save the planet, imagine what would happen if the whole world took part.

Single-use plastics: the consumer dilemma

As consumers we are stuck in two minds: either we wait for the giant companies to do something when they feel like it, or we engage our inner activist and make choices that force businesses to listen. The person who made the statement above may feel powerless, frustrated and ultimately a little guilty that their consumer habits are impacting the world in a way they don’t want. But there are reasons for optimism.

One example of a good fight against a giant corporation is Greenpeace’s work against Coca-Cola. With all of their various products they produce an estimated 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles per year. They are very much at the centre of this problem.

Coca-Cola, however, have done what many corporations have done — acknowledged the problem but offered no real solution. Coca-Cola Europe have committed to their packaging being 100% reusable or recyclable by 2025, but that’s the only hardened objective that the entire company have set forth.

If we as consumers stopped buying Coca-Cola products then it wouldn’t take long before they noticed. This is where the power of the consumer comes in. Whether we feel like it or not — and it may be very difficult to accept — we do have a choice.

Other organisations like Iceland have vowed to remove single-use plastics from their shelves, so why can’t companies like Coca-Cola follow suit?

Positive action you and I can take today

I offer then a conclusion that lies in action. No longer can we sit on the fence. We have to take a stand and ask ourselves what kind of state we wish to leave the planet in for future generations. The choices we make right now will affect billions of people, present and future.

It is not fair that the giant manufacturers are using our busy lives and desire for a good life as a way of profiteering at the cost of the planet. It’s now time to move past being angry at that fact and face the reality of what needs to be done.

I urge you to find your local zero waste store, explore what they have and ask lots of questions. By local, buy high quality and buy less. Look for the places that offer paper straws instead of plastic straws but understand that while this problem is way bigger than any individual, this is our stand for what we believe in.

If you feel inspired do not stop there. Speak to your local council, your local MPs and your local businesses to see what they are doing to tackle the problems that the environment faces. The more people that show they care, the more likely the big companies will make the changes required so that we as the consumer can have the choices we really want and the planet really needs.