What is RPET? Well the PET bit means polyethylene terephthalate, a polymer of ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. PET is the stuff plastic drink bottles are made of and the ‘R” refers to ‘recycled’.
Put simply, PET starts life as a resin and is, in part, a by-product of oil. PET resin is either spun into fibres to make fabric like materials or injected into moulds to create products like fizzy drinks bottles.
As long ago as 1977 some bright spark worked out how to recycle PET. Now, it’s big business and the number of different types of products you can make from RPET is growing.
So how does the recycling work? Well, you collect the bottles and compact them into bales so they are easier to move about. Then you subject them to a recycling process which typically involves either heat or chemicals. After that, you are left with varying forms of RPET – recycled polyethylene terephthalate. Again as with the creation of the original PET product, RPET can be re-spun or moulded into a new item. PET is very recyclable.
But as with most so-called ‘eco’ materials, there are issues. Firstly, the recycling process is not, in itself, environmentally friendly. Secondly, most PET products have been contaminated with foodstuffs or liquids. Contaminated PET can’t be used for food-related applications again, but food-grade RPET is becoming more widely available. Finally, like most plastics, the use of PET and RPET can create microplastics, tiny particles of plastic which are invisible to the human eye but pollute our oceans and rivers.
So the story is a familiar one. Yes, it is good to recycle waste. And yes, an RPET product is probably ‘better’ than a standard item. We can only hope that continued innovation and increased demand will allow manufacturers to achieve higher levels of sustainability.
Wheat Straw environmentally friendly? ‘Wheat Straw’ aka ‘Corn plastic’ is a bioplastic. Sounds promising, like it’s got ‘bio’ in the word, it must legit.
Ok, so this is how it works. You harvest the wheat to get grain for making stuff like bread. What’s left after harvesting is called straw, the stems that humans generally don’t eat. Around the world, hundreds of millions of tons of straw are created every year. So let’s see, you take a widely available natural material and turn it into a replacement for plastic. Perfect. Well, not quite.
The first problem with bioplastics is that they create methane as they biodegrade – if they ever biodegrade at all. Methane is public enemy number one; a so-called ‘greenhouse’ gas which does its best to screw up our atmosphere. Farting cattle and all that.
Some bioplastics don’t decompose without exposure to UV light or high temperatures. Furthermore, bioplastics can’t be easily recycled into something else.
Then there’s the wheat you started with. Was it genetically modified? Was it intensively farmed, with all the issues that come with that?; pollution, soil erosion. A significant proportion of grain production in the U.S. is now grown for biofuel or bioplastic production. Is the production of bioplastics having an impact of grain prices and what does that mean for poorer people?
It’s the usual ‘econundrum’. The law of unintended consequences. Some clever-clogs figures out how to make a replacement for plastic out of a natural material, only to create a new set of problems as a result.
Should we offset some a bioplastic’s drawbacks against the positive message it seeks to convey? Or put another way, is a wheat straw promotional product a bit better than a standard plastic promotional product? Answer: probably.
Cork is created by stripping away bark from the Cork Oak; what’s taken, grows back. Chopping the tree down hardly benefits the cork farmer. So if you harvest with care, everyone is a winner! Cork is sustainable.
The introduction of the aluminium screw-top bottle lid really hurt the cork industry. As a result, Cork Oak forests began to be cleared. When a forest is cleared an ecosystem is destroyed. Cork Oak forests are very good at supporting bio-diversity. Animals and insects die and soils are eroded.
Then, if destroying forests wasn’t bad enough, the bauxite needed to make aluminium is open-cast mined. Open-cast mining is hugely damaging to the environment.
Cork is used in the manufacture of automotive products, musical instruments, sports goods and of course promotional merchandise!
Promotional items or parts of promotional items, which are made from cork are a more natural and sustainable option.
Finally, cork just feels really nice. It’s soft and tactile. It’s a natural material.
What is Jute?
Is Jute environmentally friendly? Jute fibre is made from the outer stem and skin of the Jute plant.
India, Bangladesh and China are big growers of Jute. On a smaller scale, Thailand, Myanmar, Pakistan and Nepal also grow jute.
Jute reaches maturity in less than 6 months and offers a good yield. This growth means less land is required compared to other crops. This reduces the need to destroy natural habitats. Jute can be grown without the need to use pesticide or fertiliser. If chemicals are used during jute production, it is on a much smaller scale compared to other crops such as cotton.
Jute absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen at a rate much higher than most trees. Biodegradable, compostable and recyclable Jute ticks a lot of boxes.
Single-use plastic bags are about as bad as it gets! Most are not biodegradable, so litter and pollute. Worse still, they and other single-use plastic products are killing wildlife on an almost apocalyptic scale. According to Greenpeace, UK supermarkets are generating one million tonnes of plastic annually, which contributes to the estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic in our oceans each year.
In a survey of more than 5,000 UK consumers by Kantar Worldpanel, 24.6% expressed ‘extreme concern’ about plastic packaging in grocery. 42% believed food and drink manufacturers should make their packaging recyclable. 80% claimed to use ‘bags for life’.
Don’t risk it!
When it comes to promotional shopper bags, Jute is probably your safest option. The bottom line is, single-use plastic bags pose a risk to your brand. We offer a wide range of Jute and Organic Cotton bags, all of which delivered to you within 10-14 working days.
Is bamboo environmentally friendly?
Bamboo doesn’t need lots of chemicals to help grow, is 100% biodegradable, naturally pest-resistant, and highly renewable. It regrows to its adult plant size in 3 to 5 years. Bamboo absorbs 5 times more carbon dioxide and generates 35% more oxygen than similar plants.
Bamboo is strong and flexible. This means that it can be a good substitute for plastic.
What concerns are there about bamboo products?
It is almost impossible to grow bamboo commercially in Europe. So 80% of the world’s bamboo comes from China, where standards for organic and sustainable production are often very difficult to ascertain.
The popularity of bamboo for commercial use is encouraging farmers to plant in unsuitable places and in some cases clear areas of natural forest for cultivation.
Chemically processed bamboo isn’t great. Bamboo fibres can be converted into fabric, but to do this you need to use some pretty nasty stuff like sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide. These chemicals are extremely harmful to the environment and people! If you aren’t sure what’s in your ‘bamboo’ product you can always request a certificate of manufacture to check.
It says bamboo, but is it all bamboo?
Bamboo promotional products are almost never 100% bamboo. For example, the Bamboo Double-Wall Travel Cup has a bamboo outer but also contains plastic and metal components. The Bamboo Wireless Charger USB Hub is essentially a collection of electronic components encased in bamboo with a plastic and metal cable. Conversely, the Bamboo Calendar is 100% bamboo, except for the ink used to print onto it.
How do bamboo products get here?
Most bamboo products, or products which are part-bamboo, have been shipped into Europe by Sea from the Far East. Shipment by sea is arguably more environmentally friendly than shipment by Air. However, one large container ship produces as much Sulphur as 50 million cars.
So, what’s the bottom line with bamboo?
In conclusion, a product which is all or part-bamboo is a ‘step in the right direction’ from an environmental perspective. Bamboo is better than plastic that is not biodegradable or, that could be recycled. Some bamboo has been farmed and processed responsibly, and some has not. It should be possible for a supplier to prove the former.
Organic cotton production is better because it doesn’t use nasty chemicals, which harm the soil and people.
The normal production of cotton uses more pesticides than any other crop. As a result, 77 million cotton workers suffer poisoning from pesticides.
The production of a non-organic cotton T-shirt uses about 120 grams of chemicals. Non-organic cotton farming uses around 16% of the world’s insecticides.
Organic cotton farming uses 88% less water and 62% less energy than other methods.
70% of our planet is covered in water but only 3% is fresh water. Just one-third of that fresh water is available for us to use. A billion people don’t have access to clean water. 2.4 billion people suffer from poor sanitation. Organic cotton is 80% rain-fed so there’s less pressure on local water sources.
Additionally, organic cotton produces around 46% less CO2e compared to conventional cotton. Organic cotton is better for you.
Are you sourcing responsibly?
So will you choose a product like the Cascades Organic T-Shirt? Yes, it might be a little more expensive but that depends on how you are measuring cost. Do you just care about the bottom line, or should brand reputation be part of your calculation?
Many people choose organic cotton. Angelina Jolie, Emma Watson, Natalie Portman, Olivia Wilde, Jamie Foxx, Kelly Slater and Emily Deschanel choose organic cotton products. Stella McCartney and Bono have started their own organic cotton collection.
Lot’s of promotional products are now made from organically grown cotton. Bags, caps, sweatshirts, beanie hats and pencil cases to name but a few. As the promotions business moves to a more sustainable supply chain, we can expect to see even more organic cotton products. The question is, will farmers see the benefit of organic farming and move away from using harmful methods? Paying a little more helps.
Generation Z is angry and organised; is your business ready?
Some old people think the warmer weather is a good thing! It’s also clear that some think climate change is a left-wing conspiracy.
But younger people are thinking very differently, and furthermore they’re pretty ANGRY about the whole thing!
So whatever your sector, whatever your product, whoever your customer is, it’s time to respond with actions not words to what’s happening with attitudes around climate change, pollution and ethics.
Facts, yes facts not fake news, prove that these issues are real and that they will have a significant impact on demand for your products and services.
This is why it makes sense to switch to eco promotional products.
Plastic is the new tobacco
18 billion pounds of plastic waste ends up in our oceans each year. Over 817 animal species around the world are affected by ocean pollution and more than 100,000 marine animals die each year from plastic entanglement and ingestion. Just 10 rivers carry 93 per cent of the trash that feeds into our oceans; the Yangtze, Yellow, Hai, Pearl, Amur, Mekong, the Indus and Ganges Delta in Asia, and the Niger and Nile in Africa. The Yangtze alone dumps up to an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of plastic waste into the Yellow Sea.
So plastic is about to become the new tobacco; dirty, anti-social, old-fashioned.
Yes, as you will see we are still selling plastic products or products with some plastic components, but we’re trying hard to reduce the amount each year and so are many of our suppliers – ‘the writing is on the wall’ for our industry so to speak!.
Alternatives to plastics
There are plenty of responsible alternatives across all of our product categories. 15 years ago you would have had a choice of say 50 items, now there are hundreds!
From the original recycled pencil to pencils made from old banknotes and denim jeans. The war on disposable cups has created a new choice of drinkware options including products made from bamboo and recycled bottles.
Bamboo is becoming a popular substitute for plastic components with items such as the bamboo wireless charger are becoming very popular.
Clothing too is a category of real innovation. The U.S. Alternative Apparel has some really innovative products, almost all of our clothing products are WRAP certified.
And as the plastic bag has been confined to the history books by many large retailers, we offer a wide range of organic cotton and jute shopper bags.
It’s also about sustainability and ethics
Do you want to be the business who bought products from a factory full of kids, kids just like your own? Do you care about sustainability or is that stuff just for hippies and management-speak types? Within a business context, it’s not what you think that counts, its what your customer thinks – and their customer – and their customer!
You could buy the cheapest T shirt or you could buy a WRAP certified product. Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment; 152 million are victims of child labour.
Similarly, you could buy the cheapest sticky note or you could buy a recycled product. Tropical deforestation is now responsible for 11 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions.
And why not make a virtue of your decision to buy responsibly? Why not advertise the fact that your business or brand, does care about the environment and social standards? In fact, maybe in the long-run, the ‘cheapest’ items are the certified products? In other words, to Ignore issues around sustainability and ethics may prove to be an expensive mistake.
Climate change will never kill goodwill
Promotional products create goodwill, that’s it in a nutshell. In turn, goodwill creates relationships which generate profit. People buy people. So, it follows that, as long as trade exists, there will be a need to create goodwill. Alongside goodwill there co-exists a perennial desire for all things new. New products excite and help to project the concept of progress and innovation. Right, ok so promotional products get to survive but they a have to be different. Products have to be recyclable, they have to be biodegradable, they have to come from sustainable sources and be responsibly sourced. Yes, you can have giveaways but those giveaways have to be different from those churned out during the era of waste.
Business is not ‘bad’, it just needs to change
Currently, it seems almost impossible, for a business, not to be viewed as hypocritical and inconsistent when it comes to many of the issues outlined above. Some will think that our approach is cynical. They are wrong. We have no company cars, we all work from home so there’s no commute. We try to recycle what we can, and through a developing range of products, try to encourage our clients to switch to using more ethical and responsible promotional items. Where we can we are sourcing products manufactured in the U.K. to reduce the need for air and sea freight.
However, even though we are minuscule in comparison to the 20 most polluting companies in the world, we still face real challenges. For example, we recently tried to replace some of our packaging materials with more environmentally friendly alternatives. Some items were quite easy to switch-out but others proved really difficult to replace with products that performed just as well.
Small businesses often rely on larger businesses, who have much greater resources, to drive innovation. Maybe it’s just too easy for some sectors to default to ‘business as usual’? Maybe the use of some materials has to become illegal before we get real change?
We are light-years from perfect, but we are trying!
The young have chosen NOT to ignore facts. Unlike their parents and grand-parents, Generation Z appears to have an increased ability to think critically and, is becoming understandably impatient. Heatwaves are now 30 times more likely due to climate change. Temperatures of 21.2 degrees Celsius were recorded in London’s Kew Gardens on February 26, 2019. It was the warmest winter day the UK has ever experienced. A few months later, the warmest ever Summer day (38.7 degrees Celsius) was recorded. Which bit of this are people struggling to understand?
So yes we are, as a micro-enterprise, of course, light-years from perfect! – but we are conscious of the issues and are trying to improve.