The average plastic bag won't disappear for up to 1,000 years. A vast amount of plastic waste doesn't get reused or recycled, It lingers in nature, polluting our earth and oceans. Up to 12m tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea each year - including tiny bits of plastic from straws, bathroom products and tyres.
At BLANC we have been losing sleep about plastic pollution for years. The business was founded out of horror at realising how toxic and damaging to the environment and health conventional dry cleaning is. So it’s natural that we are driven to do everything we can to limit damage to our planet and its inhabitants.
However, the specific topic of plastic management has been a huge challenge as for a business of our size, plastic-free alternatives to our current packaging are often incredibly expensive, inaccessible, or even impossible to source. It’s easy to be disheartened - given the scale of the problem - that suppliers of recyclable, reusable materials are not flourishing. So we thought we would share our journey in case it helps to inspire our community to tolerate plastics less, be more mindful of what is used, and maybe even find us someone who can help us solve our supply problem!
Re-imagining dry cleaning packaging
Within the last few years we have led the way in reducing use of plastic within the dry cleaning industry with the following initiatives:
We introduced our own reusable garment cover bags, laundry bags and tote bags to encourage customers to bring us garments in re-usable bags and packaging
We devised a folding method to reduce the number of clips used to secure folded shirts from 7 to 2
We replaced the plastic collar wrapping commonly used in the industry to keep the shape of collars in folded shirts with recyclable cardboard
We replaced standard perspex leaflet holders and point of sale display with renewable alternatives such as wood
All of this has increased our costs significantly, something which we have been determined not to pass on to the customer. Part of our mission is to make natural cleaning the norm- which cannot happen if we are more expensive than other quality options - we need to keep the non-toxic alternative accessible. This means that our journey to replace all of our plastic bags has taken no less than 2 years, spent searching for a provider who could replace the traditional plastic bags given for large dry cleaning items.
Bags of style
The plan was simple: replace the standard large plastic bags with paper Kraft bags. Sounds simple enough. Yes, they needed to be large enough to accommodate suits or larger items, they needed to be strong enough to carry heavy household items or coats without breaking, they needed to be recycled and recyclable, big and sturdy enough not to collapse or crush large items of clothes, and have print made only with non-toxic ink. Surely we couldn’t be the only company looking for this kind of specification? However, it seems that not only are manufacturers who meet all these criteria hard to come by, the cost is also incredibly prohibitive for independent small businesses...
Until today, when our business has finally grown to a size where we have found our dream bag!
This month we are introducing them into our stores. We believe that they will do a great job, and give you a feeling of carrying new clothes home from a nice department store! However while our old stocks last, we will be giving the old plastic bags to customers who ask for one - and asking for a 50p donation to Friends of the Earth UK for each one that you purchase.
If you use one of our new Kraft bags, you can take them back to us or put them in the recycling. But they look so nice (we think!) that we’ve also thought of some other great uses for them, such as...
- Using them as stylish planters
- Using them to store freshly baked bread
- Using them to store and ripen fruit! (The closed bag traps ethylene, the natural gas released by the ripening fruit (while still allowing a little ventilation), which helps it ripen faster.)
- Stand bags upright and use them as receptacles for separating recyclables.
Because the end goal always has to be re-using over recycling!
The challenge continues: can you help?
We might have won a battle, but our war is far from over. We have come very close to replacing our plastic polywrap - the thin layer of plastic which covers freshly cleaned clothes - with biodegradable film. Only to find out at the last minute that the chemicals used to make that film degrade were nearly as polluting as the plastic itself!
We really cannot find a biodegradable plastic alternative to our polyroll, or for that matter any other form of packaging that would do the job of protecting freshly cleaned and pressed clothes from the weather or the tribes and tribulations of London transportation… so we would like to ask you the following questions: