- Consumers most concerned about harmful microplastics in the ocean –
- New technology enables more environmentally friendly packaging –
New research* with UK consumers launched today reveals the majority (87%) consider the recyclability of the packaging of fashion items such as clothes, sunglasses and accessories bought online or by mail order is important when making their purchasing decision. Over half (52%) said that poor packaging recyclability puts them off buying items online or by mail order altogether.
The study was conducted by Aquapak, an innovative polymer (plastics) producer, which enables multi-functional materials to be produced that are environmentally-friendly and meet the needs of the circular economy, without compromising functionality. The findings show that currently 28% of UK consumers buy one fashion item online each month, a further 15% buy two every month and 18% purchase three or four items each month. The majority (86%) said items they receive are usually packaged in some form of plastic.
When it comes to the environmental harm caused by plastic, 58% of consumers said it is plastic breaking down to microplastics in the ocean and harming wildlife which concerned them most. This was followed by plastics going to landfill (24%) and being incinerated and causing more pollution (12%).
Mark Lapping, Chief Executive Officer, Aquapak, comments: “It is two years since Fashion for Good published its report into the use of polybags in the industry and our research shows that the industry is still heavily reliant on single use plastic, despite the fact that consumers are increasingly concerned about the recyclability of packaging and where it eventually ends up.
“There are commercially available alternatives which have all the properties of plastic but can be disposed of easily without harming the environment. Such technologies are slowly being adopted by brands committed to sustainability, but this needs to be accelerated across the industry to achieve real change.”
Aquapak has developed HydropolTM, which enables packaging to be produced which is far better than single-use plastic. It is biodigestible, non-toxic, dissolves in water and is marine safe because it subsequently biodegrades, yet still provides the much-needed functionality required to ensure products reach consumers in perfect condition. Fashion brands such as Finisterre have already committed to adding to their sustainable packaging with a new innovative paper mailing bag concept, which combines enhanced end-user functionality with recyclability through its use of Hydropol.
HydropolTM – all the benefits of plastic packaging but without the problems with recycling
Aquapak has developed a novel biodegradable, non-toxic and water-soluble polymer called HydropolTM which is three times stronger than alternatives and is designed to be used in existing thermo-processing equipment, giving it a wider range of applications. HydropolTM enables up to 100% paper/board recovery whatever the percentage packaging makeup.
The base plastic is currently used for dishwasher tablets, ingestible pill casings and soluble stitches. HydropolTM‘s resistance to low temperature solubility and high barrier to elements adds functionality, providing a wider range of uses. It can be recycled, re-pulped, composted and is distinctively compatible with anaerobic digestion. Furthermore, if unintentionally released into the natural environment, HydropolTM – which is non-toxic and marine safe – will dissolve and subsequently biodegrade, leaving no trace.
Blown film products commercially available and made from HydropolTM include garment bags, ESD bags, organic waste disposal bags and laundry bags for infection control. Its solubility makes it easy to separate from other materials, simplifying the confusing recycling options that exist for different packaging.
Extrusion coatings and laminates for paper/board applications are at customer production trial stage, including a number of home delivery and ecommerce applications, packaging for dried pet food, snacks, cooked meat and convenience food applications.
Other applications under development with customers and development partners include injection moulded parts such as golf tees, non-woven fibre for applications such as wet wipes and cellulose combinations for thermoformed trays.
*Research conducted by Consumer Intelligence with 1022 UK consumers in January 2022